My Jeet Kune Do journey

Firstly let me give you a little background on where I am coming from. 32 years ago while travelling home from work on my motorcycle I had a disagreement with the road and broke my back. This resulted in me sustaining a spinal cord injury and being paralyzed from the waist down. i.e. to use the correct medical term I am a paraplegic and use a wheelchair to get around.

So I can talk with some authority on the subject of disability, particularly living with a spinal injury. And I have been fortunate enough to have met and trained with my good friend and Sifu in Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Martin O’ Neill.

With Martin O’Neill’s support and guidance I have attained my Trainee Level 4 Instructor Certification in Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. Before my accident I practiced and trained in Kempo and boxing, starting in 1975.

After my accident I felt martial arts were no longer an option, so I packed my Gi away thinking at the time that my days practising martial arts were over. However, this all changed after reading an article in a copy of Combat Magazine that my wife purchased on a whim for me. The article reminded the reader of the philosophy of Bruce Lee.

“Honesty in your techniques and using what works for you.” I thought, maybe I could apply this philosophy to myself
practising martial arts again. This one article fired up and rekindled my interest in martial arts and set me on a journey to find out if maybe martial arts could honestly offer me something again. I purchased any book or magazine I could find about Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do. During my search I found a number of martial artists who were willing to train with me, however, I quickly became disillusioned when they started to show me techniques that clearly would not work for me as a wheelchair user.

As an individual who had acquired a disability, I had to look critically at the reality of taking up martial arts. I did not want to just go through the motions. If a technique did not work for me as a wheelchair user, I didn’t want to know because martial arts should be about honesty and learning techniques that will work under pressure to defend oneself.

It was again, through a magazine that I read about my now Sifu Martin O’Neill, who began the first JKD school in Ireland in 1987. He is ranked by Sibak Taky Kimura and Sifu Andy Kimura at Advance Level 2 in Jun Fan Gung Fu.

I decided having tried a number of different martial arts that, if any martial art could provide me with the tools to defend myself in a real confrontation, it was possibly Jeet Kune Do. I contacted Martin who agreed to meet me and look at whether Jeet Kune Do would work for me.

On first meeting Martin I had to explain what I was honestly looking for – a martial art that I could aspire to learn that would provide me with the tools to defend myself. Martin had to in turn be honest with me on a number of levels. 1. He had never trained a person with a mobility disability so it was going to be a learning experience for him also. 2. He explained straight away (after me explaining about my disability) that there were a lot of techniques that would just not work. Every single time I train with Martin, we have to continually evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks to my Sifu’s patience and continued honesty I have been given the opportunity to again train in martial arts. I have now been training with Martin for over 6 years. Working and training with my Sifu has confirmed for me that Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do provides real and honest self defense techniques for wheelchair users.

I have also been fortunate enough to have been invited by Martin to attend a Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do training seminar organised by him at the Clannn Eireann JKD Club in Lurgan, Northern Ireland,  I trained with Martin’s students and with Andy Kimura from The Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Seattle who had travelled over for the seminar.

Andy Kimura is the son of Taky Kimura who was Bruce Lee’s closest friend and senior instructor at The Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute’ Seattle. Andy Kimura is a full instructor at the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.

Colm Whooley
Trainee Level 4 instructor in Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do.

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