Jeet Kune Do vs MMA: What Are The Differences?

The primary difference between Jeet Kune Do and MMA is that MMA is a combat sport that observes certain rules and occurs in a more controlled environment.

Jeet Kune Do (JKD), on the other hand, is more of a street like style that advocates for the use of dirty tactics (like groin kicks, eye/throat jab, etc.) to help you deal with any situation you encounter.

MMA was primarily developed as a sport while the JKD was designed to help you defend yourself in all real-life situations.

In the post below, we’ll delve deeper into the key differences between JKD and MMA.


Jeet Kune Do

JKD was born in around the 60s after Bruce Lee participated in an ‘all out no holds barred’ fight match with a Chinese martial artist. Though he won the fight, Lee noted that it took so long and this influenced his fighting philosophy.

He concluded that most traditional arts weren’t as practical for street fighting. He, therefore, decided to develop a “the style of no styles” that emphasized on simplicity, practicality, and efficiency. This is the Jeet Kune Do.

These were the words of Lee concerning the JKD art:

“Let it be understood once and for all that I have NOT invented a new style, composite or modification. I have in no way set Jeet Kune Do within a distinct form governed by laws that distinguish it from ‘this’ style or ‘that’ method. On the contrary, I hope to free my comrades from bondage to styles, patterns, and doctrines.”


Mixed Martial Arts dates back to 648 BCE, where it was one of the popular Olympic Games in ancient Greece under the name pankration.

The combat sport combined a variety of arts such as boxing, wrestling, street fighting, etc. the match ended when one of the participants submitted or became unconscious. Following the banning of Olympic Games in 393 CE by Roman emperor Theodosius I, the pankration came to an end.

However, the fighting style resurfaces in Brazil in the 20th century in the form of a combat sport known as vale tudo (which means ‘anything goes’). It was popularized by the two Gracie brothers— brothers Carlos and Hélio Gracie.

The two brothers started spreading the new combat from the early 1990s and today, MMA has grown to become one of the most popular combat sports.

Fighting style

If we look at various MMA disciplines, they focus on a specific fighting style each. For instance: boxing for punching, wrestling and judo for grappling, taekwondo and karate for kicking, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for ground fighting, and so on.

When it comes to JKD, the fighting style is somewhat different as it encompasses all the fighting styles of the MMA. It uses punching, knee-elbows, kicking, joint locks, grappling, and even ground fighting.

You can actually take JKD as art that puts together all the MMA styles with the aim of letting you choose the one that suits you most (depending on the situation you find yourself in).

Rules and regulations

As we’ve just said in the open part, MMA is a sport with a list of rules to follow while JKD doesn't have a single rule.

One way we can illustrate this is where the MMA groups fighters into weight categories, where you can only fight with an opponent whom you fall in the same class with.

Things are a bit different for JKD as there’s nothing like weight categories; you can face someone heavier, taller or more aggressive than you. Remember this is a street-oriented art and you don’t know will come your way down the street. JKD has no age, gender, height or weight categories.

MMA arts are sport oriented while JKD is all about combat (you don’t compete with anybody).


As you already know, most of MMA training involves learning pre-arranged sequences, and there’s minimal fighting. As for Jeet Kune Do, you learn how to fight in a real-life situation with close supervision by an expert instructor for safety reasons.

While MMA teaches full contact fighting, the JKD teaches you to spar all out as you adequately protect your body using groin guards, chest pads, helmets, knee and shin pads, etc.

MMA arts have traditions, uniforms, rituals, and require trainees to be barefoot, unlike JKD which has no traditions, rituals, etc. you can train with whatever attire you wish and with your shoes on.

Watch a match between David Hood (JKD) and Richard "Red" Heard (an MMA practitioner) in the video below:


In summary, mixed martial arts (MMA) was developed as a sport that has a list of rules and is conducted in a controlled environment while Jeet Kune Do (JKD) was established as a practical self-defense art in real life situations.

If you want to learn to fight for sports only, you can go with MMA. And if you’re looking for a super-effective self-defense style, JKD is a sure bet.

  • July 17, 2018
  • MMA
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