Sunday, 24 June 2012

The great Bruce Lee

The above picture was one of the first I ever saw of Bruce Lee, it was in the form of a poster that was in a local shop window. By then it was the mid seventies and sadly Bruce had already passed away, however despite his short life he left us a few great things including some great films, a simple, direct and non classical martial art and also a philosophy for life, which can be used to actually live a life worth living.

His movies were an expression of his time and also himself, he tried to show some of the things that had helped his own self realization and freed him from his own limitations.

His art was simple and direct and non classical, by non classical I mean nothing was taken at face value just because it was traditional or the result of some long ago fights.  In a time when you just did what you were told to by your teacher, Bruce took the Wing Chun of Yip Man (or at least part of it) and ruthlessly tested it, firstly in Hong Kong and later in the States.

Tools that worked were kept; things that did not work were either modified or thrown out. Bruce’s art evolved with his personal needs and development and also the environment he found himself in. I think his art had five stages of development, firstly the early years of Hong Kong, then the three American stages of Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles and then back to Hong Kong. Even in the last year of his life he was researching the martial arts and this included retracing some of his steps. Cross checking, proving or improving everything.

All of the above is great and sometime later I got to train in Lee Jun Fan and also Jeet Kune Do. I was lucky enough to train with some of his first and second generation students and the art was wonderful. Bruce left us a way of researching and also a template for our own martial arts in Jeet Kune Do.

However the main thing that I feel helped me the most was Bruce’s philosophy which transcended the martial arts into daily life.

The following quotations reflect his philosophy.

"Be formless... shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You pour water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or creep or drip or crash! Be water, my friend..."[103]

"All types of knowledge, ultimately leads to self knowledge"[104]

"Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it".[105]

"Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there".[106]

"Quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough".[107]

"I always learn something, and that is: to always be yourself. And to express yourself, to have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate him".[108]

"It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential".[109]

Bruce use his own philosophy modified to his needs to overcome his physical, mental and spiritual limitations. He set himself free of the classical martial arts bondage and just expressed himself. He never gave up, was open minded, was alive in the moment and above all he did what he said he would do. Imagine if we all followed that prescription in our daily lives.

Be true to yourself.

Don’t give up.

Be open minded.

Live in the moment.

Do what you say you will do.

So that’s a simple, direct and non classical way to live a full and rewarding life. None of us knows when our own time line will end, so best get on with life.


  1. This is a good post as it re-reminds us of what Bruce Lee left us as a legacy.
    He was a strong researcher and that cross-checking method is valuable. It moves you away from 'Sifu Says ... must be true' and encourages independent learning, too.

  2. Good insights on a fascinating chap. I remember seeing him in Game of Death where he choked out Karim Abdul-Jabbar; a move which demonstrated he was not constrained by the traditional martial arts formula of whizzy kicks and spins, but also respected grappling. He would have loved MMA.