by Sifu Fran Poteet-Joseph
One of Sifu Jerry Poteet’s common command was, “Catch beats of time!” Although he was referring to the combative beats of time in JKD training, I did not realize then how precious those temporal beats would become. Let’s face it, time, at least on this physical plane, is not our friend. There are only so many moments in a lifetime. In fact, Jerry’s favorite song was “Time In a Bottle”, by Jim Croce. Some of us are privileged to enjoy more beats of time than others, but the lesson is the same for life or Jeet Kune Do.;
to lose even one beat of time is to squander an opportunity that will not come again.
Of course, when training Jeet Kune Do, Jerry would have us pare down our movements to the bare essentials. For example, a kick that began with three motions, back leg to front leg, knee pointed, foot extended, became ONE motion, thus catching two beats of time. Like the Zen swordsman Takuan, there was “not a hairbreath between movements”. This type of training requires extreme awareness; awareness of body motion, awareness of superfluous movement, awareness of TIME. But if you could grasp the principles and express them, your strikes, kicks, punches, etc. became incredibly explosive. (One need only to watch any of Bruce Lee’s movies to see this PHILOSOPHY IN MOTION®.) Like his famous teacher, Bruce Lee, Jerry Poteet lived fully in the present moment. Many of his lessons were a guide or blueprint for finding the Living Tao. Ironically, the more still and centered he became, the more explosive and incredible his martial arts skills became. Focusing purely on the present moment gifted him with an awareness of other’s intentions. He knew, or seemed to know, what you were going to do before you did! When Jerry pressed Sijo Lee about his uncanny ability to do the same years previously, Bruce merely told him “not to discard the five senses looking for a sixth”. After that conversation, Jerry not only trained his body for the rigors of Jeet Kune Do, he endeavored to train his mind and senses to their fullest. He always had a book(s) by his side, as well as a notepad to record his ideas on everything from JKD, new equipment designs, poetry, cooking, etc. The smallest task became an opportunity to live in the moment and express himself creatively.
I have written previously about his teacher’s confession to Jerry that he knew his life would not be long. Like his Sifu, Jerry grabbed life by the lapels, and lived to the fullest. Jerry also sensed that his life would not be long, so he determined to be present for every single beat of time. After a liver transplant in 1996, he realized that every day alive was “a day of grace” to be savored. And savor it he did. Like the Japanese swordsman who cherish the fleeting beauty of the short-lived cherry blossom flower, Jerry would observe each frame of time as though it was an artistic masterpiece.
Today, nearly two years after his death, I cherish those beats of time that I shared with Jerry. It is clear that his legacy is not simply about kicking or punching, etc., but about grasping the present moment, (much more than “mindfulness”), and the manipulation of energy. It is this legacy that we will share in future lessons, seminars, etc.
Because if we can catch beats of time…the beat will always go on.