By Kelly S. Worden
Inspiration in life is the motivational force that helps one aspire to succeed. Inspiration, literally “in spirit,” has many sources, internal and external in this dimension, from the sight of a sublime sunset, the cry made by one’s firstborn, or even the creative fervor that can be stimulated when awakened from an intense dream. In the martial arts in ancient days, the forces of nature like the mountains, trees, and streams were inspiration to the masters, as were animals such as tigers, cranes, and eagles, But perhaps, more so than any other source for the martial aspirant, it was the charisma of the instructor, his or her insight, skill, and character that stimulated the student more than any other factor to become “all you can be.” The sifu, sensei, guru, or datu was more than just a combative instructor, they were a guide in life. And to really grow, to genuinely excel, each student had to be open to the potential changes, to the experiences, and to the guidance offered by the teacher during their own evolution through martial arts training. This fact is no less true today than it was in the past.
The empty cup is a classic example of how knowledge or information is accumulated. The student must empty himself in order to be filled with the knowledge and wisdom the master has to offer. He cannot come in “full of himself,” or the draught the master offers cannot be poured. Life, of course, is more profound than just a single empty cup, so perhaps it is becoming more like a blank canvas upon which the master paints. Whatever your metaphor, the point is clear; in society today, the student’s survival can dependent upon filling many empty cups, of drawing from many sources. “Absorb what is useful,” said Sijo Lee. And Musashi too, “Learn the ways of all arts. . .” Such injunctions are due primarily to our ever changing and complex world. Life is never simple, multitasking is an everyday challenge, joy can elude us often, and our day-to-day grind is seldom not overwhelming. As time has passed, like all under the sun, martial arts have evolved. Few remain unaltered, though they stay deeply rooted within cultural backgrounds and guidelines, that despite taboos, are also subject to change. All is transient, as the Buddha taught. All is in a state of annica.
This truth is reflected in the innovation brought to the martial arts by Sijo Bruce Lee who helped to shatter the classical taboo or "style myth" that professed martial style must remain stagnant, that it should not evolve nor never change. That a system is and must be as sifu or sensei taught it. That it couldn’t be added to or subtracted from. That you must do it just this way because that is what sifu or sensei said or did (whether it worked for you or not!). That somehow a martial style or system was different from all the rest of reality and not subject to annica. In Sijo Lee’s offering to the world of the concept of Jeet Kune Do, indeed much has changed! For many practitioners worldwide, the mixing or blending of different martial arts together into a workable synthesis or newly formed hybrid, changing an art as needed and as it must work for you, is now the foundation of a progressive and necessary perspective. And thanks to Bruce Lee, we can consider this basis an American-born tradition.
If there is such a thing as fate or destiny, or if karma (cause and effect) is but a better word, they are equally unpredictable elements of life. Likewise, martial artistic development, as well as any facet of personal evolution, is equally unpredictable. Some with scarce resources or feeble chances develop into bona fide masters, while others with better opportunities spin their wheels in the mire of novice-hood forever. It is rare when any one individual carves out or creates a perfect step-by-step template to for any endeavor; combative or otherwise. We all have to play the cards of life that are dealt to us. Some fail; others tread water; others prosper deeply. It's difficult to say if we can attribute success or failure to fate or destiny, but it is an interesting concept to ponder; a philosophical conundrum stretching back to at least the ancient Greeks.
Martial arts encapsulates any and all aspects of life's journey and through it all we can apply mental toughness (mind), physiological science (body) and moral/philosophical ideals (spirit), to adapt, overcome, and survive. Within our complex struggle of day-to-day existence we are occasionally blessed with teachers, guides, mentors, and elders that act as guideposts in the tangled path through the woods; that are lighthouses upon our approach in from the stormy seas. It is through the assistance and direct communication with such as those that we are kept in check; that we are inspired; that our martial spirits are cultivated like a bonsai tree cultivates which in turn can eventually lead us to some semblance of self-realization.
I surmise that anyone to whom this brief treatise has reached have at least these things in common: we possess an interest in Bruce Lee and his Jeet Kune Do; and we believe we possess some insight into one of Lee’s greatest inheritors, on of JKD’s greatest exponents; namely, Taky Kimura. Let me extend this thesis: that within a broader historical and philosophical context, Bruce, Taky, and the art of JKD prove holistic pieces in one entirety; that each is a component of a bigger whole.
It is true that Bruce Lee formulated the concepts, strategies, ideals, and of course the path to freedom of expression, that we all know as Jeet Kune Do. But it is also worth noting that for the last fifty four (54) years it is Taky Kimura who has embodied through Jun Fan Gung Fu (Bruce’s forerunner to JKD) the very essence of Jeet Kune Do as a way of life. In this way, Taky Kimura is the personification of the Tao of JKD, of "the Way!" I know Taky as a humble man who seeks only to provide an unwavering martial and personal example for others. He exemplifies the most positive of role models in his decades-long efforts at educating the world about the truth and ideals Bruce Lee taught and shared with him over fifty years ago. For Taky "life is Jeet Kune Do!”
While I do not assume to speak for Taky, in knowing him well I believe that it is without question that Taky has endured much adversity in life, and it is this real world experience that has driven him to inspire others to be the best they can be. Well over twenty-five years ago we were introduced and immediately became close friends. Taky has been a personal mentor and a guide for not only my martial art progress, but also in my personal transformation to become a better person. I have shared my martial arts thoughts and objectives with him and at the same time Taky has been honest enough to offer both constructive criticisms and observations to assist me in achieving my own self-development. In the physical sense of martial arts training, I have never been a direct student per se. That being said, however, during his 90th birthday celebration I was honored and shocked to learn from him that I am one of only two instructors outside of his school that he has ever allowed to teach at his Jun Fan Kwoon in Woodinville, Washington (the only other being the late, great Small Circle Jujitsu Grandmaster Wally Jay).
Taky's most endearing quality to me was that he embraced and guided me without agenda, negativity, or personal ego, always making me feel like I was authentic and genuine in my approach, always making me feel that I possessed an equal validity in this path we both walked together. Through my own challenges of assessing "what is or what is not Jeet Kune Do," Taky reassured me on numerous occasions that "honesty, self-examination, and personal reflection continue to be a vital part of any person's Jeet Kune Do and personal path." I was greatly honored when Taky told me, after my invention of my own expression of JKD (Renegade Jeet Kune Do, as I call it), "If Renegade Jeet Kune Do is Kelly Worden's Jeet Kune Do, so be it."
To me Taky Kimura personifies what true Jeet Kune Do is supposed to be; that he expresses this art in the way that it’s founder originally meant it to be lived. It is an understatement to say that he is a legend and a dynamic leader. He is a man among men and a sifu’s sifu.
Kelly S. Worden