Tim Tackett began learning the art of Jeet Kune Do in the backyard gyms and garages of those who learned from legendary martial artist Bruce Lee. Nearly 50 years later, Tackett, a retired drama teacher and football coach, continues to open his garage every Wednesday evening to instructors and students of the art.

“I wanted to teach the way Bruce Lee wanted it taught,” said Tackett, 76 of Redlands.

Tackett, who has authored and co-authored a dozen books and written hundreds of magazine articles over the years, was named 2017 Instructor of the Year by Black Belt magazine. Previously, he was named 2010 Instructor of the Year by Inside Kung-Fu magazine.

Tackett grew up in Redlands and graduated from Redlands High School in 1958. He went to San Bernardino Valley College before joining the U.S. Air Force. He was sent to Louisiana, where he met his wife, Geraldine Tackett, who was a teacher, and had a daughter. They couple moved to Taiwan, where Tackett started learning martial arts while his wife taught first grade at an American school.

“I ended up having about six days a week, three teachers for nearly three years,” Tackett said. “I got a full instructorship with the organization. I was the first non-Chinese to get one from the Mainland Chinese Association.”

When Tackett returned to Redlands, he opened the School of Chinese Karate in 1965 and obtained a master’s degree in fine arts from UC Riverside. He began teaching drama at Montclair High School and in 1967 he was inspired to pursue Jeet Kuno Do after seeing Lee perform in Long Beach. Lee adapted Jeet Kune Do, which means “way of the intercepting fist,” from western fencing, Tackett said.

“His idea was that if you can keep a distance, you have to wait for somebody to attack you and you intercept his attack,” Tackett said. “So, in a way it becomes a very moral thing. You’re not going to do anything until somebody is trying to do something to you, unless you see somebody being abused or you have to step in to save somebody. Other than that you don’t attack anybody.”

Tackett, along with Bob Bremer and Jim Sewell, started the Wednesday Night Group to preserve and promote Lee’s art. The class is currently taught by Jeremy Lynch. Paul Kim, Tackett’s neighbor, joined the group after noticing something going on in Tackett’s garage while walking his dog Wednesday nights. When Kim learned Tackett was teaching Jeet Kune Do, he was in.

“I did martial arts as a kid,” Kim said. “I have a background in Taekwondo. I also grew up in the Bruce Lee era and watched all his films. When I heard he was teaching (Jeet Kune Do) I immediately wanted to be a part of this. This is an art not everybody teaches.”

The reason the art is taught in garages and backyards hails back to Lee, who taught in his backyard, Kim said. “He didn’t want to commercialize it,” Kim said. “It’s not an organization like Taekwondo or Karate for kids and students. It’s nothing like that. It’s people that really seek it out and want to learn this art.”

Tackett, who retired from teaching drama in 2000, recently retired from teaching Jeet Kuno Do seminars around the world. But he continues Lee’s tradition of opening up his garage to those interested in learning the art.

“I just do it for the heck of it,” Tackett said. “It’s always been low-key.”


Article from The Redlands Daily Fact