As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are a few to give you an idea of my training background and experiences, but honestly none of this crap matters much. Regardless of how experienced or qualified your guide may be, you're still the one who has to try out the techniques for yourself, absorb it, see if it works for you, and make it your own or not.
As most look for ranks and certifications, let's start there. Although, I don't believe in ranks because they tend to give the wearer of such rank a false sense of "I know," I did earn my Senior First and Second under the lineage of Sifus Tim Tackett (2nd generation student of Bruce Lee), Bob Bremer (original student of Bruce Lee), and Jim Sewell (original student of Bruce Lee) teaching Jeet Kune Do (JKD) as passed down from Bruce Lee through his students in the Los Angeles school until 1973. I trained directly under their Instructors, Sifu Mick Thornton and Sifu Kevin Beale. It was important to me to train under instructors who have fought competitively and trained fighters. While JKD is not a sport, the only way to know if it works is through sparring, competing, or actual confrontations. This was integral to the development of JKD. I'm also a certified USA Boxing coach and certified O.M.A.F. Kickboxing Coach.
However, I started martial arts nearly thirty years ago studying Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu. In 1998, I transitioned to Wing Chun Kung Fu, the original martial art of Bruce Lee. I have had the opportunity to study Wing Chun with "masters" (old guys that have been doing this a while) all over the world including Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong.
I had the opportunity to train at Ip Chun's school. This was not just a photo-op. Like many schools in Hong Kong, the class structure is very open. Usually, you just find a partner and do Chi Sao "Sticky Hands" after you warm up with forms. I worked out with one partner while there who was pretty good. What was interesting about training in Hong Kong was that the Wing Chun really was not much different from what you experience in the United States. Often, we think if we go to the source like Hong Kong, the teaching will be pure and better. However, I visited 8 different schools in Hong Kong and found that on average, it was not really better over there than in the U.S. So, if you desire to visit Hong Kong, definitely do so, but don't expect the training to be significantly different. I went to better understand Bruce's experience, why he developed Jeet Kune Do, and how it branched out from Wing Chun.
In terms of JKD, these gentlemen have directly or indirectly had the greatest influence on my progression in the art of Jeet Kune Do. In particular, Sifus Mick Thornton and Kevin Beale have taken the time over the years to develop my knowledge and application of JKD primarily through 1-on-1 lessons and small group lessons. Sifu Beale has a wealth of knowledge with a background in both boxing and Kempo. He's a JKD Full Instructor, Head Coach Submissions Fighting /Boxing (HFC), and trainer of numerous Boxing, Kickboxing and NHB Champions. Sifu Mick Thornton is a JKD Full Instructor and Founder of Blending of the Martial Arts. He has extensively trained in both JKD, Filipino Martial Arts, and too many other systems to name!
The next best thing to being in a real no holds barred fight is competitive sport fighting such as kickboxing where real danger still exists (you can get knocked out or injured). It was important to me to apply what I study in an actual fight, not just sparring. I wanted to make sure not only that it worked, but that I could make it work. You never know until you have someone trying to knock your head off! It was a unique experience fighting in Japan. The mentality was different from what I experience in the United States. In America, I was used to sparring partners who generally fought to hit and not get hit. However, in Japan, perhaps due to the heavy influence of Kyokushin Karate and other Karate styles, they don't mind getting hit as long as they can hit you back harder! This gym was special with many former local champions training together. It was always hot, always sweaty, and you always left sore!
I went to South Korea to train with whoever I could find and I found Grandmaster Kim. I believe he's a 9th dan Black belt in Taekwondo or something like that. Anyway, great experience learning from him how to kick faster, stronger, and higher. One of Bruce Lee's friends and influences was Master Jhoon Goo Rhee, known as the Father of American Taekwondo. It was great to train with a legend in his own right in South Korea. (He made me do 250 sit ups, normally it's 500!)
In terms of providing me with the basis from which Bruce developed Jeet Kune Do, Sifu Don Presto had the greatest influence on my understanding and application of Wing Chun Kung Fu. From him, I learned the proper structure and form in Wing Chun, how to generate power in a short distance, and advanced trapping. According to Jesse Glover, Bruce's first student in America, many practitioners lack power in their application because they don't understand how to generate power the way Bruce did from his knowledge of Wing Chun. I would train with Sifu Don at 5am during the weekdays and a little later on the weekends. We mostly trained through private lessons as there weren't many people who either heard of our class or found us. It was an incredible experience and I'm forever grateful for the lessons Sifu Don has taught me in order to improve both the trapping and power elements of JKD.
Sifu Chien Yeh was the first to bring Wing Chun to Japan. He's a student of Lo Man Kam, nephew to Ip Man. It was excellent training with his students and learning from each other. His students were all very friendly although many did not speak much English. Like Hong Kong, it was mostly Chi Sao although we did do some drills as well. I also learned Sifu Chien Yeh is an excellent chef! If you're ever in Yokohama, go see him!
Sifu John first started me in Wing Chun Kung Fu back in 1998. From him, I learned relaxation, the use of energy and sensitivity, tactile awareness, and the basics of Chi Sao (Sticky Hands).
I'll be honest with you, I know this is nearly the last photo, but Sifu Wong is among the best Wing Chun instructors in the world today. Among the 8 schools I visited, he was the most humble and welcoming. I know that sounds normal, but in Hong Kong, Sifus are very suspicious of visitors! I'm not joking, it's just like in the movies! I can't tell you how many schools I went to and was turned away or was only allowed to train elementary movements because they didn't know me or was bitter toward my lineage of Wing Chun. It's crazy, but Sifu Wong was not like that and his students were extremely helpful. I learned a lot from them about structure, alignment, trapping, and getting to the centerline. Thank you, Sifu Wong!
Although I'd been teaching for years, I opened Chesapeake JKD Academy in 2019. We teach Jeet Kune Do to small groups and now, through the JKD Process, we've been able to share this incredible art with students all over the world. These are all founding members and have been with our local school since the beginning. Really can't say enough about these guys. Not pictured here, but still founders are James, Kane, Ben, Nick, Michael, Marlon, Daniel, Melvin, Malachi, and Josh. They train hard, but most importantly, we're all family. That's what makes our group what it is. In the words of Bruce, "Under the sky, under the heavens, there is but one family." That's what our JKD is all about, dedication, family and community.