The Spirit of Bruce Lee


Kung Fu Philosophy The style of no style


Bruce Lee’s martial art Skills is reputed to be Philosophy of art, who declared proudly, “I dare not say I am the best martial artist in the world but I will never admit I am ranked the second.” Lee’s Jeet Kune Do is so exceptional powerful that it almost pronounces the impracticability of traditional Chinese martial arts! What is the Tao of Jeet Kune Do?


It is Lee’s exceptional martial art skills that contributed to the great image of Bruce Lee in films. Most of audiences cannot help asking, “How is Lee’s mastery and accomplishment of martial arts? It is said Bruce Lee has no rivals, which is only superficial perception. Actually, Lee’s martial arts are reputed to be philosophy of arts.


At the age of 13, Bruce Lee began to receive martial art trainings. Before, lee was aggressive and was called fighting king by street children. Actually, what Lee had mastered at that time was only showy but not practical martial arts skills.


During leaving Hong Kong at the age of 13 to 18, Bruce Lee received training under the guidance of Yip Man, the successor of Wing Chun. Although he practiced Wing Chun arduously and often competed with rivals, it was hard for Lee to get down to attain enlightenment because he was young and impetuous and thus only placed emphasis on tricks of beating rivals. Additionally, he spent most of time in keeping tricks in mind and practicing them in mind and his meditation had nothing to do with Philosophy.


All the Jung Fu masters have to go thought two stages, namely martial arts skill and the Tao of martial arts. The Tao of martial arts combines martial arts with philosophy as a whole in an ingenious way. Usually, common martial artists can only reach martial arts level instead of transcending it.


There are so many reasons for Lee mastering the Tao of martial arts. For instance:


Since childhood, Bruce Lee had been a good thinker and what he thought would be increasingly mature and profound as he got old and accumulated abundant experiences.


Bruce Lee was a lonely person and the Tao of martial arts stemed from loneliness. In ancient China, it was common for masters to seclude in a peaceful rural place to meditate and try to awake to the truth. Although living a hustle and bustle city life, Lee often felt lonely because his thought is distinct from those of other people.


“Tao” is the product of adversity. After emigrating to America, Lee felt depressed and resentful due to setbacks, racial discrimination and frustrations. Additionally, lee was not content to live a simple and virtuous life. Although others viewed Lee as a successful person, Lee considered by himself that he had not attained his goals yet. Lee always had the courage of challenging himself and society and adversity inspired him to pursue mightiness and explore the Tao of martial arts.


During undergraduate, Lee studied for philosophy course and philosophy studies the knowledge of life and world, which led him to ponder on the philosophy of martial arts.


Bruce Lee showed great interests in Chinese classical philosophy and in particular Taoism and Buddhism philosophy, all of which attach importance to “gaining enlightenment”. During undergraduate, Lee wrote a paper entitled “Gaining Enlightenment” to expounding on his insights into the Tao of martial arts such as “martial arts is a kind of special and ingenious skill instead of physical exercise. Additionally, it is a kind of creative arts combining wisdom with techniques. Just as scientific conclusions are deducted from experiments in an empirical way, the Tao of martial arts can not be learned and acquired but needs meditation and gaining insights. It is a natural process for us to gain enlightenment by freeing us from emotion and aspiration. Tao is the central core of the principles of martial arts, in other words, it is the law of the universe”.


Lee mentioned how master Yip Man inspired him to gain enlightenment in the paper.


Yip Man requested Bruce Lee to relax and free from bandage to styles, patterns and doctrines instead being stressful. Meanwhile, Yip also requested Lee to make every movement to be of itself and intercept and attack spontaneously to conform to nature instead of defying it; try to control and resolve problem according to the nature of problem instead of combating it. Yip recommended that Lee should stop practicing martial arts but ponder on what he said.


Lee stayed at home for a week but he felt still puzzled despite much meditation. To relax body and mind, he took a boat out in the boundless sea. When sailing on the sea, Lee was so annoyed to punch on water. Suddenly, he gained enlightenment, “The Tao of martial arts resides in water and water proves the principles of martial arts… Water is the softest substance in the world and I should empty my mind, be formless, shapeless, like water”.


After recalling the process of gaining enlightenment and his insight into the Tao of martial arts, Lee concluded that martial artists should intercept and attack spontaneously by “honestly expressing oneself without lying to oneself” and learn from water’s flexibility, which is the same as the philosophy of Tao following nature formulated by Lao Tzu.


Because monks and Taoists often practice martial arts, it is viewed as the combination of thoughts and action. For martial artists, martial arts are not a fighting way to kill or hurt rivals. Instead, it is a kind of philosophy and important part of Taoism and Buddhism philosophy.


In 1967, Bruce Lee expounded on his insight into martial arts, “One cannot excel at martial arts by just mastering techniques. To master martial arts, one should probe into inner spirit by integrating thoughts with life itself and then take natural actions. According to Taoist tenets, “Taking natural actions” reflects that one gains enlightenment and awakes to the truth. Consequently, he or she can concentrate on what to do and free from inner or outer distractions.

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