Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit – Bruce Thomas

Here are my comments on the book:

What can we learn from the great martial artist Bruce Lee besides his philosophy on martial arts? Bruce Lee, who was a Hong Kong and American actor, martial artist, philosopher, filmmaker, and founder of the martial art Jeet Kune Do, has demonstrated to the world that despite the challenges and obstacles that you face, you can overcome them if you have the mental resilence, and strength to perservere, and to chase after your dreams. For Bruce Lee, he believed in the magic of thinking BIG. He understood that in order to achieve great things in life, you first need to have a BIG vision of where you want to be. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. To become great at anything, you first need to make the decision that you want it. You’re either committed or you’re not, there is no in between. Once you’ve made the commitment to becoming great at something, become relentless and dedicated to achieving that goal. Grant Cardone, American businessman whose net worth is $100 million, has once said that making the decision and then staying committed to become rich are the first steps towards millionaire status.Every day after school, Bruce Lee headed straight to Yip Man’s class, anticipating training by practising his kicks on the trees that he passed on the way. Even after training, Bruce would still thump the chair next to him as he sat at the dinner table at home. Before long William Cheung began to hear complaints from some of the older students who were coming off worse in their training encounters with Bruce. He recalls: They were upset because he was progressing so fast. I noticed that even when he was talking he was always doing some kind of arm or leg movement. That’s when I realized that he was serious about kung fu.


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2. Become a learning machine and just devour knowledge in what you want to be great at. One of the factors as to why certain countries remain poor is because of the rate at which they learn at as stated by a professor (I forget who). This is exactly why Warren Buffett reads 8 hours a day and why Bill Gates spends 2 weeks to go on a “reading vacation.” Personally, I used to hate reading until I learned that reading was a key ingredient to success. Ever since I started reading, I’ve noticed a tremendous change in my life all around, especially with my health and finances. Never before have I been healthier and closer to financial freedom. Keep learning and learn fast. Bruce told Hawkins Cheung that he was going to the US to become a dentist, but said he intended to earn money by teaching kung fu. Cheung reminded him that he only knew wing chun up to the second form, along with forty of the movements on the wooden dummy. Despite this, Bruce considered himself to be the sixth-best exponent in their style, but he took note of Cheung’s comments and felt it might be a good idea to have a few showy moves under his belt before he left. To learn these he went to see a man called Uncle Siu, who taught northern styles of kung fu. Bruce took Siu to a local coffee shop and struck a deal with him: over the following month Siu would teach him some of his moves, and in return Bruce would give Siu dancing lessons. They began at seven one morning, with Siu leading Bruce through two northern-style kung fu forms, a praying mantis form and another called jeet kune or ‘quick fist’. But Siu got the worst of the deal. He expected Bruce to take three or four weeks to learn the forms but Bruce mastered them in just three days, before Siu even got going with the basic cha-cha steps.” The book later states, Throughout the 1960s Bruce assimilated as much knowledge and experience as he could about every aspect of fighting he could use. He amassed an extensive library, paying as much as $400 for a rare book. As long as a book had something to do with fighting, he bought it. Bruce placed great value on his books; he didn’t regard them merely as possessions but as treasuries of knowledge. He would study a new book intently, analysing its fighting techniques to find the weaknesses by acting them out. Although he never practised karate, he knew the names of all the techniques in Japanese and could demonstrate them. Not only did Bruce have books on every type of hand-to-hand fighting art, but also on archery, ballet and fencing. His books on philosophy concerned not only the insights of Chinese sages like Confucius and Lao Tzu, there were also works by Krishnamurti, Spinoza and Kahlil Gibran, along with popular psychology books on self-help and positive thinking by writers like Norman Vincent Peale and Napoleon Hill.


3. Adapt to your environment as necessary. I don’t know just how many times the idea of adapting or pivoting keeps coming up when reading. To put it plainly, adapt or be left behind. Continually sharpen your skills or knowledge to keep ahead or on top of the trends. Bruce also began training with his students one-to-one at their homes. Unsurprisingly, he discovered that none of them were the same. Some were coordinated, others were slow; some were smooth and fluid, others were aggressive and forceful. But since all of them were much bigger and physically stronger than him, Bruce had to use every bit of his experience to subdue them. This private training turned out to be a double-edged sword, though, as he wondered how much he could reveal to a student before they would become a threat to him. He wanted them to do well . . . but not too well. In Hong Kong, Bruce had fought with people his own size, but now he was faced with opponents who were seventy pounds heavier and six inches taller than him, what he called ‘trucks rolling in’. Bruce knew that if he was ever hit by someone like DeMile, or even worse by someone at a public demonstration he would be hurt, and so would his reputation. It wasn’t simply a matter of pride; it was a matter of survival. As Bruce’s nucleus of students showed real signs of improvement, privately he intensified his own training, increasing the number of push-ups, sit-ups and body-strengthening routines he did. He adapted the wing chun stance so that it looked more like a boxer’s crouch and began mixing in some of the praying mantis techniques he’d learned back in New York. The group also began asking more questions about the background of martial arts and Bruce realized he needed to spend more time in the library searching out texts on Chinese philosophy.


4. Focus on mastery rather than just dabbling in things, mastery is what will get you to where you want to be. I’ve learned that people are really only known for one thing as they were masters at it. Bruce Lee was only known as a martial artist, Martin Luther King Jr. was only known for his his work as an activist who wanted equal rights, Albert Einstein was only known for his work and advances he made in physics, and the list goes on. People are only known really only for one thing. Pick something that you enjoy and become a master at it. He would describe how a student learning a martial art passes through three stages. In the first stage, he or she understands very little about the art of combat. In a fight, all of their blocks or strikes would be uncontrolled and inaccurate. Like the person who is attacked by surprise in a dark street, the untrained angry or fearful reaction is to withdraw defensively or lash out wildly, to freeze or flail, rather than to fight efficiently. In the second phase, the student finds that he or she must move and breathe in a completely new way, which means thoughts and feelings will also change. In fighting or sparring, there will be moments of ‘psychic stoppage’, where he freezes for a moment to analyse what’s happening and calculate a response. For the time being, the student loses the ability to fight without thinking. This phase involves a long period of training in which the student learns various techniques of striking, kicking and blocking. Here a long period of repetition to open up the neurological circuits and commit the moves to ‘muscle memory’ is essential – remember, ‘kung fu’ means ‘time spent’ or ‘effort put in’. As Bruce Lee put it, ‘I have no fear of a man who practises ten thousand kicks once, but I do fear a man who has practised one kick ten thousand times.’ The final stage, when the right moves happen automatically, involves the combination of factors that Bruce Lee was aiming to instill in his students: the physical, emotional and mental coordination that allows the spontaneous and spirited flow of appropriate action in combat.


5. You are more capable of greatness than you believe; never limit the thoughts on what you can or can’t do. Your mindset is one of the factors of success, perhaps even the most important one I would argue. To achieve anything great in life, you first have to believe that you can do it. You need to be able to visualize yourself in the position you want to be in. There are so many studies and research out there on the power of visualization and mindset. When Warren Buffett was 7 years old, he already knew he had a chance at becoming wealthy and now he’s one of the richest people in the world; that’s the power of belief. Once when Bruce was accompanying Stirling Silliphant on a three-mile run, towards the end Bruce said that they should do a couple of extra miles. The writer protested that he was older and couldn’t do it, and after an extra five minutes’ running, Silliphant’s head was pounding. ‘If I run any more, I’ll have a heart attack and die,’ he gasped. ‘Then die!’ said Bruce. This made Silliphant so mad that he went the extra miles. Later, in the showers, Bruce explained. ‘If you always put limits on yourself and what you can do, physical or otherwise, you might as well be dead. It will spread over into your work, your morality, your entire being. There are no limits, only plateaux. But you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.’


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon US
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