Editor’s Note: This story was written and produced by John Stanley for Ithaculture, an Ithaca College student publication and is republished with permission.
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Bruce Lee was fast on his feet and quick with his hands when he took on multiple enemies on the big screen. He was basically a blur in his footage; some of the old cameras had trouble catching his lightning fast movement as he beat up bad guys.
Although such skill would be difficult to replicate, his practices could be used to help people protect themselves in the face of danger. That’s where Centerline Fitness and Martial Arts comes in.
Lee created and practiced Jeet Kune Do, a modern United States martial art with traditional foundations of Chinese kung fu. Bruce Lee taught this art in the 60s and 70s, incorporating his own research and self-defense practices.
It is meant to be more modern and efficient than a traditional kung fu class. Jeet Kune Do includes elements of western boxing, some of the footwork from fencing, and kung fu.
Centerline offers classes for this martial art every Tuesday and Saturday for all ages and skill levels. The class benefits participants by aiding in self-defense, kung fu, general health and enrichment. Such classes have been offered since the opening of Centerline four years ago. It shares the same space with the City Health Club in Downtown Ithaca.
Collin Lieberman, Centerline’s head director, has been practicing Jeet Kune Do since 2000. In terms of the nature of the martial art, he believes Lee focused on making Jeet Kune Do an art of self-expression.
“It is meant to be custom tailored to each individual at a high level, rather than structure and cookie cutter,” said Lieberman. “… Before you get to that level, you need fundamental, standardized training. That’s what we do here.”
There is a ranking system for Jeet Kune Do to help people know where they are at in their training. It is a simple scale from one to ten with ten being the highest. Certificates are given to students that pass on to the next level.
When asked whether there were any competitions involved with the martial art, Lieberman answered with a smirk.
“If anything, we’re trying to end the competition immediately by poking attackers in the eyes or kicking them in the ‘you know where’,” he said chuckling. “It’s not much of a competition if it’s two people trying to poke each other in the eyes.”
Lieberman added that there are no competitions since it is meant for self-defense and personal enrichment.
One other class offered is called martial explorations on Thursdays. One element of class or martial arts is picked to go into further detail. Then the specific move is practiced in order to reach a higher level of skill in that one area. Then they look at different ways to apply that move.
Because the Tuesday and Saturday classes are more general, Lieberman said that deep layer isn’t reached like it is in the Thursday class.
“For example, this Thursday may just be about the jab or just boxing or a certain kick,” he said. “We look at it very closely and try to understand it.”
Kathy Lucas is an independent personal trainer under contract at Centerline, who also teaches dance at the facility. She emphasizes similar motives in training.
“It’s to achieve a sense of overall responsibility for your own health by taking your energy and putting it towards technique and movement awareness,” said Lucas.
Lucas added that Centerline’s personal connection and attention towards its clients are what separates their training from other fitness programs.
“There’s more care put into working with people,” she said. “It’s good for them to have a good point of reference from the beginning of their experience through the progress of the experience.”
Harris Bockol has been attending classes at Centerline for the past six months. He was looking for an exercise class and thought it looked interesting.
“I called Collin, and he offered me a free class to watch and even participate [in] minimally,” said Bockol. “I felt good about it. There was a good vibe to the class, and [Leiberman] seemed like a good instructor.”
What Bockol likes about the class in particular is that it is never the same. The material is learned and then applied to real-life scenarios, which Bockol finds very helpful.
“Personally, it has given me a lot of self confidence. I am in much better shape than I was,” he said smiling. “I’m not someone who lifts weights or anything like that, and it is a great body workout and it’s fun.”
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