Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A Classic Bruce Lee Quote

Returning to the Original Freedom - “Before I studied the art, a punch was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I studied the art, a punch is no longer a punch, a kick is no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick is just like a kick.”

The above saying was given by Bruce Lee and is written in his book Jeet Kune Do (a must have for all martial artists). Some people will be familiar with the meaning of it while others will be thinking that it is just a load of philosophical tripe. The truth is, this is a very important saying and applies to all martial artists regardless of style.

Before I studied the art, a punch was just a like a punch, a kick just like a kick –Before someone starts training, a punch or kick or throw or any other fighting technique is merely something carried out. The untrained person will not be aware of the body mechanics one uses to increase power, speed etc. There will be little or no thought of striking whilst keeping oneself guarded or anything else. The technique will just be carried without any thought and instinctively.

After I studied the art, a punch is no longer a punch, a kick is no longer a kick – Once a person starts training they realise that there are certain things one can do in order to make there techniques more effective. Using the whole body to punch, sharply twisting the hips when kicking, creating the best leverage for submissions, trying to attack and counter whilst keeping ones balance etc. After training for a length of time, one realises that there is more than what meets the eye regarding martial art techniques and they do not see them in the same way as before they started training.

Now that I understand the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick is just like a kick – After years of regular training, maybe a few competitions/pro or amateur fights and if one is unfortunate enough to have had to defend oneself on the street, one will come to understand that punch’s, kicks and other techniques are exactly the same as first thought, before training commenced. True, they can be executed faster and more powerful but the outcome of performing these techniques is that they should either provide you with victory in a competitive environment or should help you to defend yourself.

The understanding of martial art techniques after one has trained for a long period of time is exactly the same understanding from before one started training. In short, they must be effective and they must be part of ones natural reactions just like before one started training. Or at least this is what I interpret Bruce Lee’s quote to mean. What do you think?


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Chris | Martial Development said...

This is one of many sayings that Bruce Lee repeated, but did not originate--and indeed may not have fully understood himself.

I believe that the original quote described a realization of the unreality of things, eventually followed by a realization of the unreality of "reality". To put it differently, the world may be a dream, but if you are stuck within it, then it is quite real enough.

I've listed some other misattributed Bruce Lee sayings here:

Elias said...

I haven't given this one a whole lot of thought, but I think maybe what he was trying to say was that when someone begins training, their movements are natural. As they progress their movements aren't a part of them yet, and only when they've taken enough of their training in, do their movements become natural again.

Something like that anyway...

MARKS said...

ELIAS - That could very well be true

Anonymous said...

The quote originated from Zen where it is said that before training in zazen the world seems very real and ordinary, after quite alot of training one begins to see the world in a wholely different light (the inherent emptiness of all phenomona, the nature of suffering as arising from clinging to these empty phenomena). As one progresses even further the world becomes ordinary again, although one is transformed internally. One realizes nirvana is not separate from samsara and enlightenment is not to be sought beyond this world and everyday life.

I highly doubt Bruce Lee wouldn't have understood this since a) he was a superior martial artist with loads of experience going from beginner to master, b) he was a very spiritual person who was very into Zen, Taoism and other eastern spiritual practices and c) he was a philosopher both in practice and through education (he studied philosophy at the university of Washington, among other subjects).


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