Tag Archives: Martial Arts

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee

Summary
  1. “An organic collection of writings that are meant to convey the essence of Bruce Lee’s art of jeet kune do…To understand JKD, one ought to throw away all ideals, patterns, styles; in fact, he should throw away even the concepts of what is or isn’t ideal in JKD.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Personal evolution is the ultimate message of the Tao. The Tao represents an individual’s pursuit of martial arts for self-realization. There is nothing more powerful than that for human development and martial arts excellence
  2. The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical movement
  3. Art reaches its greatest peak when devoid of self-consciousness. Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make
  4. The perfect way is only difficult for those who pick and choose. Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear. Make a hairbreadth difference and heaven and earth are set apart; if you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease
  5. How can one respond to the totality with a partial, fragmentary pattern?
  6. To fit in with an opponent one needs direct perception. There is no direct perception where there is a resistance, a “this is the only way” attitude
  7. The Path to Truth – seeking after truth, awareness of truth (and its existence), perception of truth (its substance and direction), understanding of truth, experiencing of truth, mastering of truth, forgetting truth, forgetting the carrier of truth, return to the primal source where truth has its roots, repose in the nothing
  8. When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. Life is a relationship to the whole.
  9. Relationship is understanding. It is a process of self-revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related
  10. This does not mean to do nothing at all, but only to have no deliberate mind in whatever one does. Do not have a mind that selects or rejects. To be without deliberate mind is to hang no thoughts
  11. Acceptance, denial and conviction prevent understanding. Let your mind move together with another’s in understanding with sensitivity. Then, there is a possibility of real communication. To understand one another, there must be a state of choiceless awareness where there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of discussion in order to agree or disagree. Above all, don’t start from a conclusion.
  12. The physically bound go for puffing and straining and miss the delicate way; the intellectually bound go for idealism and lack efficiency and actually seeing into realities
  13. Better to discover causes of ignorance than seek knowledge
  14. Transcend dualistic comprehension of a situation
  15. The knowledge and skill you have achieved are meant to be “forgotten” so you can float comfortably in emptiness, without obstruction. Learning is important but do not become its slave. Above all, do not harbor anything external and superfluous – the mind is primary. Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it
  16. Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or our worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. Thus, a feeling of utter unworthiness can be a source of courage. Everything seems possible when we are absolutely helpless or absolutely powerful – and both states stimulate our gullibility.
  17. Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not organically part of us, while self-esteem is derived from the potentialities and achievements of self. We are proud when we identify ourselves with an imaginary self, a leader, a holy cause, a collective body or possessions. There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is sensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potentiality in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection. It is true, however, that when pride releases energies and serves as a spur to achievement, it can lead to a reconciliation with the self and the attainment of genuine self-esteem.
  18. We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. Yet, it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents as well.
What I got out of it
  1. A great, in depth view of Bruce Lee’s philosophy of JKD. The majority of the book is a detailed look on the techniques, routines, training regimens and more that Bruce followed and taught. That part wasn’t too useful to me but you can see how Bruce applied his principles of JKD to all he did

Words From a Master by Bruce Lee

Summary
  1. Transcript of Bruce Lee interview with Pierre Berton, Ted Thomas and Alex Ben Block as well as the interviewers reflections
Key Takeaways
  1. Berton mentions that out of the 2,000+ people he interviewed in his life, Bruce was the most intense, like a coiled spring
  2. Ted Thomas thought that Bruce Lee personified a tough self-sufficiency and should be remembered for being the first of the great action kung fu movie stars and the man who made a Chinese hold up his head in the international scene and be proud of himself
  3. Block mentions that Bruce became a hero for oppressed people of every race as he was able to break out of all the things that seem to bind us in society and keep us from becoming a success, and truly rising above all that. He had a philosophy. A deep system of belief that he brought to everything he did
What I got out of it
  1. Interesting reflections from these three men who interviewed Bruce Lee shortly before his death

Wisdom for Daily Living by Bruce Lee

Summary
  1. A collection of Bruce Lee’s thoughts and aphorisms broken out into eight different sections, helping you prepare your own way through challenges and difficulties. The aphorisms are presented in such a way to force the reader to think for themselves about the issue they’re having and come up with their own answer
Key Takeaways
  1. Independent inquiry is needed in your search for truth, not dependence on anyone else’s view or a mere book
  2. To free one’s self from preconceived notions, prejudices and conditioned responses is essential to understanding truth and reality
  3. Reality and perception. There is a difference. The world and our reaction to it
  4. Don’t neglect life by worrying about death. Have no regrets. Do what you want to do and with sincerity and to the best of your ability. You can’t ask much more from life than that
  5. Don’t seek, but allow
  6. Sincere thought means thought of concentration (quiet awareness). The thought of a distracted mind cannot be sincere
  7. Instead of dedicating your life to actualize a concept of what you should be like, actualize yourself. The process of maturing does not mean to become a captive of conceptualization. It is to come to the realization of what lies in our innermost selves
  8. Concepts prevent feeling. Don’t think – feel!
  9. Any idea that is constantly held in the mind and emotionalized, begins at once to clothe itself in the most convenient and appropriate physical form that is available
  10. Perception is awareness without choice, nonjudgmental observation
  11. To be humble to superiors is duty; to equals is courtesy; to inferiors is nobleness; and to all, safety!
  12. To be unconsciously conscious or consciously unconscious is the secret of Nirvana
  13. Conscience is your pilot
  14. To understand your fear is the beginning of really seeing
  15. The more we value things, the less we value ourselves. The more we depend upon others for esteem, the less self-sufficient we are
  16. Real living is living for others
  17. Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart
  18. Love is an egotism of two
  19. The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.
  20. Happiness is the appropriate moral behavior for the appropriate situation
  21. The three things most difficult are: to keep a secret, to forget an injury, to make good use of leisure
  22. To be able to do the things we want sometimes requires the performance of a few we don’t
  23. Defeat is education
  24. In solitude you are least alone. Loneliness is only an opportunity to cut adrift and find yourself
  25. Anxiety is the gap between now and then. If you are in the now, you can’t be anxious
  26. To change with change is the changeless state
  27. It’s not the job but how you do it. The reward is in the action, not from it
  28. Success means doing something sincerely and whole-heartedly. And you have to have the help of others to achieve it
  29. Simplicity is the last step in art and the beginning of nature
  30. To formalize something is to make progress impossible. Don’t become a slave to borders, styles, patterns, dogma
  31. To view totality, one has to be a total outsider
What I got out of it
  1. A good compilation of Bruce’s quotes and thoughts on a variety of topics. Will be useful to turn to at times but doesn’t provide the context that some of the other books in the Bruce Lee Library Series do

Wisdom for the Way by Bruce Lee

Summary
  1. Compilation of Bruce Lee’s quotes, teachings and philosophy
Key Takeaways
  1. Remember, success is a journey, not a destination. Have faith in your ability. You will do just fine
  2. You have to create your own luck. You have to be aware of the opportunities around you to take advantage of them
  3. Learning is definitely not mere imitation, nor is it the ability to accumulate and regurgitate fixed knowledge. Learning is a constant process of discovery – a process without end
  4. The problem is never apart from the answer. The problem is the answer – understanding the problem dissolves the problem
  5. Success means doing something sincerely and wholeheartedly
  6. Be a practical dreamer backed by action
  7. Every man today is the result of his thoughts yesterday
  8. When I have listened to my mistakes, I have grown
What I got out of it
  1. Another very nice compilation of Bruce Lee’s thoughts and philosophy

Bruce Lee: The Little Black Book by SC Hollister

Summary
  1. A compilation of some of Bruce Lee’s most famous quotes
Key Takeaways
  1. Be happy, but never satisfied
  2. The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering
  3. Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality
  4. Now I see that I will never find the light unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, consuming myself
  5. Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation
  6. The more we value things, the less we value ourselves
  7. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo
  8. Obey the principles without being bound by them
  9. Relationship is understanding. It is a process of self-revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related
  10. Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own
  11. Effort within the mind further limits the mind, because effort implies struggle towards a goal and when you have a goal, a purpose, an end in view, you have place a limit on the mind
  12. In the middle of chaos lies opportunity (like Gribbin said in Deep Simplicity, interesting things happen on the edge of chaos, at complexity)
  13. In life there are no limits, only plateaus
  14. Art reaches its greatest peak when devoid of self-consciousness. Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make
What I got out of it
  1. A short and excellent gateway into the teachings and beliefs of Bruce Lee. Highly recommend as a starting point to get a taste of Bruce Lee’s philosophy

Bruce Lee: Artist of Life by John Little

Summary
  1. “Basically, I have always been a martial artist by choice and actor by profession. But, above all, I am hoping to actualize myself to be an artist of life by daily actualizing my potentiality through soulful discoveries and daily exercising.” By artist of life he refers to the process of being an individual who, through the use of his own independent judgment, sought to fully actualize himself as a total human being (physically, mentally, spiritually)
Key Takeaways
  1. “My life…seems to me to be a life of self-examination, a peeling of my self bit by bit, day by day.”
  2. Bruce was a highly educated man because he never missed an opportunity for a “fact” or “situation” to teach him more about himself
  3. Multi-disciplinary thinker – finding a truth in one discipline and then applying that truth to an entirely unrelated discipline is a hallmark of Lee’s genius: he saw the connections where others did not (combined Krishnamurti’s and Alan Watts’ thinking on spirituality into martial arts)
  4. Only through process of coming to know self can we come to know anything
  5. Wu Hsin (no-mindedness)
    1. No-mindedness is not a blank mind that excludes all emotions; nor is it simply calmness and quietness of mind. Although quietude and calmness are important, it is the non-graspingness of the mind that mainly constitutes the principle of no-mindedness.
    2. The mind should be like a mirror – grasps nothing and refuses nothing; it receives but does not keep
    3. No-mindedness is not being without emotion but being one in whom feeling is not sticky nor blocked. It is a mind immune to emotional influences
  6. Gung fu – discipline/training toward ultimate reality of the object (master towards any objective, not only martial arts)
    1. Gung fu values the wonder of the ordinary, and the idea is not daily increase but daily decrease. Being wise in gung fu does not mean adding more but being able to remove sophistication and ornamentation and be simply simple. The closer one is to the true way of gung fu, the less wastage of expression there is
    2. A simple life is one of plainness in which profit is discarded, cleverness abandoned, selfishness eliminated, and desires reduced. It is the life of perfection which seems to be incomplete and of fullness which seems to be empty. It is the life that is as bright as light but does not dazzle. In short, it is a life of harmony, unity, contentment, tranquility, constancy, enlightenment, peace and long life.
  7. Art is the expression of the self; the more complicated and restrictive the method is, the less opportunity there is for expression of one’s original sense of freedom
  8. The measure of a moral man is his happiness
  9. On perfection – since perfection is an impossibility, you can never live up to it. You are merely in love with this ideal and there is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castigating. It hides under the mask of “self-improvement.” It never works
  10. Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. The difference between self-actualizing and self-image actualizing is very important. Most people only live life for their image
  11. On anxiety – thinking is rehearsing in fantasy for the role you have to play in society. And when it comes to the moment of performance and you’re not sure whether your performance will be well received, then you get stage fright. This stage fright has been given by psychiatry the name “anxiety”
  12. Maturation is the development from environmental support to self-support
  13. On Learning
    1. The best way of learning is not through computation of information. Learning is discovering, uncovering what is there in us. When we discover, we are uncovering our own ability, in our own eyes, in order to find our potential, to see what is gung fu, to discover how we can enlarge our lives, to find the means at our disposal that will let us cope with a difficult situation. And all this, I maintain, is taking place in the here and now
    2. You will find nothing develops your intelligence better than to take any question and turning it into a genuine statement
  14. On Resistance
    1. Once we are capable of understanding our reluctance to accept unpleasant experiences, we can get to the next layer, the phobic layer, the resistance, the objection to being what we are
    2. A choice method [toward liberation] is the cultivation of resistance, and where there is resistance there is no understanding. A so-called well-disciplined mind is not a free mind. A choice method, however exacting, fixes the mind in a pattern – a crystallization. This type of dead drilling is not an adequate response to the ever-changing moment in combat [or life]
  15. The self-willed man – A self-willed man has no other aim than his own growth. He values only one thing, the mysterious power in himself which bids him life and helps him to grow. The power can be neither preserved nor increased nor deepened by money and power, because money and power are the invention of distrust. When a man has confidence in himself, when all he wants in the world is to live out his destiny in freedom and purity, he comes to regard all those vastly overestimated and far too costly possessions as mere accessories, pleasant perhaps to have and make use of, but never essential. His only living destiny is the silent, ungainsayable law in his own heart, which comfortable habits make it so hard to obey but which to the self-willed man is destiny and godhead.
  16. Jeet Kune Do
    1. JKD is not about a more efficient way to subdue one’s opponent, but rather a more efficient way to subdue oneself; to rid oneself of hang-ups, insecurities, fears, and suppressed emotions – anything, in other words, that would bind the individual from becoming anything less than the fullest expression of himself
    2. True observation begins when one is devoid of set patterns; freedom of expression occurs when one is beyond system
      1. When a system becomes “dogma” it becomes a crutch which limits and blocks the natural growth of a martial artist. Thus, any special technique, however classically correct or cleverly designed, is in reality a disease, should one become obsessed with it.
    3. There is no help but self help
    4. Accumulating fixed knowledge of oneself externally is not the process of JKD; rather, JKD is a process of discovering the cause of one’s ignorance and oftentimes involves a shedding process
    5. His physical movement is his soul made visible. Indeed, martial art is the direct expression of the human soul
    6. A good student is one who is able to enter a mold but not be caged by it, to follow the principles yet without being limited or bound by them. This is important, for a pliable, choiceless observation without exclusion is so essential in the cultivation of JKD. So what is important here is not to have an organized philosophy of combat, or, for that matter, a method of combat, but to observe neutrally what is taking place in actual combat, inwardly as well as outwardly
    7. A good JKD artists rests in direct intuition
  17. Efficiency is anything that scores
  18. On Understanding
    1. Understanding requires not just a moment of perception, but a continuous awareness, a continuous state of inquiry in which there is no conclusion. There is no thinking that is free – all thought is partial; it can never be total. Thought is the response of memory, and memory is always partial, because memory is the result of experience; so thought is the reaction of a mind which is conditioned by experience
    2. Awareness is never exclusive, it includes everything
    3. To bring the mind into sharp focus and to make it alert so it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere, the mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought process and even ordinary thought itself
  19. The 3 Faults
    1. The invention of an empirical self that observes itself
    2. Viewing one’s thought as a kind of object or possession, situating it in a separate, isolated “part of itself” – I “have” a mind
    3. The striving to wiping the mirror
      1. Zen is not “attained” by mirror-wiping meditation, but by becoming fully in the now. Don’t strive to “become,” but be
  20. Learning to unlearn
    1. The knowledge and skill you have achieved are after all meant to be “forgotten” so you can float in emptiness without obstruction and comfortably. Learning is important, but do not become its slave. Above all, do not harbor anything external and superfluous; the mind is the primary (see Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning for more color on this process of mastery)
    2. To have no technique is to have all technique
  21. The 6 Diseases
    1. The desire for victory
    2. The desire to resort to technical cunning
    3. The desire to display all that you have learned
    4. The desire to overawe the enemy
    5. The desire to play a passive role
    6. The desire to get rid of whatever disease you are likely to be infected with
  22. True mastery
    1. True mastery transcends any particular art. It stems from mastery of oneself – the ability, developed through self-discipline, to be calm, fully aware, and completely in tune with oneself and the surroundings. Then, and only then, can a person know himself
    2. Remember well my friend that all styles are man-made, and the man is always more important than the style. Style concludes. Man grows
  23. Self-knowledge
    1. Only self-knowledge leads to freedom
    2. Through my own observation I am convinced that an absolutely honest and direct inquiry into oneself will lead to understanding
    3. Having gone through a lot of ups and downs, I realize that there is no help but self-help. Self-help comes in many forms: daily discoveries through choiceless observation, honestly, as well as wholeheartedly always doing one’s best; a sort of indomitable obsessive dedication and, above all, realizing that there is no end or limit to this, because life is simply an ever-going process, an ever renewing process. The duty of a human being, in my personal opinion, is to become transparently real, to simply be.
  24. Life is best lived, not conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems. Living exists when life lives through us – unhampered in its flow, for he who is living is not conscious of living and, in this, is the life he lives. Life lives; and in the living flow, no questions are raised. The reason is that life is a living now. Completeness, the now, is an absence of the conscious mind striving to divide the indivisible.
  25. We can see through others only when we see ourselves – Batesian mimicry (master knows the impostors)
  26. We have more faith in what we imitate than in what we originate. We cannot derive a sense of absolute certitude from anything that has its roots in us. The most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone; we are not alone when we imitate. It is thus with most of us! We are what other people say we are. We know ourselves chiefly by hearsay
  27. In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit matters more than the object being pursued
What I got out of it
  1. Fantastic book! Great overview of Bruce’s life, philosophy and depth of thought

Bruce Lee: Letters of the Dragon by John Little

Summary
  1. A broad view of Bruce Lee’s life and personality through personal correspondence with friends and family.
Key Takeaways
  1. “Patterns. This is the most important thing to look for as you read Bruce’s letters.”
    1. Gung fu forming his character and ideas – practice as a physical culture, a form of mental training, a method of self-defense and a way of life
    2. Goal of planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life – peace of mind
    3. Never waste worries or energy on negative thoughts
    4. It is not what happens that is success or failure, but what it does to the heart of man. No man is defeated unless he is discouraged
    5. What I have found, after much soul searching, that deep down what I honestly value more than anything else is quality – doing one’s best in the manner of the responsibility and craftsmanship of a Number One
  2. There are two ways of making a good living. One is the result of hard work, and the other, the result of the imagination (requires work, too, of course)
  3. “I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominating force which I hold in my hand.”
  4. The nature of water
    1. To be one thing and not to change, is the climax of stillness
    2. To have nothing in one that resists, is the climax of emptiness
    3. To remain detached from all outside things is the climax of fineness
    4. To have in oneself no contraries, is the climax of purity
  5. “My theory states, “1) learn the center, 2) keep the center, and 3) dissolve the center. Or, more generally, learn the rules, keep to the rules, dissolve the rules” (aka “smaller circles“)
  6. Simplicity – to express the utmost in the minimum of lines and energy
  7. Remember my friend that it is not what happens that counts, it is how you react to them
  8. Damn the torpedo! Full speed ahead – Bruce used this line a lot when perseverance and determination were required
  9. Remember my friend, everything goes to those who aim to get. Low aim is the biggest crime a man has. One will never get any more than he thinks he can get
  10. What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become. Remember, success is a journey, not a destination.
What I got out of it
  1. Wasn’t my favorite Bruce Lee book so far but it gives you a feel for what Bruce Lee was like over an extended period of time with close friends and family

Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body by John Little

Summary
  1. This book describes in meticulous detail Lee’s ever-evolving workout regimens and favorite exercises
Key Takeaways
  1. The greatest talents that Bruce brought to realizing his dreams were intelligence and curiosity, dedication and perseverance and focus
  2. Jeet Kune Do, which is an all-encompassing approach to living life at the pinnacle of developed potential, naturally includes training the physical body to achieve its peak performance
  3. The essentials of training are overload and adaptation
  4. It is important to be systematic in your workout routines – track weight, reps, time, etc.
  5. Much of the book provides pictures, explanations, routines and the logic behind the workouts – isometric exercises, weight training routines, 20 minute routines, circuit training, abs, forearms, specifics for martial arts, stretching and more
What I got out of it
  1. Especially useful if you’re training for martial arts but this book is a great reference even for people just looking to get into great overall shape. More than that though, what I found important was seeing Bruce’s dedication to his pursuit, the ‘shedding’ or refinement of techniques and thinking over time to really hone in on what is effective and his open mindedness / disdain for convention when looking to achieve one’s full potential

The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee by John Little

Warrior Within

Summary
  1. Bruce Lee is much more than just one of the best martial artists of all time, he is a philosopher who sought to integrate his beliefs into everything he did. Lee outlines a framework in order to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally by living in accordance with Tao, the way or nature.
Key Takeaways
  1. Tao – the way of nature or the creative force governing the universe
  2. “…the height of cultivation should move toward simplicity. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation…The process to simplify is like a sculptor who continuously chisels away all the nonessentials until he creates a masterpiece.”
  3. Lee’s quintessential philosophical belief of flowing and not forcing what comes your way can easily be related to how water acts – “Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
  4. Like water, very little in life is static. Learn to adapt and change and grow. “To change with change is the changeless state.”
  5. There is no experience to be extracted from, or who can escape from, experience. There is simply experiencing
  6. Ultimately one should be “purposeless.” … a state of purposelessness (which is also a state of fluidity, empty-mindedness, or simply the everyday mind), the spirit harbors nothing in it, nor is it tipped in any one direction; it transcends both subject and object; it responds empty-mindedly to environmental changes and leaves no track.”
  7. True masters never feel the need to prove themselves – “…I have learned that challenging means one thing, but how you choose to react to it means something else entirely…If you are secure within yourself, you treat it very, very lightly…”
  8. Lee’s guide to self-enlightenment consisted of 4 steps:
    1. Research your own experience
    2. Absorb what is useful
    3. Reject what is useless
    4. Add what is specifically your own
  9. The true meaning of life lies in peace of mind and the highest rung on the ladder of individual achievement is the commitment to honest self-expression
What I got out of it
  1. One of the most powerful ideas I got from this book is the idea of being completely honest to yourself and expressing that truest version of yourself in everything that you do. His belief in flow, purposelessness and simplicity are all concepts that resonate deeply with me too. If you only know Bruce Lee for his movies and martial arts, this is a side of him worth exploring.

Continue reading