With today November 30, the month is waning and I am actually sad to see “All-Bruce Month” come to an end. A 30 day of reflection on Lee Jun Fan’s teachings and observation into his contributions to films have been a wonderful task and possibly the most fun I have all year, every year on this blog.
Look back and rewatching each film has actually changed my own rankings on his films and made me appreciate Enter the Dragon for the great film it is, not just what Hollywood holds supreme. To look at it objectively without my long-held bias has truly made me observe the great film it is and what I have been missing for 24 years because I have been irritated by a studios power over the media outlets. I believe Bruce summed that up in Enter the Dragon himself when he was teaching the young boy, “It is like a finger pointing at the moon. If you concentrate on the finger you will miss all that heavenly glory.” The Dragon is always teaching even 37 years after his passing; and I am listening still.
As a child I was young and rambunctious and nearly failing school, all boys are at one point in a similar boat, but my school thought I might even be more so than just normal boys-will-be-boys phase and they encouraged my parents to have me tested for ADHD. They took me to a psychiatrist and for months I would meet with him weekly and he would assess my behavior and my attitude, this went on for sometime and all the while I would still have to meet with my school guidance counselor and my parents to discuss and track my prognosis and possible diagnosis.
Around the same time I had seen Fist of Fury (at the time called Chinese Connection in America) and had relentlessly been begging my parents to let me join karate classes and for the longest time they balked at my request. Somewhere along the line it worked into one of our weekly therapy sessions and the doctor actually concurred that an activity I was passionate about may give me a focus point and help my situation. My parents checked out the local martial arts studios and they chose a dojo for me to join with some conditions that I would work to focus more in school and try to behave within reason.
Almost immediately school became easier, grades went up, letters home went down. My parents took notice fairly quickly, and with the exception of one incident at church where I got so wrapped up in mentally going over my kata that I actually began practicing without taking notice… I was doing well. Before I knew it I was saying good-bye to the psychologist, the school guidance counselor took my name off the “watch list” and no one was even considering ADHD. Did martial arts cure me? No, I don’t think there was ever an issue, I think I just learned focus. “Eliminate ‘not clear’ thinking and function from your root.”
Martial Arts is not a tool of fighting, every sifu will teach that point and every master will preach its mantra, but until you learn its deeper meaning it is like trying to explain love to a person without children. My first “art” was Goju Ryu and yes while I can throw a punch better than the Average Joe or have a better chance than most of not getting hit when some jerk takes a shot at me the physical skill of martial arts is used a few times in one’s lifetime.
The true teaching is the mental side of Martial Arts. Learning meditation and emotional redirection has been a tool that has helped me throughout life, learning to relieve stress in real-time has been a tool that has kept me in a high stress field for 8 years when the average burnout is 2 years or less. Looking back to Enter the Dragon once again at the beginning of the film Bruce is going to the island and a bully is tormenting the deck hands on the boat and Bruce catches his eye. He asks Lee what his style is to which he replies, “you can call it the art of fighting without fighting.” The majority of the battles you will fight in life are without your fists.
I have put it out there numerous times that Lee’s “Water” tao is probably the most influential lesson in my life. Adjusting and coping with any situation is something we do everyday without his or anyones’ teaching, but realizing and identifying change only makes it less of a transition to accepting what you can not control. As humans we have a desire to control each situation, but there becomes a time where we must accept change and allow it to happen beyond our control so the situation does not control our mentality.
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
Most people are just coming into their way at 32 years old, Bruce only had 32 years to leave his mark on the world and we still remember him today almost 40 years later as an icon, hero, teacher and pioneer without ever reaching his pinnacle.
“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”