“Be Water, My Friend”: A Talk with MD Jeet Kune Do

Thursday, July 20 marks 50 years since the death of famed martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. A relentless, lightning-fast fighter, Lee started his career in Hollywood, where he broke through stereotypes of Asian men as villains or servants. After moving to Hong Kong, Lee’s role in the box office hits The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon made him a household name in both Asia and the United States. Despite an untimely death at the age of 32, Bruce Lee lives on the fighting style he developed, Jeet Kune Do, and the precepts he espoused.

Among the numerous Jeet Kune Do academies worldwide is one right here at Savage Mill! Maryland Jeet Kune Do offers classes and private instruction for youth and adults. We spoke with Head Instructor JB Jaeger to learn more about what makes this martial art unique.


How is Jeet Kune Do different from other classes?

Maryland Jeet Kune Do classes differ from other classes in several key ways. Firstly, they emphasize formlessness, meaning we don’t limit students to a specific style or pattern but rather encourage adaptability and the use of any technique that serves their purpose. Secondly, these classes focus on mastering your will, learning how to treat your fear of life and death with indifference, and fostering enlightenment and self-knowledge. This goes beyond physical training into the realm of personal spirituality and self-discovery. Lastly, our Jeet Kune Do classes here at Savage Mill are not about winning, but about learning to overcome personal limitations and impulses. The ultimate goal is not just self-defense, but self-improvement and enlightenment.


How did you first get involved with Jeet Kune Do?

I first got involved in Jeet Kune Do in college. Over the past twenty-some years, I’ve travelled back and forth between here and California to train with my teachers and other instructors in Jeet Kune Do and other related martial arts. I also spent over seven years living in a Zen Buddhist temple practicing martial arts and meditation. What has become Maryland Jeet Kune Do originally began as a private training group at the temple and then expanded to the public.


What does Jeet Kune Do mean to you?

Jeet Kune Do is a philosophy and a form of self-expression rather than just a martial art. It represents freedom from restrictions and limitations. It is about embracing formlessness, allowing me adaptability and flexibility in every situation that I encounter in my life. It also emphasizes simplicity and looking for reality in its purest form, being myself without any attachments or confinements. Jeet Kune Do to me is the pursuit of enlightenment, will power, self-control, and my intuition. It is about training so much that I can trust my unconscious mind to act in a situation appropriately and automatically. Ultimately, it is a step towards self-knowledge and understanding who I am better, not only in martial arts but also in life as a human being.


What can someone who has never tried martial arts before expect from a sample class?

Someone attending a class at Maryland Jeet Kune Do for the first time can anticipate learning techniques and concepts drawn from multiple martial arts. You can expect to be introduced to a martial art that is more than just physical combat techniques. This martial art teaches you to face your fears and confront your challenges head-on. You will learn to solve problems efficiently and directly. Jeet Kune Do is sometimes called the art of expressing the human body, about being yourself, free from the complex roles you find yourself having to take on in life. It’s just you and your sparring partner, who may have a completely different background in life, but in that moment, those things don’t matter, and get in the way in a sense. Jeet Kune Do helps you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and reality without the filters we place on ourselves or are placed on us. By learning how to deal with an external opponent, we learn how to deal with our internal opponents of anger, ignorance, and selfishness.


What have students found with doing your classes? What keeps them coming back?

The majority of our members begin their quest by learning how to defend themselves, but it becomes a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. They learn not to get stuck in routines or habits in their daily life but stay open-minded and adaptable. Learning how to master their will helps them face personal and professional challenges with a new perspective.


How many different classes do you offer?

We have classes during the day and in the evening, Monday through Thursday. We also offer private lessons, and we have workshops on the weekends.


How have you grown since you first started at Savage Mill?

We’ve had a notable journey since moving to Savage Mill! The move occurred just before the lockdown initiated by Governor Hogan, which presented a unique challenge to our community. JKD’s mindset of adaptability definitely influenced our ability to adjust during those unprecedented circumstances. It became very clear to me that our members valued the art form not just as a method of self-defense but as a holistic approach to how they could deal with their individual battles through the pandemic. The Mill offers a unique and gorgeous environment for training and we enjoy taking advantage of the entire space, from the river trails to various open areas in the Mill, not just our studio. It’s provided great opportunities for growth and exposure in the local community.


What are some goals you have for your business in the next few years?

We’d like to expand our outreach to the community to introduce new people to the art and philosophy and its benefits. We’re looking at offering meditation classes that incorporate the principles of Jeet Kune Do.

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