Jeet Kune Do is considered by some to be a system of martial arts. From reading Bruce Lee’s book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, I interpret it as a philosophy of life applied specifically to martial arts. A way of learning. A way of achieving mastery.
But what does this have to do with anything? Well, let me tell you a story.
So there I was…. young, dumb, and full of….um…. testosterone.
I was 18 (or so), and I wanted to be a tough guy. I wanted to be the man that other men respected and feared. I wanted social approval (though I didn’t recognize this at the time… for a while I considered myself quite the non-conformist).
How do young men achieve that coveted tough guy status? Join the Army (oddly I decided to wait a few years on this one, but that is another tale)? Get in bar fights (if I had been patient enough to wait until I was 21, I probably would have picked this method)? Work construction until you get those super cool Popeye sized forearms?
Or do you take up the practice of a martial art?
I have two odd sources to thank for my success in martial arts:
- The first is my mother. My mother absolutely refused to let me train in oriental martial arts during my childhood… she was certain that I would be taught Eastern religions along with the self-defense techniques. What is really funny (to me) about this, is that in all the M.A. schools I’ve trained in over the years (over ten different dojos, dojangs, kwoons, or whatever other term you like), no religion (particularly Eastern) has ever been taught. However, I worked up such a curiosity over the “evils of Eastern Religions”, I had to find out about them first hand. Anyone who is familiar will notice the Taoist and Buddhist influence throughout the site. In addition to my religious curiosity, I developed a deeper and deeper desire to train in a martial art. When I finally found a school that suited my tastes, there was no real struggle to keep going to classes. Sure, some days are tougher than others, but there was never any question of quitting. I see many kids come and go in M.A. training. A very few of them become the superstars you hear about that have been training since they were four or five. The vast majority of them never appreciate what they are being offered, and sooner or later, they disappear. Statistically speaking, I would have probably been one of the latter had my mother acquiesced to my wishes. Due to her absolute refusal, I have become a very dedicated late starter. Thanks Mom!
- The second source is all the bullshit artists. I can’t count how many people I have known who claimed to have martial experience (usually somewhere between a 2nd and 4th degree black belt) around people they assumed didn’t know any better. The styles ranged from Akido, to Kung Fu, to the ever popular and mysterious Ninjitsu! Listening to these idiots talk up their non-existent skills gave me a deep desire to learn real skills, and it also began to kill some of my ego surrounding M.A. training. Thanks Guys!
It took me a long time to find a school that suited me. In the mean time, I read quite a bit. Just to clarify, reading can definitely help a person develop deeper skill/understanding in M.A. training, but only if it is acting as a supplement to physical training.
Not having a place to train, I read more. I read heaps of books on Judo, Chi Kung, kickboxing, Ninjutsu, Kenpo, etc. One of the books I found that really spoke to me, was by Bruce Lee. The Tao of Jeet Kune Do definitely covers techniques, but it largely covers philosophy and approach to learning as well.
I spent some time practicing by myself. I suppose I developed a very basic level of skill. I spent more time reading though. Inspired by Bruce Lee’s path, I was even a philosophy major in college for a while (about a semester… I had lots of majors).
It took me many years and quite a bit of training to get past the desire to be a tough guy. I train now because I love to train. I continually seek to improve and further refine my skills …not because one day I’ll have to fight to save honor or loved ones in some mysterious faraway full contact martial arts tournament… but because it’s fun!
There is power for those who choose to walk this path. We all have to find the right reasons for the journey… but a journey that isn’t enjoyed is rarely continued…
It wasn’t until recently that I began to notice how all the learnings of the past have been influencing me throughout the years, and continue to do so today… but I will speak more on this in the next post.