Martial life

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

5 mixed martial arts pioneers that created their hybrid martial arts before Jeet Kune Do



Jeet Kune Do is thought by many to be the first Mixed Martial Arts created. There is no arguing that Jeet Kune Do is the most popular modern style of martial arts but it is far from being the first martial art to combine the best of many styles.

In fact, most martial arts were created by practitioners who had previous combat experience from at least one existing style and adapted it to create a new style that better fitted their needs and preferences.

There are probably hundreds of such styles who did not pass the test of time and were forgotten, but there are still some “hybrid” systems created before Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do that are still practiced today. Here are 5 hybrid (or mixed) martial arts style, created before Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do and that still exists today.


Choy Li Fut (Founded by Chan Heung in 1836)

The founder, Chan Heung, having received instruction from several masters, took elements from Choy family and Li family martial art style and combined them into Choy Li Fut. Some historian’s version say the “fut”, which in Cantonese means “Buddha”, is out of devotion to Buddhism while others tie the last word to a martial arts style from Shaolin temple.

 Chan Heung (August 23, 1806 -- August 20, 1875), founder of Choy Li Fut

A lot of the history of Choy Li fut is shrouded in legends and telling fact from fiction requires long research. As far as we are concerned, suffice to say that had Chan Heung lived in our era, his martial arts could be considered an ecletic, mixed art.


Bartitsu (Founded by Edward William Barton-Wright in 1898)

Founded in Europe, Bartitsu was devised by Edward William Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who along with having learned many of the available self defense and combat system available in Europe, studied Jujitsu while working in Japan. Once he returned to his homeland (England), he started advertising his new self defense art, which combined the best element from Jujitsu, boxing, French savate and fencing.

Edward William Barton-Wright (November 8, 1860 - April 26, 1951)

This martial art would have long been forgotten if not for a reference in one of the Sherlock Holmes mystery story. The author mentions in “The adventure of the empty house” that the great detective himself was a practitioner of “Baritsu”.

Speculation began as to what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was referring to when he wrote “Baritsu”. Perhaps, he really meant "bartitsu" but mis-remembered the name or simply changed it to avoid copyright issues…

The most famous detective of all time was a student of a mixed martial arts system.
Photograph taken from


Shotokan Karate (Founded by Gichin Funakoshi in 1936)

Arguably the most popular of all the karate styles, Shotokan Karate was created by Gichin Funakoshi, who combined ideals from then popular Karate styles of Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. Because Funakoshi’s wanted to create a modern martial arts whose was to be used as a self improvement tool accessible to the greater public, who didn’t need fighting skills, he toned down the techniques to remove the most dangerous ones. Some claim he only taught the real meaning of his katas to a handful of students.

Gichin Funakoshi November 10, 1868 – April 26, 1957, founder of ShotoKan Karate

Yoseikan Budo (Founded Minoru Mochizuki in 1931)

Consisting of techniques taken from Judo, Jujitsu, AikiJujitsu and Kobudo, Minoru Mochizuki, the creator of Yoseikan Budo, insisted that his students cross trained before gaining teaching credentials. The logic behind such requirement is to let students discover their own sense of “truth” by learning and submitting themselves to different techniques, philosophies and principles.

Minoru Mochizuki (April 11, 1907  May, 30 2003), the creator of Yoseikan Budo
photograph taken from


KaJuKenBo (founded by the black belt society in 1947)

KaJuKenBo is a Hawaiian martial arts style that is originally said to be a combined form of Karate, Judo, Kenpo, and Boxing. With time, more techniques were borrowed from other styles. The goal of this new style was to develop an art that would be readily useful on the violent streets of the Palama Settlement, in the late 1940s. To learn more about Kajukenbo, read this interview with Mr. Charlie Walton.

Adriano Emperado (June 15, 1926 – April 4, 2009), one of the founder of Kajukenbo


Although many characteristics are unique to Jeet Kune Do and Bruce Lee, creating a new style from pieces and bits of existing systems is not one of them.

Was Jeet Kune Do a copy of these styles? Of course not! Because information did was not as openly shared as in modern time, he may not have known about the existence of all those martial arts. He certainly did know about Choy Li Fut, but by then, he was already an established art whose ecletic nature faded away.

Perhaps, the same fate awaits the art of Jeet Kune Do...



Articles that may interest you:

Last Updated on Monday, 31 January 2011 22:39  

Add comment

Security code

Martial life in your language

Random reading you may enjoy

We learned that we know nothing

The closer we were to getting our black belts, the less we wanted it. For years, my training...
The 10 commandments of martial arts of cross training - how to get the most out of your training

  Cross training (martial arts): Training in different martial arts or fighting systems to...
martial arts cramming - how not to prepare for an exam

  Just like the arrival of bugs after a long winter announces spring time, scores of people...
The science of punching harder: why is speed more important than mass? (And why having the force won't help you)

The science of punching harder: why is speed more important than mass? “You need to hit faster to...