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Was Bruce Lee Wrong?

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Methods of fighting have changed over the years. This is something that has to occur in a species that evolves according to stresses encountered. We adapt in the best way we can with the knowledge we have and the experience we have gained.


Because of my YouTube channel, I get asked tons of questions regarding training, fighting, living. People share some wonderful experiences and give me insight into personalities and thought processes that are different than mine. I very much enjoy it.


My continued engagement with my viewers helps me refine my understanding of people. Understanding others helps me understand myself. This is a continual process, ongoing as long as I keep an open mind and a willingness to disregard what I think I know for what I discover to be true.


This is the same for each of us. This was the same for Bruce Lee.


People believe they are honoring him by continuing to recycle the way he taught at a particular time in his life before he died. And I suppose this is true, to a degree.


But if you actually read his writings and watch or listen to his interviews and talk with those who trained with him, you’ll discover a man who was continually evolving. A man who was always working to refine his expression and truth.


Even students who worked with him directly during the days he was first teaching will tell you that he was always changing what he was teaching over time. What he taught in the beginning changed a week or months down the line.


It wasn’t set in stone.


In fact, he railed against dogma and the institutionalizing of something that was a creative process at its heart.


This is a thoughtful man who looked at himself frequently, honestly, so that he could change those things about his expression that were no longer valid, or that inhibited truth; were he to find new truths, new understandings of himself and his art.


His art.


He was his own art.


As are we all.


For people to honor Bruce Lee truly, they continually have to refine their own expression and understanding of self. They have to discover truths about themselves and whittle away at their own ignorance and those things that keep them from truth and expressing it clearly, honestly.


To lock yourself down practicing only those things that he taught at a particular time in his life and claim it dogma – where he himself was continually evolving – isn’t honoring him. It’s missing the understanding of what he was teaching.


I understand that people need a foundation. I understand that people want to be connected to something more powerful than they are. They want that relationship with someone that was an icon in a particular field they hold as having meaning.


Bruce Lee was that for many people.



When I’m asked a question about a particular technique he used at a particular time in his life, I have to break things down in the way I have researched, experienced, trained. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do Concepts was part of my formal training, so I know a little bit about the training methods he taught.


Take a question I got from one of my viewers: Was Bruce Lee wrong where he showed his head extending beyond his base?


For Core JKD, our process is to have a stabilized base against resistance – which includes stabilized transitions to other attacks, evasions, escapes.


We break things down to simple physics and the understanding of how the human body’s stabilization processes work best. Where people have the highest probability of success regardless of the type of resisting attacker they are encountering (or multiple attackers) or the surface on which they are standing.


Our understanding is that when your head is extended over your base, you have a higher probability of imbalance in your transitions and lessen the success of your counter-attacks, evasions, or escapes against a resisting attacker or attackers.


So, when Bruce Lee demonstrated in film and in some of his research material where his head was over his base, you have to take a couple of things into consideration:


1. His filmwork stands as inspiration.

A film that engages an audience to the point of inspiration is a film people will remember and carry into their normal lives. They will self-promote it to their friends and family. It may even change their lives in a positive way.


But the camera requires bold, flashy movements to capture the audience’s attention and to move them internally. It’s art, but it’s not necessarily functional to take those movements into the real world and bet your life on them.


2. Bruce Lee was continually evolving his understanding of self, his craft (actor/filmmaking), and his art.

What he researched and promoted at one period of his life wouldn’t necessarily stay the same a month or a year later. Had he lived, I believe fully you would have seen many of his older techniques and teaching methods evolve, be refined, or disappear completely.


3.  What Bruce Lee can do physically was unique to him.

The people who directly train with Bruce Lee experienced a man who exemplified the words “refined expression.” There were few people who trained as hard and researched as deep as he.There are also fewer people who were willing to break away from dogma, from tradition as he. Including his own.


By all accounts, he was a unique physical specimen, capable of great speed and strength, and reaction timing.


So to say, “Was he wrong to teach this method…” misses the point that he could probably have pulled it off successfully because of his attributes.


Then again, as he did with the students, he would adapt what he taught to them individually. What each could do because of their attributes, he modified a technique or method to suit each person, especially in his private and small groups.


So, was he wrong to teach that particular technique?


It may have been wrong for you.


The individual.


That’s the heart of Jeet Kune Do. The evolutionary process. The refining process. The honest, creative expression.


Methods are refined. Our understanding of ourselves and our environment and new threats deepens.


Our understanding of self, simple physics, the mental, emotional, and physical processes of a human being under stress in a variety of environments is our foundation.


On top of that, we build Core JKD.



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4 Responses

  1. James
    | Reply

    Hey Ming,

    Great article. I agree with you in that the “essence” of JKD is just that, the essence of all martial arts. That is to say that BL was able to see and comprehend that every style contains that same essence; which may explain why he didn’t believe in styles anymore.

    As a personal POV, and as someone who’s also of the Concepts lineage, I refrain from calling what I do JKD anymore. That’s a very personal decision. I don’t really know what I call what I do… LOL. I do believe that there’s a need to attempt to preserve what BL taught; I also understand that there’s a ton idiotic argument over the matter!

    What BL did -was- JKD. What his students continue to teach (as he taught them) -is- JKD. It’s hard to argue against that, and you’re hearing this from a Concepts guy!

    I’d also add that we all have a need (as humans) to “crystallize” everything around us. We “need” boundaries. We need definition. The hardest thing to do is to be fluid.

    In any case, it’s really just a name. One’s evolution, like what Bruce Lee experienced, is personal.

    • admin
      | Reply

      Thank you. Yes, this one seemed to get a lot of favorable attention.

  2. Dr. J
    | Reply

    As you say, Lee was a brilliant combination of speed and explosive power with a tremendous work ethic. I don’t worry about not being able to do the techniques as he did, I’m just glad that I can do them as I do.

  3. German crespo
    | Reply

    Helo ..like you comments and I concord ..I practice not Jkd..Jkd was bruces treasure only him could understand it…that’s why I can’t say that I practice Jkd.. instead I practice …it!! It is the practical way of fighting against an impractical opponent..my qoute…I don’t believe in martial arts yet I do martial arts…because in the time the moment come reality..the most important thing is the determination follow with the ideas that you had accumulated .. experience..therefore you must train mind and body to act together as one ..the idea is just …..to have an idea when time is reverse…you what I mean…that’s what happened with Bruce after he figth won jack man…he definitely lost confident in wing Chun.. restrictions and limitations…this is nothing new …katas forms tactics technice all these things is nothing if you don’t have the emotion of determination courage open mind flexible .. aware of different martial arts…Bruce almost quick..after wong jack…so he sweep away tradition ..and expand his limitations through using common sense…it means… Simplicity ….Bruce back bone weapon was his right side kick… fast jab flow in Simplicity ..

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