What Kind of Martial Arts do we do?

By Jeff Baines

5th Degree Black Belt in Kempo

2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do

Level 4 Apprentice Instructor in Jeet Kune Do

Owner of Dojo Source

The short answer, we do a mix of Kempo and Jeet Kune Do. But what does that mean? Kempo is a traditional Martial Art that is a mix of Karate and Kung Fu, and Jeet Kune Do is the Martial Art that Bruce Lee created. Here at Dojo Source we think that Kempo is a great traditional Martial Art to help teach children and beginners the basics as well as developing good attributes like Coordination, Balance, Timing, Speed, Power, Stamina, etc. If you have never done Martial Arts before (or only done a few months), Kempo will help you develop the necessary body mechanics to actually learn what you need to from Jeet Kune Do. 

Bruce Lee said that you weren’t allowed to train Jeet Kune Do with him until you had earned your Black Belt in another style. That rule went away after Bruce’s death, there are places that only teach Jeet Kune Do, but most of your first several years of training is spent getting the basics and attributes that you would develop from training any other Martial Art. Okay Sensei, I’ve mastered my basics and have strong attributes, what does Jeet Kune Do have to offer me?

One of the major principles of Jeet Kune Do is one of Bruce Lee’s most famous quotes “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, and add what is uniquely your own.” Bruce Lee was one of the first Martial Artists to begin training in many other arts to try to become a complete fighter. There are 5 Fighting Ranges of fighting: Weapons, Kicking, Punching, Trapping, & Grappling. To be a complete fighter you must be able to switch between these ranges when you need to. 

The Kempo that we teach starts off with the most common range that an opponent will use, Punching Range. Kempo has some good basics for this range, but Jeet Kune Do tells us to search in other arts for useful and better techniques and strategies. What better art to pull from than an art that deals only with punches, Boxing. So our first couple of belts are about mastering Punching Range through a mix of Boxing and Kempo. We also start to build the foundations for the other ranges in these belts, so we don’t just do punches. After the first few belts we continue working on Punching Range, but focus less on basics and more on intermediate skills and strategies.

As students get good at Punching Range, we start to teach them about Kicking Range. Although Kicking Range has a longer reach, it is more risky to use these moves in a fight because they are a bit slower (although they are also more powerful) and most people lack the balance to throw kicks effectively in a fight. So your opponent is less likely to throw them, and you are less likely to land them without falling over until you have mastered the footwork set up by the beginning Kempo belts. Sensei Jeff trained in Tae Kwon Do for 6 years, and his Instructor got to train Muay Thai in Thailand both these arts are known for their great kicks. Our Kicking Range is a mix of Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, and Muay Thai. We start learning how to throw proper kicks in the first few belts as it takes time to develop the balance and coordination to do kicks well. Then after a few belts we start to focus on actually throwing them in combos and learning to defend against them.

Next we begin to train the fundamentals of Weapons Range, this is mostly done through Kali. Kempo has some moves in Weapons range, but they would be difficult (if not impossible) to pull off in a real life scenario without having the skills from Kali. Kali is a Martial Art that teaches you to use Eskrima Sticks and Knives, because if you want to stop an opponent who is using one of these weapons you need to understand how someone moves with the weapon. Then you have the chance to predict their movements and counter their attack. We continue to develop these skills over the next several belts. Kali training also helps to develop speed, coordination, footwork, and timing that is useful in not just Weapons range, but also Punching and Kicking ranges. 

Sometimes fights go to the ground, and this is why it is important to learn skills in Grappling Range. Almost all fights start standing up and it is easier to fight an opponent in Punching or Kicking range if possible but they may quickly realize that they have no chance in those ranges and will tackle you to prevent your strikes from hitting them. Kempo does not really have much in the way of defending yourself in Grappling range. After getting good with Striking we begin to learn how to prevent someone from getting us into Grappling range but even if you are very good at this your opponent may be better at getting you to the ground so we have to incorporate moves from other arts to supplement what Kempo lacks. Here at Dojo Source we use a mix of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Catch Wrestling to learn the fundamentals of Grappling range. It is important to learn how to escape from positions and submissions, but we don’t ignore that you can strike your opponent while you are both on the ground. So the focus is on being good enough with Grappling to be able to hit your opponent to end the fight while on the ground, or to stand up and get back into Punching and Kicking Range again. Takedowns are also a part of Grappling Range and Kempo has some takedowns in it (probably taken from Judo) and we start training these in our intermediate belts after we have had lots of practice falling down safely.

One of the most dangerous ranges to practice safely is Trapping Range. Elbows, Knees, and Headbutts are some of the strikes that cause the most damage to your opponent in all of Martial Arts. It takes amazing control and precision to throw an Elbow, Knee, or Headbutt at your opponent without harming them, even if you are going fairly slowly. So this is the last range that we start to master. We train elbows and knees in the early belts, but we wait until our advanced belts to start to train the Clinch which is where these strikes get thrown. Muay Thai has some of the best Elbows and Knees in all of Martial Arts so our Trapping range practice comes mostly from there. Of course Bruce Lee started off learning Wing Chun, and there are some principles from Wing Chun that are useful in Trapping Range.

Although Kempo is the style of our Martial Arts at Dojo Source, Jeet Kune Do is like the framework that helps us to include principles from many other Martial Arts to help us be complete fighters in all 5 Fighting Ranges. We can train beginners and help them to develop the attributes necessary to be proficient in all 5 Fighting Ranges, and we can also train advanced students to help them fill in any holes they might have in the Fighting Ranges or improve your skills in these ranges so you become an expert in one or more of the Ranges. Come try out a Free Class sometime and see what Dojo Source can offer you!

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