BRUCE LEE: THROUGH EYES OF JESSE GLOVER
(Jesse was Bruce's first student, assistant instructor and a critical part of Bruce's early evolution as well as his best student).
Bruce taught me that the first thing that I had to do whenever I was confronted with a fighting situation, was to make an intellectual decision as to whether the situation warrants fighting. If the opponent is moving toward you in a menacing way, you have little choice but to react with everything that you have at your disposal. Fortunately most situations allow you time to extract yourself before they explode into conflict. You must learn to read and recognized a negative situation before you become entrapped in them.
Training in this country should focus on how to handle sneak punches to the head; kicks and knees to the groin, fingers to the eyes, heavy roundhouse swings, clubs, sticks, knives and grabs from the rear. Street fighters can take tremendous amounts of punishment and still keep coming, and unless you really hurt them they can and will get you. Kicks to the groin and jabs to the eyes do not always• spell success, unless they are followed by a strong attack. Most of the time these techniques will work but you should not train for what works most of the time. You should train for the toughest situation that you can imagine; combat with someone who is fast, strong, mean and intent on your destruction.
Attacks made in this country are likely to be made by someone who does not adhere to any type of social code of combat. When this type of person attacks he has but one thought in mind; the subjugation of you to his will. This may involve taking your money; raping your girlfriend or wife; or taking your life. In an encounter with this type of person most of what you have learned in a classical martial arts setting is not going to work. Street muggers do not attack from stances, nor are they scared by the fact that you assume one.
It is not safe to depend on the success of any one blow unless your punches and kicks are truly exceptional. When fighting a superior opponent, you should attack the instant that you figure that there is no way out of the situation. In Judo there is a technique that often works against superior opponents with moderate success, it is called surprise and it can work.
Bruce believed that there is always someone who can beat you in a fight if the circumstances are right, and that to walk around thinking that you cannot be beat is a foolish mistake that can end your life.
Bruce drilled into me a good grasp of the basic principles and I would often challenge his new concepts if they did not have a solid basis in function. Usually my first question was, "Will it work for me?" If the answer was no, I would file it away for a future time when my body would be able to react with the needed speed and power that the technique required to be done successfully.
All you can do in the area of teaching other people was to point them in the right direction.
If your desire is to be able to perform a high speed dance, then the practice of forms will do it for you. If, on the other hand, you desire blinding fast movements with powerful kicks and punches, you must go far beyond the methods that are taught in formal classes.
Before any kind of physical skill can be properly learned the body must be prepared to engage in that activity. This preparation may involve a host of special exercises, or it may rely on the old standards; push-ups, sit-ups, half-squats, jumping jacks, waist turning, jogging, specialized or general weight training, wind sprints, and stretching.
The first application requirement of any system is to be able to apply the basic moves against smooth, slow, and fast attacks. The next step is to develop ways to apply the same defenses against a wide range of varied attacks; straight punches, round punches, upper cuts, ridgehands, circle kicks, straight kicks, etc. Many martial artists are so caught up in some idea of personal glorification that they lose sight of the fact that the first purpose of any martial art is to protect oneself.
Most people trying to learn a style that is not compatible with their basic personality will never learn to effectively execute it because of the negative internal feelings that they must continually work against.
Fighting skill that involves striking should begin with the development of the proper action in the striking limbs or areas. For an example, some people use their head, shoulders, and hips as attacking weapons. This learning involves things like how to hold the hand or foot so that it is not injuried on impact. The next step is to learn the proper way to deliver a blow. Where there is sufficient power in the move to knock down someone 50 pounds heavier then it is time to move on to methods of entry. This involves the study of how the opponent can attack and defend from a variety of stances, where his weight lies, and how his balance is weak and strong. If fighting, the object is to deliver your weapons in a way that prevents self injury. The object is not to deliver your weapons in some highly stylized manner.
Whatever your reason for studying martial arts, you should bend the art to fit you. Techniques that do not work well for you should be discarded for substitutes that do work.
Bruce believed that once you become proficient in a method that you should take a hard look at it's basic principles, and ask yourself why each technique has to be performed in the manner that the style advocates.
The modern martial artist should explore the techniques of weightlifting, boxing, wrestling, track and any other area that can lead to better performance. He should strive to become as fast as possible without loss of power, flexible without the loss of strength and aggressive without the loss of control. People willing to sacrifice and work hard toward these goals can find martial arts a very rewarding pursuit.
Some people come to martial arts seeking a symbol that they can use to impress other people. Often these people have their arts turned against them. They wear badges and symbols that allow other people to know that they practice some kind of martial art, and when they get into an encounter, their opponent has that advantage of knowing that they are trained in some thing. This knowledge can result in the opponent fighting with non-natural weapons.
Instead of having everyone do each technique the same way, Bruce tried to get each person to.adapt movement to their own particular body structure and style of movement. None of the students payed attention to this concept and they all tried to emulate his moves. He finally grew tired of telling people to modify each technique to suit themselves and let them do what ever they wanted. Bruce felt in 1959 and 1960 that the students should discard things that they could not make work and pursue something more feasible. He said that this could mean the elimination of a few techniques, or the studying of a new method.
The people who studied under him are not trying to evolve to their own natural style like Bruce, but are trying to copy the exact moves that he was making at the time of his death. Without the background training that Bruce had in classical gung fu, it is doubtful that many of these people will ever develop into functional fighters. I maintain that most of what Bruce accomplished was the result of hard work, good instruction, and a hell of a lot of research and experimentation. I further maintain that anyone with the same drive, instruction and research could accomplish the same thing.
Bruce trained every day as though he were preparing for the Olympics. Bruce's hatered of losing provided him with the motivation that he needed to keep practicing. Whenever he would grow tired of practicing, he would whip himself back into line by thinking about losing. Any deviation from his goal of being the best gung fu man in the world was extremely uncomfortable, until he forced himself to get back on track.
Most of the reasons that bring people to the martial arts will seldom push them into the upper levels of the art. People who have tasted the feeling of accomplishment that comes with being good at something and feel that it's important for them to find out just how good they can be, are the people who reach the top.
One of Bruce's major concept was that when you try to surpass someone who has done something for a number of years, you will have to go beyond what the other person does by going outside of the system that they practice. In order to be successful, your own skill in the same system must be close to that of the person that you are trying to surpass, before you venture outside of the system.
It seems logical to me that if a man's learning is the result of learning several different steps, anyone else desiring the same kind of learning would have to go through a similar process. Bruce's basic approach to learning was to first learn the basics of a discipline and practice until he understood them well. His next step was to improve on the basics through experimentation.
The first concept is to have continuous pressure all the way through the sticking hand movements. Any attempt by an opponent to go outside of the tight pressure structure resulted in a forward strike by the pressing hands. The pressure is maintained throughout the rotation movements of sticking hands and the opponent's failure to maintian equal counter pressure and the correct hand positions will instantly permit him to be hit by one of your forward pressing hands. The final thing that he did was to concentrate all of his energy on developing maximum pressure in his sticking. He put every bit of energy into his sticking practice sessions.
Bruce always stressed seeking out the weak portions of any method and turning them into strengths. He meant that you should take movements that are naturally weak because of the body's structure and concentrate on making them strong.
One of the things that Bruce repeatedly pointed out was
that in training you should be less concerned with looks and
more concerned with how something works. He pointed out that
I might never have a kick that would satisfy a purest, but it
is not necessary to possess a classical looking kick in order
to have a kick that works. He told me that the development
of my own personal expression of gung fu could lead me to highly
individualized techniques that would aid me in a tense situation.
Bruce could have a person stand with their hand four inches from the side of their face, and close from a distance of seven feet and touch the side of their face before they could block his hand.
He felt that the fingers were a better weapon than the fist because they added to the reach and were able to slip into areas where a fist would be blocked. The four inch difference in length between the fingers and your fist can shorten the gap if your arm is shorter than your opponent's.
Bruce believed in making you achieve your maximum potential as quickly as possible, and in making you believe in the impossible.
The water principle served as a base for Bruce's study of the martial arts not only in the fluid movements of his body, but in the way he maintained the absolute fluidity of his mind, never sticking, always growing and changing.
Martial arts was a medium through which Bruce expressed his philosophy of living.
"The mind is like a fertile garden," Bruce said. "It will grow anything you wish to plant, beautiful flowers or weeds. And so it is with successful, healthy thoughts or with negative ones like weeds that will strangle and crowd the others. Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind for they are the weeds that strangle confidence."
"I'll give you my secret for ridding my mind of negative thoughts," Bruce said. "When such a thought enters my mind, I visualize it as being written on a piece of paper. Then I visualize myself wadding the paper up into a tight ball. Then I mentally light it on fire and visualize it burning to a crisp. The negative thought is destroyed, never to enter my mind again."
"By visualizing success rather than failure, by believing I can do it rather than I can't. Negative thoughts are overpowering only if you encourage them and allow yourself to be overpowered by them."
Maintain an open, flexible mind, all of your present decisions are the result of current and past experiences as you grow.older, you should be open to change decisions, goals and attitudes according to any new experiences, feelings, thoughts or chosen responsibilities.
There's no limit of what can be accomplished if it does not matter who gets the credit.
The main ingredient which makes a method successful is the willingness to endure tremendous physical pain and psychological frustration.
If you are to understand others, and have them understand you, know the big words but use the small ones.
All technique was derived through self-discovery. He used to call it "discovering the source of your ignorance."
If moves are practiced with speed and power, you will improve your fighting skill. If you train as though there is some strength building mechanism in the techniques themselvses, you will probably learn very little that is applicable, against a strong opponent.
The real competitor is the one who gives all he has, all the time.
Strength by itself is not equal to knowledge, and knowledge is not equal to training; but combine knowledge with training and one will get strength.
A punch or a kick is not to knock the hell out of the guy in front, but to knock the hell of your ego, your fear, or your hang-ups.
A learned man once asked a Zen teacher to instruct him. The teacher began to talk, but the learned man persisted in interrupting him. "Oh yes, I know that already," and "That is of course a part of many philosophies." At last the Zen master stopped talking and prepared to serve the learned man tea. He filled up his cup and then kept on pouring until it overflowed. "Enough," exclaimed the learned man. "My cup is already full." "Indeed, so I see.," said the teacher. "And if you do not empty your cup first, how can you expect to taste my tea?" After all, "The usefulness of the cup is it's emptiness."
If you give a student a fish, you feed him for one day and you must feed him again the next. If you teach him instead to fish, you feed him for life. So it is in teaching techniques. If you teach a student a technique, you must teach him technique after technique. But if you teach a student to find his own technique through the discovery of his own ignorance, you feed him for life.
A wise person would just observe and think. If you want to learn, observe more and talk less. The Chinese have an old saying, "Wise men listens, fools talk."
The quality of imagination is to flow and not to freeze.
The soul is an embryo in the body of man, and the day of death is the day of awakening for it is the great era of labor and the rich hour of creation. Death is an ending to the son of the earth, but to the soul it is the start, the triumph of life.
Death removes but the touch; the spirit lives on, and when our day of awakening comes, we will meet Bruce again. Today he still lives on through us, for we who shared his understanding of life and valued his true worth, he is an everlasting part of us
It was Bruce's wish that each of his students understand that, "Life is a constant process of searching for the best within yourself and using those gifts and sharing it with other people as he did. Training in the arts, you must have the strength of desire and dedication to hard work. This makes the difference between finding your own unique path in life and not just wanting to be like somebody else."