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How Boxing Influenced Jeet Kune Do

Boxing Great Muhammad Ali

Boxing Great Muhammad Ali

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3, 2016.  This got me thinking about the influence boxing has had on the martial arts, specifically Jeet Kune Do.  Basically, there are 3 main ways that boxing and Muhammad Ali influenced Jeet Kune Do.

Boxing Influenced Jeet Kune Do Footwork

Take a few moments and watch this 1-minute video with Muhammad Ali.

Now watch this clip from The Way of the Dragon and pay attention to Bruce’s footwork and movement.

Notice the similarities?  Bruce Lee was inspired by Muhammad Ali. He would sit and watch Ali’s footwork for hours; studying and practicing it. Bruce loved how fluid Ali moved and how difficult it was for him to be hit.

In Jeet Kune Do the movement, the footwork, the elusiveness, and punches were all inspired by Ali.  Jeet Kune Do’s footwork is more erratic and designed to confuse our opponents.  Sifu Eric Winfree says, “our footwork should make no sense.”  Most other styles move in more linear or circular motions.  Humans are predators and have the ability to track movement.  If someone is traveling in a linear or circular pattern we can predict where they will be, based on their speed, direction, and rhythm of movement.  However, Jeet Kune Do’s movement is broken-rhythm.  We move like a butterfly, but sting like bees.

Sifu Eric Winfree says, “our footwork should make no sense.”

Boxing Influenced Jeet Kune Do’s Punches

Bruce Lee Punching Focus Mitt with Dan InosantoJeet Kune Do punches were also inspired by boxing.   In Jeet Kune Do we throw crosses, hooks, jabs, uppercuts. Most other styles throw more straight or reverse punches and some back fists.  We also use some of the punching combinations that Ali loved.  Like the jab-backfist-hook combination.  Even though the jab-backfist combo is illegal in professional boxing, Ali used to throw it anyway because he was so fast he could get away with it.  Ali was really fast with his punches.  This is something else that take from Ali.  Jeet Kune Do is all about speed.  We train to be fast.  Speed baffles opponents because of the sensory overload.  If you do not believe this, spar with someone who is really fast.  They are frustrating.

Boxing Influenced the Way We Train

Bruce liked the way boxers trained, which is one reason why our curriculum is so tough.  This is different than many other traditional martial arts systems.  Boxers used equipment; heavy bags, focus mitts, and boxing gloves.  Training with focus mitts was introduced into martial arts training by Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto. Now everyone uses them.

Bruce patterned a lot of Jeet Kune Do off the western boxing principles.

We thank Muhammad Ali for inspiring Bruce Lee and we thank Bruce Lee for giving us Jeet Kune Do.

Image Credit (1), Image Credit (2)


Jeanne started her martial arts training later in life and has been training at SMAA for over 10 years. She likes all aspects of the martial arts from the physical challenges to the spiritual pursuits of martial etiquette and virtue. She has a master degree in marketing and is currently working on her MBA.

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