Bob Breen Interview Part 1
Here it is guys and girls! The Bob Breen interview part 1! A legend in the martial arts, and go to guy for self defence, here Bob talks about his early days in martial arts, his own philosophy of self defence, and his cross branding with Andy Norman and Defence Lab, Phil Norman and Ghost, and Eddie Quinn with The Approach. Enjoy and as ever please feel free to comment, subscribe, share and like 🙂
How did you begin your training in the martial arts?
I started Karate at the end of 1966, getting my black belt in 1970. Roundabout then I opened my own school one of the first schools in the UK to be run by a non-Japanese. I fought for England and captained the England team and things like that. Then in 1971-72 we started doing a bit of grappling, so we were cross training even then really, predominantly Judo stuff. I was always interested in the cross-training approach, it resonated with my personal experience. There was a comic strip in the Evening Standard called `Modesty Blaise`, books too, and that had the idea of cross training and fighting in it. It was JKD before JKD had even happened! So I was enthralled by this idea of combat as I’d had quite a few fights on the street growing up so knew it didn’t quite go as it did in the dojo! In many ways I was primed up for JKD and Kali. I got into Eskrima in 1978 and met Dan Inosanto when I invited him over the UK in 1979! I became a huge advocate of JKD and Kali after that, and have followed Guru Dan from that time onwards.
Would you say that your previous experience having fights on the street etc led you into the martial arts?
Not especially, I was just intrigued by it. I’d had fights and I remember having a fight with a guy called Andy who was an amateur boxer. I had loads of spirit but no technique, I was just scrappy! So for me it was just a journey of enquiry, it looked beautiful and it wasn’t just about the fighting it was the discipline and speed. I remember my first teacher Tatsuo Suzuki, just being unbelievably fast! It was of the age as well, there was `Odd Job` around and things were opening up changing, people were getting interested in the martial arts. Nowadays I don’t think people understand how closed everything was then, but times were changing.
In terms of the JKD, what was it that originally drew you to it and made you think this is for me?
Initially I don’t think it was the art of JKD specifically, I was into Bruce Lee before that had been publicised , I used to go to China Town and watch the films in Chinese and be the only English person in the audience! I was intrigued by the idea of Bruce, Definitely the best and most realistic on the screen. When JKD articles came out showing pictures of his approach I thought ‘Well we do that anyway’ but what set Lee apart was the level of his integration and thinking. He was on a much higher level. What intrigued me about Dan Inosanto was the Filipino arts and what he did with that. His visit with Jeff Imada was amazing. It showed how they could go from empty hand, to knife, to stick, to battle axe, to grappling, back to empty hand. They wouldn’t have a plan; they would just flow and could handle everything. It was amazing and in truth I still think that evening in 79 was one of the best demos of the art I’ve ever seen.
What do you think JKD can offer today?
JKD was the original cross training or MMA as Bruce was into everything. Done well I think it’s what many of the top fighters are using today, at least conceptually. Lee’s influence has been immense. However I think a lot of it has been lost as people are caught up in technique, they know everything but can they do everything? This for me is why I developed 4D. It’s a sort of reference back to the original principles of JKD. 4D is functional, you have to be able to use it practically and apply it. 4D is nearly 50 years of sparring and fighting in every format and thinking how do you take all that knowledge and make it really easy to learn. prioritise it, adding a strategic structure to it, so that whatever happens you’re in charge. All the guys doing 4D now say they feel less fear, are more confident, and get more things to happen due to the simplicity of it. The choices are small, but because of that you get everything. If I’m punching you in the head you can’t have 20 thoughts in your head, its fight or flight. All the decision making is binary like this and natural so it’s quick.
Then we work on the what would be traditional JKD concepts like non telegraphic striking so when we hit you can’t stop it! However in 4D it’s not acceptable just to know it, you have to be able to make it work. It’s almost like a computer game; if you want the next level you need a certain score. If I want to progress I need to land 8 out of10 jabs against a defended target, then I understand and really know the jab and can move on. We do this on everything; everything is tested. It’s an evolution of the JKD idea, Bruce’s ideas were fabulous but it’s been evolved. You’ve interviewed Phil Norman, and I think you’re interviewing Andy Norman too, and all these guys have done the same thing, they’ve evolved and simplified. 4D have taken practicality first and built from there. People seem to like it, I’ve been hitting world champions in the head and they all say it’s like WOW! Mind blown!