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.

  • Lee’s fighting style is called jeet kune do or “way of the intercepting fist”
  • Lee extremely influenced by the concept of harmonious existence of Yin/Yang – balance of hard/soft, masculine/feminine
  • “Be like water because it is soft, resilient and formless. It can never be snapped.”
  • Westerners try to explain life as opposed to revealing how to experience it
  • Lee believed that although we can simultaneously live and contemplate life, to do so takes something out of it. Recommends simply existing, being present, in the now
  • Life is a constant process of relating
  • The greatest help is self-help; there is no other help but self-help – doing one’s best, dedicating oneself wholeheartedly to a given task, which happens to have no end but is an ongoing process
  • Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do
  • “No matter what it is you’re doing, do it with total honesty and total dedication.” – Kareem Abdul Jabaar (on top of being one of the best NBA players in history, he was also one of Lee’s students and was even featured in one of his films, Game of Death)
  • I cannot teach you, only help you to explore yourself. Nothing more
  • Mastery reveals presence of mind in every action
  • Lee expressed his philosophy through his martial arts. They were one in the same. Inseparable
  • Part of being great is to accept things as they are without seeking personal gain or using others as a means to your end
  • The present is truly the only thing we should be concerned with
  • “The meaning of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” – Johannes Jacobus van der Leeuw
  • Do not dissect and hyperanalyze yourself. Simply open yourself up to experience and serve as a conduit through which reality of living is made manifest in every move, thought, action and experience of the moment
  • Lee masterfully used his opponents strengths against them through a process of calmness and nonstriving. He took every shot and attack in flow and did not try to force anything
  • “Be soft, yet not yielding. Be firm, yet not hard.”
  • The presence of no-mindedness allows one’s mind to be present everywhere because it is present nowhere
  • Lee’s philosophy directly translates to relationships as well – possessiveness is the opposite of love. You must give your significant other the freedom and trust they deserve. If they take advantage of it, it was not meant to be anyway. A scary way to live but ultimately the only way to live
  • Everything you do should be a harmonious expression of who you truly are
  • By releasing the desire to cling to life for fear of death, we are liberated from the fear of death
  • Lee’s martial arts log was a Yin/Yang surrounded by Chinese characters which read “Using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation.” – Same philosophical belief that you must be completely fluid in your approach, never forcing anything
  • Knowing yourself is crucial. It is the most important thing a person can know because it is only once you know yourself that it is possible to truly know anything else.
  • The moral is that one must learn to flow in the natural Tao – without once hesitating or pausing
  • An “unstuck mind” is one that has the ability to be alert and instantly responsive to the entire situation around him
  • Echoes sentiments of Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way in that he truly believed that when you confront what you believe is one of your limits, only then can you grow and truly get to know yourself
  • You must not be afraid of the consequences of staying to the natural course required to fulfill your ultimate potential

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