Dan Inosanto: Follow Your Heart

November 3, 20151 Comment
Bruce Lee on styles of martial arts


Posted by Fighting HQ on Tuesday, November 3, 2015

As Bruce Lee often said, “Jeet Kune Do can become intelligible only in the process of self-discovery.” It must be remembered that for Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do was not an end unto itself, but merely a byproduct. Jeet Kune Do was to serve as a means of self-discovery. In other words, Jeet Kune Do was to serve as a prescription for personal growth. It was the research of freedom, to act naturally and effectively, not only in mortal combat, but in life itself. Bruce Lee realized that art lives where there is absolute freedom. He also realized that like in other arts, training in the martial arts demands self-knowledge. Character can be shaped in any way or form to make it more beautiful and symmetrical.

Sifu Dan Inosanto ArticleBruce spent his lifetime in the development of an all-encompassing martial art philosophy. He knew that mere technical knowledge of the martial arts was not enough to make a man a “master.” He knew that one in the martial arts must penetrate deeply into its inner spirit. Training and discipline in his many years convinced him that the real purpose of studying the martial arts was “self-improvement.” In researching for the ultimate “truths” on combat he discovered certain “truths” about the meaning of life, but he refused to set them into “set” rules and “set” laws.

He often told me, “Remember Dan, my truth will not be your truth.” It was Bruce’s idea not just to instruct me, but to inspire me to think along with him. He wanted me to develop what he might have termed a “discerning” mind. He impressed upon me that “the truth is only the whole truth, insofar as it is experienced and lived in the present.” He said to me that unless I could join him in problem solving, I could never understand what he was trying to convey to me. It was up to me to research and research, to experiment and experience his concepts and to actively participate in the quest. Only by doing this would I truly understand his concepts in the martial arts.

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He explained, “A teacher serves only as a pointer to the truth, not as the giver of the truth.” Before I met Bruce I sincerely believed that learning was a process of the accumulation of knowledge. Bruce Lee used the analogy of the sculptor, who instead of adding clay to his piece of work, kept chiseling away until the “essence” was revealed. Bruce Lee stated that Jeet Kune Do is daily decreasing, rather than a daily increasing.

As he often said, “Truth can only be realized when you have discarded the untruths and the non-essentials.” I agree with him, but I still believe that learning is a process of the accumulation of repeated experiences. I also believe in never discarding any knowledge. What may be useful for you may not be useful for your student, and what may be useful for your student may not be useful for you; for knowledge is relative to the user and the practitioner.

Bruce’s “key” thing, and it has been said many times, is that he hoped to “free” his students from the “bondage” of styles, patterns and systems. He did not want his word to be law. He wanted no one to take his advice as “gospel.” He knew that a man in the martial arts is first and foremost a man. And as a living creature and creative individual, the man was always more important than any “created” system of style.

Truth is always universal, and to an extent almost every style or system is self-limited. It is important to remember that Bruce Lee was a “pointer” to the truth and not the truth itself.

With the forming of the Jeet Kune Do Society, there has been much controversy over whether Bruce would have gone along these lines. I can only say that those who have descended from the “Bruce Lee Clan,” will bring up the art in many different ways and follow many different paths. They will develop and go in many different directions, both in their techniques and their philosophical outlook in trying to preserve the teachings of Bruce Lee. I feel this is good, as long as they do not insist or preach that their way is the way what Bruce would have wanted the art to develop. For no one truly knows, had Bruce lived, how he himself would have progressed, changed, developed or continued in his concepts of his art of Jeet Kune Do.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this poem that I wrote in 1979.

We are all climbing different paths through the mountain of life.
And we all have experienced much hardship and strife.
There are many paths through the mountain of life
And some climbs can be felt like the point of a knife.
Some paths are short and others are long Who can say which path is right or wrong?
The beauty of truth is that each path has its own song
And if you listen closely you will find where you belong.
So climb your own path true and strong
But respect all other truths, for your way for them could wrong.

~ Dan Inosanto

Article by Sifu Dan Inosanto from his monthly column published in IKF. 

Dan Inosanto Article "Follow Your Heart"

About the video: Clip from Bruce Lee’s interview on Pierre Burton Show (1971) talking about “styles of martial arts”. 

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  • Thomas Dereda

    Each and every follower of Jeet Kune Do has learned many aspects of Bruces theories and implemented them into their own strategies , like he said earlier you learn the basics and go on , what you learn is forgotten , not completely lost , but available when you need them most , through each phase of life you have to adapt , this is where you apply what you have learned , lets say , a life changing incident that changes your way of living , your forced to ”change your normal way ” to re-adapt to life , thru what you had learned , it is there that we remember our first teachings , and make the changes we need to go on forward

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