Bruce Lee was and still is the icon of martial arts, the best i have ever seen. Till this very day, in my opinion nobody has even matched Bruce Lee’s level of martial arts mastery. However today i am not going to write on the martial arts that he was a master at.Today i am going to write something which we rarely heard about this man. The philosophical side of Bruce Lee, i bet many of you would not know that Bruce Lee majored in philosophy at the University of Washington. Bruce Lee was a big fan of books, he loved reading books on a wide range of subjects, from Eastern philosophy to Kung Fu to psychotherapy.
Lee said “All knowledge ultimately means self knowledge,”. Knowing yourself, that was what Lee expounded, something very similar to Socrates “know thyself”. Lee exressed himself through martial arts, but as he said in order to express one’s self honestly, one must first know himself well. Lee knew himself well, perhaps that is why he became the best martial artist ever, he made himself to be as such. Lee understood one thing very well, the human ability to change. The ability to change, to improve, to go beyond what the mind thinks is possible,made Lee a perfectionist. In Lee’s pursuit of personal perfection, he walked a life of deep philosophy that urged him to seek answers and improve himself. Lee believed in idealism, he never compromised his believes that he could mould himself into perfection. He constantly changed for the better, he constantly pushed himself towards perfection.
In the traditional view, change is imperfect; perfection is sought by denying change any relationship to the deeper, metaphysical reality. Lee rejected this view, Lee took an objective look at his life, and his art, and sought to improve himself. in my opinion Lee’s success story is due to his philosophy. Lee constantly challenged the norms of the human society,the inability to change, the inability to improve. To Lee, such inability rendered other forms of martial arts irrelevant and made it obsolete. Lee was a revolutioner,to him martial art’s style (i.e Karate Do, Twea Kwon Do) concludes, man grows. To Lee, man is only complete when he experiences growth, change, flexibility and constant improvement. Lee was never afraid of dynamic change, Lee made it a philosphy of life. Lee wrote in his book The Tao Of Jeet Kune Do that in the long history of martial arts, the instinct to follow and imitate seems to be inherent in most martial artists, instructors and students alike. They just follow without challenging the norms and practices.
Lee also wrote that each man belongs to a particular style of art which claims to have the truth to the exclusion of all other style or art. These styles become institutes with their explanations of the “Way,” dissecting and isolating the harmony and firmness and gentleness, establishing rhythmic forms as the particular state of their techniques.” The consequence, wrote Lee, was to bypass the purpose of martial arts and create “flowery forms” and “artificial techniques” that become “ritualistically practiced.” Noting that “real combat is not fixed and is very much ‘alive’,” Lee stated that the “fancy mess” created by ritualizing fighting “is nothing but a blind devotion to the systematic uselessness of practicing routines or stunts that lead nowhere.”
The philosophy that Lee promoted made many people angry, as Lee challenged traditional habits of thoughts. In the world of martial arts, Lee challenged exclusive martial artist to break free from dogmatic traditional adherence to their specific style of art. His understanding of martial arts was too profound for traditional views to keep him back. You might then ask, how about Jeet Kune Do? Lee was actually very reluctant in labelling philosphy, he believed that philosophy should always remain free. He did not want Jeet Kune Do to turn into another dogmatic style of martial art.
Lee felt that much of the practices in the specific style of martial arts were a mere waste of time and energy.He also belived that the specific styles or dogmatic adherence to a certain style of martial arts killed the art by restricting actions. Styles later lead to specializations, it made people unable to gasp the mastery of the art. It produced machines rather then martial astist, they were not artist they were machines that immitated the style without reasoning it. All this dogmatic adherence to style turned martial arts useless. A karate exponent would not be able to defend himself against a judo exponent. The artist never learns the art, he merely imitates it, he puts no life into the art. Lee pushed himself to be a master of every form of martial arts, he discarded what he felt was mere rituals. Lee was in a way, a post modernist, as he believed that there can never be one grand style of martial arts. One of his last most memorable words were “I am improving and making new discoveries every day. If you don’t you are already crystallized and that’s it.” Life stops when change fails to happen.