Nathan Young Interview

Nathan Young Interview

Today we talk to Nathan Young aka Ninja Nate known for his promotion of Jeet Kune Do in real life and in the movies.

1.You are a Certified Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do Instructor. Could you please tell how’s your journey in Wing Chun and JKD started?

My journey started after my first black belt in Keichu-Do which was a karate and jiujitsu style in Hawaii. I was exploring other martial arts and was reading the Tao of Jeet Kune Do. One summer I was working on a demo routine for a church retreat performance and one of the people in our group told me about another teacher who could help. This was the first time meeting my instructor Professor Kai Li. He helped us with the demo and I started training under him in high school.

2.You have trained with legends such as Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Tim Tackett, and Taky Kimura. What was the most memorable day of training?

There are so many great memories but if I had to pick a few it would be the day Professor Kai introduced me to Richard Bustillo. I was very eager to meet him and train and had a busy schedule of Kinesiology Classes at the University of Hawaii.

I had to come late for that reasons but rushed over as soon as school was out of session and when I got to the location the lot was full so I parked way down the hill in another parking lot for archery and ran up the hill to get there as soon as I could.

nathan young dan inosanto

We were working kali drills out on the famous beach called Haunama Bay which although I lived in Hawaii all my life have never been to. After a great day of training, we were all getting ready to leave and Sigung Richard asked me if I needed a ride or where my car was. I told him it was down the road and I can just walk the same way I came. He offered to take me even though I insisted I was alright but I didn’t argue much so he ended up bringing me to my car.

When we got there he said, “boy you must love martial arts to have ran up that hill just to come train.” I said, “yes, Sifu I didn’t want to miss this day”.

Besides being used for some techniques when these Masters were teaching and hearing their stories of Bruce Lee or their own experiences this was my most memorable day of training. Sigung Richard was the warmest and most welcoming martial arts instructor and he was originally from Hawaii so I could feel the Aloha spirit within him as well as how he treated everyone like his Ohana.

3.What is JKD for you?

Jeet Kune Do to me at its base set in the stone core is the way of the intercepting fist. This was the name chosen by Sijo Bruce Lee as a starting point of most of the foundational techniques and strategies. This means to stop a fight before it can even begin to fight without physically fighting.

Battles can be won in the mind and with words before any physical punch or kick is thrown. If there is a physical force involved we are also taught to intercept and be the first to respond with an immediate counter that both defends and attacks with perfect timing. This is the foundation of the first two phases of the three stages of cultivation.

The ultimate and final stage has dissolved the style, system or methodology and becomes completely fluid, adaptable and responds like an echo to anything.

Ultimately Jeet Kune Do after learning core principles the practitioner will ascend into this higher level of using no way as way and having no limitation as limitation. To become like water and adapt by fitting into whatever container it needs to fill, to flow in the most efficient path towards its goal.

To be fluid in response, you cannot hit the water and hurt it. Water can crash and be as hard as a rock or as insubstantial as vapour. It is the softest most yielding substance yet it can overcome the hardest substances on earth.

4.You are a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Hapkido, why did you choose this style and how it fits JKD?

Learning Hapkido made sense because this is what Bruce Lee learned from the same teacher who is still alive today, Dojunim Ji Han Jae. He learned some of the Tae Kwon Do style high kicks, throws and joint locks.

These joint locks were also similar to the ones Professor Wally Jay taught to Bruce Lee. You can see Master Ji Han Jae fighting Bruce Lee in the Game of Death as the one wearing the white gi and gold belt.

5.What is your best tip on developing speed and power?

Keep punching and kicking more than 10,000 times a week with as best form and intension as possible. The rest will work itself out naturally as your body adapts. Strike in the air, use resistance bands, try striking underwater, jump off your hands or feet for more explosive power and kick or punch heavy bags.

Find the most efficient path with no wasted movement and learn to relax your muscles and only make fast-twitch contractions at the start and end of your movement. Coordinate every muscle in your body like a chain reaction to maximize speed and force from the ground to the end of your strike.

6.Can you give some tips to beginners starting in JKD today?

Train hard with laser focus and discipline. Be patient, martial arts takes time to cultivate and you need to sculpt your body and mind by cutting out the unessential movements and thoughts. You need to first master yourself and take responsibility for yourself without making any excuses. Pay close attention and respect your teachers.

7.What is next for Ninja Nate?

When we are out of the travel ban I will be going out to do more movies and teaching seminars. I also partnered with a Light Sword Martial Arts school that will teach sabre combat and host competitions in the USA and Internationally.

8.Can you name three favourite fighters you follow?

I have been watching Ryan Garcia boxing, Israel Adesanya and Max Holloway in the UFC.


You can follow Nathan on his Instagram, Twitter, Facebook page or watch him on his Youtube channel.