Out of all the people in my collection of heroes that I could ever consider incredibly unique in their own way, it would more than likely have to be the legendary martial arts master, Bruce Lee.
Without a doubt, his name alone is awe-inspiring enough to spark a conversation regarding his impressive set of films, and his role on the 60’s television show “The Green Hornet”, which has recently gained more attention from its more recent re-imagination starring Seth Rogen, and Jay Chou. Although I like many of the new martial arts actors in recent years, they all seem to lack a single trait. This sort of outward focus, that made Bruce such a force of pure fluid strength has spurred an immensely large following to this pioneer in the field of martial arts; so much so that people have committed a serious crime against his legacy.
As many people know, Lee’s notable work “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do” is one of the most well constructed, philosophically rewarding books designed to inform people on the finer nature of martial arts ever written. Next to Miyamoto Musashi’s “Book of Five Rings”, I consider Bruce Lee’s work quite possibly one of the most memorable texts regarding the ideology of self-defense, and self-discipline on the market. Now, both of these remarkable pieces of literature do involve a series of physical training elements, peppered in with a flurry of ethical teachings, and anecdotal lessons. The difference between the two though, is that Musashi specifically details his text as a guide to engaging any and all enemies as a trained swordsman, and master of warfare. Bruce Lee however, takes a painstakingly direct route by informing readers in the foreword of the book that his work is not to be considered a “how-to guide”, or an objective-based lesson concerning the “DIY” of JKD. This is primarily believed because Lee held a negative viewpoint on fixed positions in martial arts, and the traditional stances that worked like a slide show, dictating your moves and predetermining your various techniques all seemed too unorthodox to be considered the most effective way to make use of one’s overall capabilities.
With this being said, I can now arrive at the long-winded point I’ve been attempting to make. With all of these fun-facts now in mind, and with a brand new comprehensive analysis to Lee as a martial artist and philosopher, perhaps someone can answer the question gnawing at me incessantly. If there are so many die-hard Bruce Lee fans, with so much of a grasp on his motivation for teaching as he did, then why the flying fuck would anyone in their right mind deliberately create anything that tries to teach Jeet Kune Do in “ten easy steps”?!
Such a blatantly offensive act, could never be considered a tribute to Lee. This sort of reckless plagiarism, has been generally accepted because our generation is more than used to the most addictive drug on the planet, convenience. What better way to become an adept of an art that people have taken their entire lives to practice, but never obtain what they would call a mastery of than by watching a few videos online, throwing a few poorly placed kicks around the house, and thinking you’re ready for a street-fight. The problem is that this foolhardy endeavor is something Bruce would never condone, let alone accept as a worthwhile practice of his hybrid creation. It’s an insult to the man’s integrity, and the publishing of such a useless and vain guide to JKD is an insult to everything Bruce worked so hard to perfect. Diluting his techniques, and lifelong work not only devalues the overall quality of the martial art itself, but forces a filtered image of it into the eyes and ears of any young practitioner who may not be as well-informed as some of us who have studied the life and times of Lee.
I can understand wanting to make an honest buck, but this is far from honest. Throwing up a false front for what JKD actually is not only shrouds the reality that there are no set patterns to fighting with fluidity, and that the unconventional idea of traditional movements are all but equalized through the fast paced necessity of urgency that most unannounced fights would demand. This not only inhibits the ability of the practitioner to prepare beforehand, but also creates an all but frantic attempt to sacrifice all structure in the fight for pure brute force, or excessive speed. Since “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do” literally translates to “The way of the intercepting fist”, it would not at all be a stretch to state that many Jeet Kune Do experts know it as a way to produce a limitless amount of counter-actions for any offensive. These moves are designed to help any person, not just seasoned fighters. JKD introduces the idea that Bruce intended to get across, that in a fight the idea is to deter the opponent from re-engaging that specific person in combat, by any means necessary. There are no such things as “cheap” maneuvers, and all methods of stopping an attacker are implemented in order to achieve this goal. Jugular jabs, and genital smashes are words that can pop-up when adhering to JKD, and although many traditional martial artists may disagree with these moves by calling them “unorthodox”, or “crudely improvised”, they can’t argue with the instant reaction of the opponent at the thought that their previously thought of “victim”; now viciously prepared to inflict serious bodily harm upon them if they don’t cease their current course of action. It adds a new dynamic to fighting, that is not only helpful for people who may consider themselves inferior, but also to others that alpha-male types might consider helpless, such as the “average” female.
With such a dull, lifeless husk of an idea as the common martial arts enthusiast has regarding JKD, I can only surmise that it is an inevitability that Bruce’s idealistic fighting style will eventually become merely fond reminders and incredible cinema feats shown merely on future home theater systems, and in marathons on TV depicting the master as an actor, rather than the legend he truly was. I can only hope that with time also comes more people who wish to study endlessly the possibilities that JKD holds, as it is one of the most well-crafted fighting forms of intellectual complexity. Bruce made it a point to show people that remaining calm in a dangerous situation can save your life, and he made it a civil duty to prove that martial arts were something that can be appreciated by any person who sees it for the unique way of self-expression that it is.
I’ll close with a quote of Bruce’s, that I think clearly states his feelings on comparing the lazy fighting fanatic, to the disciplined martial artist.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
R.I.P. Bruce Lee (1940-1973)