In Eskirmology, Bruce Lee’s work is important because it represents the mindset of the Eskirmologist . It also summarises a number of phenomena which comprise our concept of the Martial Arts Delusion, which Eskirmology seeks to overcome. The following post is an excerpt from The Martial Arts Delusion (Third Edition 2012, 399-401).

Working from a basis in philosophical inquiry, Lee observably took an objective world-view – perhaps an idealisation of how the world of Martial Arts should be. In comparing the world of Martial Arts with a hypothetical view of how the Martial Arts should be, he was able to assess how far existing systems had been affected by institutionalisation. He had begun serious work on conducting a scientific enquiry of fighting as an event, comparing pre-sciences and assessing them against his own Eskirmological enquiries[1].

The elements of the delusion which we have previously outlined can be traced directly within Lee’s notes. A Combat System as a product of personal investigation (Little, 2001, 153,161,167) and the delusion of submitting to another person’s combative habits (Little, 1997a, 18, 21;), becoming an automaton or machine (Little, 2001, 342-343), a second-hand artist due to synthetic learning (Little, 1997a, 327-328, 330; ), due to ritualisation (ibid, 208; Lee, 1975, 14-23) and the effect of institutionalization (ibid, 156,158,156,174-175,197). All these matters were of deep concern to Lee, and his process of experiencing Combat Logic, and the subsequent refinement of the self by means of this dedication was what he labeled “Jeet Kune Do”.

One of the chief causes of synthetic teaching (as we have previously highlighted) can be attributed to the effect of society by means of Institutionalisation as well as of subjectivism infused into Combat Systems based upon cultural and national guides (Little 1997a, 174-175). Unlike previous systems which were devised to teach an individual (the “architect’s”) set of behaviours, Lee was more interested in the role of a Pointer to Truth rather than Giver of Truth (Little 1997a, 150,159,179; Lee 1975, 14) and the need for a system to empower individuals to create their own positive habits and skills (ibid, 139,150,159,161-162,169,178-179). It is this approach which makes his notes sound so revolutionary. No longer should people submit to “second-hand” artistry, the repetition of set patterns of movement and recite them in combat like a mindless drone. His perspective demanded empowerment, the process of self-discovery (ibid, 150; Lee, 1975, 23-25, 200-204) and to express oneself (Little 1997a, 139) instead of imitating (ibid, 208). Yet with Jeet Kune Do, we find contradictions which subvert and restrict its capacity to assume its position as an Anthropic Combat System.

Perhaps one of the unresolved problems with Jeet Kune Do (as represented in his notes) is that the dichotomy between a Framework and Personal System are ambiguous. Lee is keen to assert that his approach is unbiased, that we (as users of his approach) are objective and that it is “possessed of all angles, but itself if not possessed”, so much so that one can “enter the mould but not be imprisoned by it” (ibid, 161-162). In which case, he may make use of elements from Combat, or even from existing Combat Systems, and use them for his benefit rather than be restricted and confined by their sum. This rhetoric confirms the approach we have suggested previously to overcome subjectivism by objective study, to look at combat from all possible angles (ibid, 162; “formless form” Lee 1975, 23-25, “circle with no circumference” ibid, 200). This is what we expect of Combat Logic, to look at the sum and not become entrenched by specialization, or confined to pockets of it[2]. Lee is also keen to impress the object of the study as Combat Logic, or what he termed “the root” and not the “branches” (1997, 54-55, 327-328, 385).

Yet in his keenness to portray his approach as an ultimate freedom, Lee fails to explicate (in his writings at least – though he may have been personally aware) that such freedom must comply with Combat Logic; itself being a constraint. If Combat Logic defines all aspects of what can be done in fighting, and a Pre-scientific Combat System is a partition of one or several aspects of that Combat Logic (but rarely the sum), then his approach is truly possessed of all but not itself possessed[3].

Anthropic Combat is defined by human bodies, which when required to act and react must conform to mechanical laws. A strike can only be powerful when it has the dedication of the body mass, kinetic linkage of multiple joint complexes, as well as efficient and smooth action. All these things must define movement, and in doing so instantly places rules upon which actions are powerful, or fast. In which case, they cannot be “any movement”, but variations upon the rules by which movements are powerful or fast. This is inevitably what a “framework” should consist of – teaching a student the biomechanical and strategic rules which define effective behaviour (i.e. the Cybernetics of Combat Systems). It is only upon this basis that a student may proceed with his studies towards “personal expression”. A standard knowledge base such as this would facilitate the student’s own ability to be auto-didactic, to recognize when movements are useful, and which behaviours to discard. Without Combat Logic upon which to measure one’s ideas and reference them, they are liable to incline towards fantasy and inefficiency.

The result is of course that Lee’s Jeet Kune Do effectively demonstrates the simultaneous requirement for a Scientific Method, perspective and inquiry as a means to Auto-didacticism, as well as the physical standards and basis upon which a particularly “martial” method must comply – in other words – a “system”.

[1] It is also my strong personal belief that had Bruce Lee have lived longer, he would have written a book similar in nature (and of course much better) to this outlining the delusions of the Martial Arts coherently and scientifically. In fact, much of the evidence and reasoning for this book has already been outlined before by Lee himself, but his approach fell prey to the Law of Institutionalisation, and inevitably became a Taxidermy of Ideas. I am certainly not alone in this view as John Little argued in his article Jeet Kune Do is a Science.

[2] Lee was a student of Combat Logic. Although Eskirmology did not exist at that time, scientific study of defence is timeless.  He was also the epitome of the Eskirmological philosophy: “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of great men, but seek that which they themselves had sought“. (Draeger, 1973, 103)

[3] “There is no such thing as a style if you totally understand the roots of combat” (Inosanto 1980, 66-67)

 

Little, J, Lee, B (1997a); Jeet Kune Do; Bruce Lee’s Commentaries on the Martial Way, Charles Tuttle, 1997.

Little, J, Lee, B (1997b); The Tao of Gung Fu, Tuttle Publishing.

Little, J, Lee, B (1998); Letters of the dragon: an anthology of Bruce Lee’s correspondence with family, friends, and fans, 1958-1973, Tuttle Publishing

Little, J.R; Wong, C.F (2000); Ultimate Martial Arts Encyclopedia: The Best of Inside Kung-Fu, Contemporary Books.

Little, John, Lee, Bruce (2001); Bruce Lee – Artist of Life. Published by Tuttle Publishing.

Share Your Thought