Monday, 7 December 2015

My Early Impressions of Bruce Lee

*Originally posted on the FMK blog on the 2nd of April, 2015.

Hello Everyone

Throughout my life, the name Bruce Lee has always rung a bell. However, despite the fact that he had a huge influence on Martial Art and pop culture, I never knew anything about him. His name just sounded familiar. That was all. Even when I started my formal Martial Art training in 2009, he remained to be just a name that I'd herd of. I only started to gain an awareness of who Bruce Lee was when I discovered Freddie's videos in December 2012. At the time I didn't go on to study Bruce as I was more interested in what Freddie had to say in his philosia videos. I did intend to go on and study Bruce Lee eventually, but Freddie was supplying the world with a clear picture of what Martial Art is and so much spiritual content in a very modern format - the internet. For a fair while, it seemed more practical for me to simply turn on the iPad and have a look at Freddie Lee's latest philosia videos, as opposed to searching for books from a guy who died about 40 years ago. Freddie's teachings were quite sufficient.

Over time I have studied the teachings of more people such as Morihei Ueshiba, Miyamoto Musashi,Taejoon Lee, Lao Tzu and Wong Kiew Kit. Ironically not Bruce Lee, even though he is the individual that Freddie has historically seemed to promote the most. Late last year, Freddie released a video titled Philosia #30: Witch Bruce Lee Books to Read. This video was most helpful as it gave me direction as to what approach I could take for learning about Bruce's teachings. It helped me to know what's out there concerning Bruce Lee and many others who are worth learning from. Whenever I'm thinking of buying new books, I refer back to this video.

It was not until Christmas 2014 that I attained the first of my Bruce Lee's books - Bruce Lee's Fighting Method, The Complete Edition. When reading books about Martial Art, Spirituality and Philosophy, one book will almost always lead you to another. Since then I have gone on to obtain more books from Bruce Lee, specifically Artist of lifeThe Warrior WithinJeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee's Commentaries on the Martial WayThe Tao of Gung Fu: A Study in the Way of Chinese Martial ArtStriking ThoughtsThe Art of Expressing the Human BodyTao of Jeet Kune Do and Fighting Spirit: A Biography. My time is much more limited this year than it used to be, but I like to read them whenever I get the opportunity. From what I have red so far, I think the volumes in the Bruce Lee library are brilliant books that can really assist one's individual development in all areas (body, mind & spirit). Now that I've looked at these books, it's much clearer to me were Freddie has been coming from over the past few years.

When reading books like The Tao of Gung Fu, I sometimes feel like I'm reading what I already know, what I've already discovered. The only Bruce Lee book that gives me personally any sort of challenge in understanding is Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee was advanced for his age, but he didn't live long enough to reach the level of Lao Tzu or Morihei Ueshiba. His teachings, although leading one in the same direction, are fairly basic in comparison. This is why studying the teachings of Bruce Lee is a great starting point to the overall study of what's considered Eastern Philosophy. This was not the case with me, but I know it was for lots of people. Regardless of all that, I think it's certainly worth reading these beautiful philosophies from a wonderful Human Being. 

Fighting Spirit: A Biography, gives the reader a very balanced perspective of Bruce's life, reminding us of his many imperfections that are far too often overlooked. Bruce Lee was far from perfect, otherwise he wouldn't have died at 32! Bruce claimed in an interview that he had a violent temper. This immediately tells me that, although he was on the path of becoming one, he was not yet a sage. I think it's sad when people miss interoperate Bruce's imperfections such as this one. They think that just because Bruce Lee had a bad temper, they should be bad tempered as well. This is not the direction that Bruce was trying to promote. He was promoting balance, yet he was imbalanced. He was promoting balance, something that he had not yet attained by the time of his tragic death.

If you want to get the most out of Bruce Lee's legacy, read his books. I can now say that I have seen all of his movies. To be perfectly honest, I don't like Bruce Lee's movies. I don't hate them, I just don't like them. This maybe partially because I saw The Matrix trilogy prior to watching Bruce Lee's films, and thus found them underwhelming in both the story and the action departments. Due to Bruce Lee's legendary status, I watched those movies expecting to learn something deep; however, deep teachings were what I rarely received. Maybe there were some teachings in those movies such as what Bruce was teaching the Chinese waiters in Way of the Dragon, but those were things I already knew. I think if Bruce had lived longer, he would have put larger quantities of philosophical content in movies. The choreographed fighting was very impressive, considering there were no special visual effects used. However, I felt they were relied on far too much. There was just so much fighting that his movies got fairly boring in my opinion. The characters that Bruce in his films portrayed seem totally different to the man on the font cover of Fighting Spirit. I think that for this reason, it's important to remember that these characters, although they are commonly referred to as 'Bruce Lee', are not the real Bruce Lee. Bottom lines, although I'll re-watch these movies to see if there was anything that I didn't pick up on, they haven't impressed me. The stories didn't seem very strong, and thus these movies relied far to much on violence that was often unnecessary to the overall plots. (No disrespect intended to people who like Bruce Lee's movies.)

My brother is not a practitioner of Martial Art. Most of what he knows about Bruce originated from my studies. When I asked my brother what he thought of Bruce Lee, he said: "Bruce Lee was a very talented Martial Artist. He had great philosophies and great morals plus really successful movies, but he was not god. I can understand why he was so praised back in the day, because Martial Arts was very unknown back then. For the people who had practically no knowledge of Martial Arts he would of been amazing but now I don't think he should get as much praise. There are many people who can do as much if not more then he could. Yeah, he was great but he wasn't the be all end all Martial Artist. People say Bruce Lee never lost a fight and Bruce Lee is the most amazing person in existence but that simply is not true. I remember watching a screen test with Bruce Lee and being rather underwhelmed. Yeah shore he seemed nice and he was pretty talented but nothing to bow down to. So basically, he is way to over hyped. Maybe it's my 21st century expectations, but the plots of Bruce Lee's movies weren't very spectacular. They weren't bad but they were nothing special. I know some people would say it's not about the story it's just about the fighting, but I don't watch movies to se people beating each other up. I watch movies for the story, the narrative and the characters."

"Too much" of anything is not good. "Too much" is imbalance. When his mother first heard of his death, she said "Too much work". I tend to agree with this statement. Bruce Lee did 4 movies in about 2 years. This is a huge amount of work in such a small amount of time. Increased stress from this would have weakened his immune system, making him more reactive and vulnerable to certain chemicals in the head ache tablets that he took at the time of being dehydrated, thus brain swelling occurred. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This is how I think he died. Whether he realised it or not, he strode away from the path.

I know I haven't spoken about him in the most positive light, but for the record, I highly respect Bruce Lee. He had his imbalances, but he also had beautiful philosophies for life. Whenever I read one of Bruce's books, I feel like he is directly talking to me in 2015. He is not dead to me. Death is an illusion. I would recommend Bruce Lee's teachings to anyone. Bruce Lee is a teacher. It is important to remember that, although there are benefits in studying him (the teacher), it is most important to study his teachings. We should know of him, like observing his finger, but if that's all we focus on, we will be missing out on all the heavenly glory that he is directing us towards.

Thank You For Reading

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