Tao of Jeet Kune Do

From time to time, I will quote Bruce Lee in my presentations and articles. However, when I quote him, Iʼm always quoting Bruce Lee, the incredible martial artist. Not Bruce Lee the actor, whose skills were highly distorted by Hollywood. We must always remember that Bruce Lee the actor was all about flash and entertainment.  However, Bruce Lee the martial artist was all about effectiveness, directness, and simplicity

Although I sincerely believe that thereʼs no police officer or police trainer alive today thatʼs not been directly or indirectly influenced by the work of Chuck Remsberg and Dennis Anderson, the co-founders of the original Calibre Press, Inc. I also believe thereʼs not anyone alive today thatʼs involved in the practice or teaching of martial arts or self-defense—which includes police use-of-force trainers—that hasnʼt been directly or indirectly influenced by the work of Bruce Lee. His influence in the art of unarmed combat, reaches far and wide across the globe.

Lee, the martial artist was, in my humble opinion, the 20th century Sun Tzu, but specialized in the methodologies of unarmed combat.

The majority of Leeʼs book, Tao of Jeet Kune Do, was written in 1970 while he recovered from a serious back injury. It has numerous tactical principles and concepts that are just as applicable to police work as they are to martial arts. Letʼs look at some quotes from Tao of Jeet Kune Do, followed my comments on how I believe that Leeʼs principles can apply to us today.

“Many a martial artist likes “more,” likes “something different,” not knowing the truth and the way is exhibited in the simple everyday movements, because it is here they miss it. If there is any secret, it is missed by seeking.”

Probably every young, highly dedicated martial artist, along with many police officers, go through a period of tactical discovery. They spend countless hours, days, months, and even years looking for that secret ninja-cop-fu technique or tactic that will make them invincible. I went through this period of searching for the ultimate, super-secret omnipotent martial arts technique in my teens and 20s. Instead of wasting a lot of time looking for something that doesnʼt exist, I shouldʼve been spending that time on mastering the time-tested basics. Tactics, concepts and principles of fighting that have lasted thousands of years, have only done so because they are simple and effective. If they were not, they would not have survived the test of time. You should always be open to finding superior ways of performing anything you do. However, prioritize your training time on mastering what we do know that works, instead of relentlessly searching for that ultimate technique that does not exist.

“Instead of facing combat in its suchness, then, most systems of martial arts accumulate a “fancy mess” that distorts and cramps their practitioners and distracts them from the actual reality of combat, which is simple and direct.”

Around 20 years ago, a certain (unnamed) stateʼs police officer standards authority, distorted their shotgun qualification program into a tacti-cool nightmare. The stateʼs recently and politically appointed long gun guru (who had no real world policing experience) added the most convoluted “tacti-cool” mandates Iʼd ever seen. I know there were others, but the one that burned into my memory forever when it was explained to me was this.

When running or walking from point to point with a pump shotgun, the action of the shotgun was to be opened and carried in a half-cocked position. Anyone that really understood the design and operation of a pump-action shotgun, also knew this. All this tacti-cool technique really did, was create a situation that you could potentially jam an otherwise ironclad dependable shotgun. Needless to say, this was one “mandate” that officers across the involved state wisely thumbed their nose at.  Before you add techniques or change your standard operating procedures, ask yourself: Why are you adding or changing this? If you find a better method of doing anything thatʼs faster, more efficient, more effective, more reliable and simpler to perform, by all means change. But if itʼs just for the sake of adding someoneʼs mark to it, you may wish to reconsider, as it will likely create as Lee called it, a fancy mess.

 “Itʼs not daily increase but daily decrease—hack away at the unessentials.”

Thereʼs something I would highly recommend that every law enforcement agency, and every state peace officer standards committee do before they have another class of basic cadets. Thatʼs to perform a use analysis of the stateʼs mandated use of force training. Make a list of every use-of-force technique your state mandates, and give it to your patrol officers. Get a simple yes or no as to whether or not they use whatʼs on the list. If you find that there are techniques on the list that no one uses, itʼs time to drop said techniques from the curriculum. Why waste valuable training time teaching and/or practicing techniques in the basic academy (or during in-service training), which will never be used?

“Train yourself to cut down unnecessary choice-reactions (minimize yourself naturally) while giving your opponent a variety of possible responses.”

A major issue with learning too many techniques is the reality of Hickʼs Law, which states: “Choice reaction time is linearly related to the amount of information that must be processed to resolve the uncertainty about the various possible stimulus response alternatives.”

So what does that translate into for combative purposes?  The more techniques you learn, the longer it will take your mind to sort through them to choose one when you need to. Now I realize there are a few instructors who disagree with this premise, most of which are incredibly skilled martial artists and who practice their skills far more frequently than the average line officer will. I believe in the concept of Hickʼs Law not because of the theory or even because Lee preached its principles. My belief is based upon personal experience. I had earned black belts in three different karate systems by the time I was in my early 20s. Although I feel this made me a better karate instructor, as it gave me the chance to compare systems.  However, with too many technique choices to pick from, I also believe it had a negative influence on my reaction time.

Crucible founder Kelly McCann tells his students to become a “minimalist.” Pick a minimum number of combative techniques, and then work them to perfection. Lee immortalized this concept when he was quoted saying:\

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, one time. I fear the man who has practiced one kick, 10,000 times.”

In a future article, Iʼll discuss more of Leeʼs concepts. For now, I would ask that you assess these concepts for your own personal adaptation. As Lee would have told you:


“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”


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After 32 years of law enforcement service with a large urban police department, Charles E. Humes, Jr. honorably retired at the rank of Sergeant in 2015. Independently achieved, he is recognized internationally as one of the pioneers of modern, realistic police defensive tactics training. He has taught seminars and instructor certification schools as far West as Alaska and as far East as North Carolina; and has trained police instructors from as far as Hong Kong.
He was a 2016 recipient of the Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.



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