Bruce Lee was a visionary film actor who helped define what an action movie was. Though Lee passed away in 1973, his practices and on-camera stunts are still used in the film industry today. In Arizona, his methods are beginning to take root.
On Saturday in Scottsdale, the Marriott hotel hosted a special “True Self: Jeet Kune Do” women’s self defense seminar that aimed to teach women how to defend themselves from any physical dangers.
The seminar taught the dynamics of Jeet Kune Do, the eclectic martial arts mindset that Bruce Lee helped create and popularize. Shaped by Lee’s own fights and experiences, Jeet Kune Do is a way to think and act while protecting oneself from dangers while unarmed.
The seminar was organized by Larry Blouin, a Los Angeles resident who has been practicing Jeet Kune Do since 2003.
Blouin was drawn into the martial arts by Dane Junod, a Jeet Kune Do instructor who met Blouin when the two worked together on the set of a TV show. Junod trained actor Jason Scott Lee (no relation to Bruce), who starred in the film “Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story.”
Junod told Blouin about private Jeet Kune Do lessons, and Blouin was in.
Jeet Kune Do, before Blouin learned it, was actually known only by Lee himself. He saw errors with the common, systematized martial arts like karate and taekwondo because their movements could be predictable and weren’t always practical in real life.
But Jeet Kune Do, as Lee wrote, is actually not a method of fighting. Instead, it’s a mindset.
The individual who practices Jeet Kune Do is able to look at themselves through a metaphorical “mirror” and understand themself as both a fighter and as a person. The art is a direct expression of feelings, completely separate from the traditional martial arts.
As Lee wrote: “The extraordinary part [of Jeet Kune Do] lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it.”
If karate is the martial arts of a fighter, then Jeet Kune Do is the inspiration and thought process behind it. Jeet Kune Do is simple, non-classic, and free from traditional styles and patterns. It preaches fighter awareness and self-understanding.
In order to teach this mindset while simultaneously teaching martial arts, Lee would host sessions every Wednesday night at his private house in Bel Air. Lee and his students would practice hitting and kicking routines, and eventually they called themselves “The “Wednesday Night Crew.”
One of the private students was Jerry Poteet, who worked his way up to become one of Lee’s best students. Poteet eventually grew into an instructor position, earning the title “Sifu Jerry,” meaning “Teacher Jerry.”
Junod and Poteet taught Jeet Kune Do together, which is how Blouin met Poteet. Poteet became Blouin’s teacher and helped Blouin work his own way up the ladder to become an instructor himself.
Today, Blouin gives Jeet Kune Do seminars in Los Angeles, just as Poteet did.
Poteet passed away in 2012, but his lessons had an indelible impact on Blouin, who carries on both Lee’s and Poteet’s teachings today.
Blouin says Lee is an inspiration to him. “The biggest lesson I take from Bruce is to be true to yourself,” Blouin said. “That’s the pinnacle of what he was talking about: Your own true expression of who you are. Ask yourself, ‘why are you here’?”
Blouin said he draws a connection with “The Green Hornet,” an action show Lee starred in during the 1960s. Blouin tells the story of when one day on set, Lee had a revelation when he began to realize the numerous people around him. There were actors, directors, set designers, and emergency staff, and they all seemed to fit their role.
But when Lee himself took to performing martial arts on camera, he felt like a “robot.” He just wasn’t himself.
Lee took a sip from his cup of water and asked himself what was wrong. He realized that he felt like he didn’t act or perform for himself, but rather for the people around him.
He wondered how he should act or how he should drink his cup of water, but he never asked how he could actually do things for himself, how he could do things like Bruce Lee would.
That’s when he started to focus on his “inner-self”: his thoughts, his feelings, his emotions, his needs. He came to the conclusion that he needed to find “a true expression of himself.”
This meant finding the best way to fit his needs, finding ways to be self-confident and self-sufficient, and finding a way to be free from social norms. He began to do things without holding back – if he was going to practice martial arts, he was not going to hold anything back. 110% effort. He wanted to become one of the best martial artists in the world.
It was his way to be mentally tough while holding composure and confidence. Blouin described Lee’s philosophy in fighting: “In martial arts, when it's time to go, you cannot hold anything back. Everything inside of you has to happen in that moment.”
Lee’s mindsets were the focus of the seminar. Blouin’s goal was for attendees to “create a sense of individuality” while gaining situational and self awareness.
This was Blouin’s first seminar in Arizona and he hopes to continue to do them monthly. Blouin said it is important for people to learn self defense at some point in their life, to help them make the right decisions if trouble arises.
“When you're in a life and death situation, your goal needs to be to make that person go unconscious as soon as possible,” Blouin said. “So you have to have the mindset that as soon as you feel that you're in fear for your life, make the other person go unconscious right away.”
Blouin said it is especially important to learn Jeet Kune Do for the lessons it can teach. “What it did for me was give me a mode of expression,” Blouin said. “It made life more dynamic for me, having an outlet to physically express what's happening inside of me.”
For Blouin, the seminars are a way to honor both Lee and Poteet, and help spread the valuable lessons of Jeet Kune Do. “It touches every part of your life. How you think, how you make your decisions, all of that will change,” Blouin said. “The confidence it gives you is like the master key to the world.”