ON THE JKD EXPERIENCE: TRAINING AT THE IMB ACADEMY
by: Stephen Whittier, 1995
As a martial arts practitioner who
has been fortunate enough to discover in the IMB Academy the kind of guidepost I had long been searching for, I found it ironically
appropriate to have stumbled upon Sifu Richard’s short article in the last newsletter, "What is a mentor?" on the first
day of my recent trip to California to train with him. Since the article addressed individuals seeking mentorship in
Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do as I myself have done, I thought it would be fitting to add some perspective from the "mentored" side
of the equation, and share some thoughts about why the IMB is such a special place to practice and experience this art firsthand.
of all, let me say that Californians, especially those living in or around L.A., have no idea how fortunate they are: within
a few square miles, they have access to many of the martial arts world’s most prominent figures, and as a result, to
some of the best instruction the world has to offer. Yet, even in this rich environment, the IMB stands apart: it is
unique because it allows those who are serious about finding their own martial arts way and developing skill in all ranges
of fighting to find everything they’re looking for under one roof.
My trip to the Academy this
past July was my second in two years, and both have been invaluable to my personal approach toward training. As a student
and instructor at the IMB’s affiliate school in Belmont, Massachusetts, a week of classes at the main headquarters in
Torrance provides me with a great opportunity to learn some new material, as well as variations of, or further possibilities
for applying techniques and concepts I have already worked with. It also gives me the chance to just focus on hard training
for a few days (I got in twelve or thirteen adult classes between Monday and Thursday alone). But whether you are already
familiar with the IMB’s format or not, the Academy truly offers something for everyone.
sets the school apart in particular is the practical structure of its program. The categories of techniques identified
in Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do - kicking, boxing, trapping, and grappling - come into play in either the long, middle, or close ranges
of combat (or in transition from one of these ranges to another). Accordingly, the IMB’s weekly classes in Kali/Eskrima,
Muay Thai/ Boxing, and Machado Brazilian Jujitsu offer the most effective and well-researched systems specializing in each
of these respective ranges. Then, in the JKD classes, everything comes together through the perspective of Sigung Bruce
Lee’s teachings as they are passed by Sifu Richard. At the IMB, Jeet Kune Do is viewed as a process of self-discovery;
therefore, in addition to teaching the original Jun Fan curriculum developed during Bruce Lee’s lifetime, Sifu shows
how the JKD concept can enhance the other arts taught at the Academy and allow practitioners to flow freely between fighting
Most importantly, students are pointed toward the truth of their own experiences as martial artists,
rather than being encouraged to conform to a specific mold or standard. The idea behind this philosophy is to offer
a practical means for fostering individual growth. But this liberating approach is not to be confused with a lack of
structure; although IMB’s atmosphere is relaxed and relatively informal, Sifu is a stickler for detail when teaching
techniques to his students. By learning proper body mechanics and how to progress from the motor learning stage to application
in drills and sparring, students come to learn the finer points of the techniques they are shown as well as fundamental principles
which will allow them to develop their own training strategies.
One aspect of the IMB you won’t
find stated in the class descriptions is the overriding sense of openness and community one finds there. Although over
a year had elapsed since my first visit, I quickly renewed my acquaintance with some of the students and staff I had met previously.
No one is viewed as an outsider, and there is nothing resembling a pecking order. Instead, all new students and
visitors - and visitors like me come from all over the world - are enthusiastically welcomed, and IMB members of all ability
levels sweat together in class and during open workouts.
This proactive attitude toward training
yields great results to say the least. Not only was I pleased to see how many of the local members had improved since
the last time I saw them, it was also rewarding to have a measuring stick by which to gauge some of my own improvements. In
some cases, I would find myself helping out other students during class who had less experience in a given area, while at
other times, I would be the one getting pointers from more experienced practitioners. In one instance, after doing some
pad work and sparring with the kickboxing instructor, Ed - one of Sifu’s top assistants and a well-rounded fighter who
has competed in stickfighting and grappling events in addition to holding a pro title in Muay Thai - I walked off the floor
soaking wet and tired, but extremely satisfied with the fast-paced workout. Before I changed up for the next class,
Ed and I thanked each other and said our "see you next time’s" (I was flying back home the next morning), and he made
a point to compliment me on my performance before heading to the locker room. Such an overall sense of support and mutual
respect is its own reward; it makes you feel good no matter what your level.
If you are hoping to
supercharge your training or become a second-generation member of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do through the IMB Academy, however, there
is one condition: in addition to being self-motivated, you must be honest with yourself, especially in your training. While
there is always a wealth of information on hand to be absorbed, the process of experiencing JKD does not come about through
osmosis; there are no quick fixes. Neither is there any posturing behind ancient lineages or martial theories. While
the IMB is a community, it is a community of individuals dedicated to a common interest, not a herd mentality.
Richard offered an observation along these very lines during one of the JKD classes. Although I had heard him make the
same point before at a seminar, it did not lose its impact for me the second time around. After talking us through a
non-telegraphic kick-punch drill on the focus pads from a right forward lead, he then simply told the group to switch and
repeat the combination from a left lead, this time leaving out the verbal encouragement. After watching for several
minutes, he stopped the class and asked, "Why are most of you hitting slower and with less force than before?" No
"Is it because you’re working from the left side now? No. It’s because
this time, I’m not telling you to come in faster and harder."
The fact that Sifu had mentioned
to us only minutes before that the particular combination we were working was among Bruce Lee’s personal favorites only
helped drive his lesson home: "Everyone wants to be the best; that part’s easy. Bruce Lee used to say that everyone
wants to be a champion, but few are willing to train to be a champion. But he had the drive to push harder and faster
each time he practiced. No one had to tell him to do it. That’s why no one could touch him."
in the class seemed to nod and make a mental notation in unison before returning to the drill with redoubled efforts. Sifu’s
message was motivating, not benignly pedantic, because every one of us knew that at some point in time, he had made his own
mental notation and walked down that same path. Moreover, while none of us students in the room ever had a chance to
train with or even meet Bruce Lee, I think we all felt like we took away a small but important piece of his legacy that day.
that in mind, I’ll be busy working with the principles I’ve learned through my IMB trips and seminars - and looking
forward to the next time I have a chance to plan a trip out to Torrance. And if you’re reading this but have not
already found a mentor to guide you on your martial way, simply do what so many of us have done: visit the Academy, check
to see if there is an affiliate in your area, or attend IMB seminars. The best advice I can give is to go out and do
it, because as always, Jeet Kune Do is an art that speaks through experience.
Stephen Whittier is a Ph.D. candidate
at Tufts University and a Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do student under Sifu Richard Bustillo
What makes IMB unique?
I have always been interested in the martial arts.
I had been training off and on in martial arts since childhood. I've trained in various forms including karate, kung
fu, judo, aikido and boxing. While I value those experiences, during my training, I always felt somewhat confined by the boundaries
imposed by those arts. I felt that while the art I was studying would be applicable for certain situations, it might
be ineffective in a different scenario. In addition, I felt that certain techniques would not work for me as an individual.
then heard about the International Martial Arts and Boxing Academy ("IMB") and chief instructor Richard Bustillo. When
I first visited IMB, I was surprised to find the world-renowned Richard Bustillo actually teaching classes to his students,
beginners and advanced. So many new students are drawn to a school by a marquee name, only to discover that their famous
instructor is visibly absent and the day-to-day curriculum is entrusted to a senior student. In my years at IMB, I've
found Sifu Bustillo to be consistently generous, enthusiastic and committed to his students. Sifu Bustillo is always
there. Though he is quite busy with the seminar circuit, his seminars are primarily scheduled on weekends, so that he
could be at IMB and with his students during the week.
Another bonus to IMB is the camaraderie. This is also
attributed to Sifu Bustillo. Sifu is originally from Hawaii and has made it a point to make the "aloha spirit" an integral
part of the school. In my previous experience with other schools, students often left as soon as classes were over.
I've made a lot of good friends at IMB. Here, not only do the students train together but hang out. Favorite
activities include attending martial arts events, parties, potlucks and going out for lunch.