The Most Important Advice I Ever Got From Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee

Even if you’re not into martial arts, you’ve probably heard of
Bruce Lee. He is, hands down, the best-known martial artist, and
martial arts movie star, in the world.

Perhaps, for younger generations, Jackie Chan or Jet Li are more
famous. I’m not sure. But I doubt it.

A few years ago, I read an interview with the editor of Black Belt
magazine, one of the longest running periodicals covering the
martial arts space. Anytime they published an issue with Bruce Lee
on the cover, the editor said, they saw their sales increase by
at least 300%.

Even today, Bruce Lee still pulls.

It’s funny, but…even though I have loved his movies, books
written by and about him, and articles written about him….over
the years, I would say the “Bruce Lee Fighting Method” series of
books (published shortly after his untimely death in 1973) have
been my favorites – and have had the most impact on my own martial
arts career, as well as my overall approach to fitness and health.

I read those books so many times, they were starting to fall apart.

Lord knows where they are today. I think maybe my parents dumped
them, along with some other “stuff” I would have preferred to keep,
when I was away at college and they were trying to clear out the
house in preparation for moving.

Anyways, I followed Bruce’s advice in the books and developed my
own approach to training. (This was when I was younger and my
mom wouldn’t yet let me train formally in the martial arts. So I
was stuck figuring out things for myself.)

I recall rigging up our basement with punching pads and targets,
plus a weak version of a heavy bag made out of a canvas rucksack,
some sand and some padding. (That thing was rough on the knuckles.)

I drilled, stepped, kicked and punched. And I incorporated
other techniques and training concepts from the karate books I

However, I also did something else in my training – something
extremely important.

Within the “Bruce Lee Fighting Method” series, the second book –
the one with the blue cover, for those of you who may be familiar
with these books – was titled “Basic Training”.

Cover of Bruce Lee Fighting Method, Vol 2
Bruce Lee Fighting Method, Vol 2: Basic Training

Basically, Bruce’s point throughout this volume was that just
practicing your art or sport is not enough. You also need to
do supplementary training to get your body in optimal shape –
to help you be better at your chosen activity, as well as help
you avoid injuries.

“One of the most neglected elements of martial artists is the
physical workout. Too much time is spent on developing skill in
techniques and not enough in physical participation.”

He railed about many of the martial artists he had seen in his
travels, guys (and some gals I imagine) who were grossly out
of shape, but claiming to be martial arts experts.

His concern was, what if one of these “experts” got into a
real situation? Would they have the stamina and power to get
out of the scrape?

If not, could they really be called martial artists?

Now, not everyone who practices martial arts does so solely
to become a better fighter or for self defense purposes.

This may be an aspect or motivation for training. But in my
experience, for most people it’s only one of several reasons
for taking up the practice of martial arts.

However, I think that a serious student should be aware of
the need for self defense, and should therefore devote some
energy and time into body conditioning and sparring –
including some hard sparring once in awhile.

Here’s another thing. I can recall coming up in the ranks
and being disgusted by some of the black belts at the school
where I trained.

These were people who trained and did what they needed to do
to pass the black belt test….then stopped training. They
would come into the training hall once in awhile, strap on
their black belt, and parade around.

They might go through a few forms or basics. They would butt
into other peoples’ training and offer unsolicited advice.
Then they would change and leave. Without needing a shower,
mind you, because they had hardly broken a sweat.

Not exactly a good role model for us junior students!

Plus, they had totally missed the fact that earning your black
belt is just the beginning. There is so much more to learn and
improve upon beyond it!

Bruce Lee’s advice is just as important today as it ever was.

Here’s where I see it needed most:

Many of the recommendations for exercise from the “powers
that be” emphasize moderate physical activity, three to
four times per week.

As I mentioned in an earlier message, this is a good starting
point. It helps to get people going. But it’s certainly not
sufficient for reaching the higher levels of fitness and robust
health that many of us desire.

Anyways, these recommendations also – sensibly – suggest
that people pick up a sport or activity they enjoy, so they
will be more likely to continue the activity.

I agree with this. I know for sure that my love of martial
arts, wanting to get better and excel at them, enjoying
teaching and coaching others, and just plain enjoying the
process of training, helped me stay in active, high level
training for a good number of years.

There were many days when I probably would have blown off
a regular workout, like going to the gym…but decided to do
just a little martial arts training. Maybe a few forms, a few
basics, something to get me moving a little and then call it
a day.

However, more times than not, my planned short, light “workout”
would morph into an excellent training session. An hour or so
later, I would wrap it up and feel awesome!

However, just doing your chosen activity is not always

Here’s Bruce Lee again:

“Practicing your skill is important, but so is maintaining
your overall physical condition….Proper training is for the
purpose of building your body and avoiding activities or
substances that will deteriorate or injure it.”

Remember that it’s very important to supplement the activity
you enjoy with basic fitness training. Train for endurance,
train for power, train for speed, train for flexibility.

Just as important: train to help prevent injuries.

This is really critical, especially as you get older.

Another important byproduct: you’ll feel better, move better,
perform better…..which means you will enjoy your chosen
activity even more.

If you’re wondering how best to get started with a fitness
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“Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2014