Updated: Jan 27, 2018
Bruce Lee was a famous martial artist, movie actor, philosopher, martial arts instructor and movie director.
He is known for his style of martial arts that is called Jeet Kune Do (JDK). Jeet Kune Do is a martial art that uses guided thoughts and no form. Bruce was very against preconceptions and structures because he didn’t believe that one could truly express themselves if they followed a form.
Bruce’s martial art, JKD, can be described as one of the first forms of mixed martial arts (MMA) because MMA doesn’t have such a large set of rules that must be followed when fighting like boxing or wrestling do. In boxing, a fighter must only strike an opponent with his arms and fists. There are no kicking and submission maneuvers whereas Bruce Lee believes that a real fight is much more of an art than just using arms and fists to strike.
If someone is walking down a street late at night and gets approached by a group of strangers and must resort to self-defense, he or she isn’t going to just use one form of fighting. That person may even decide to run away which is another form of self-defense that Bruce briefly mentions in the book titled The True Meaning of Life, but this self-defense tactic may not come to mind right away when thinking of a fight.
Here is a passage from the words of Bruce Lee in the book Bruce Lee Artist of Life:
“So one must not blindly follow a sterile pattern. Blindly following a sterile pattern would definitely cram and distort our natural growth. Instead, through self-exploration, flexible awareness, and self-expression one finds himself. Such self-knowledge is a continuing process, and the artist that possess such quality expresses himself with the utmost freedom.”
The letter below is titled “The True Meaning of Life – Peace of Mind” and was written by Bruce Lee to Pearl Tso in September of 1962. It is well worth the read as it contains Bruce Lee’s dreams at the time of writing and his way of thinking as well.
This letter is hard to understand. It contains my dreams and my ways of thinking. As a whole, you can call it my way of life. It will be rather confusing as it is difficult to write down exactly how I feel. Yet I want to write and let you know about it. I’ll do my best to write it clearly and I hope that you, too, will keep an open mind in this letter, and don’t arrive at any conclusions till you are finished.
There are two ways of making a good living. One is the result of hard-work, and the other, the result of the imagination (requires work, too, of course). It is a fact that labor and thrift produce a competence, but fortune, in the sense of wealth, is the reward of the man who can think of something that hasn’t been thought of before. In every industry, in every profession, ideas are what America is looking for. Ideas have made America what she is, and one good idea will make a man what he wants to be.
One part of my life is gung fu. This art has been a great influence in the formation of my character and ideas. I practice gung fu as a physical culture, a form of mental training, a method of self-defense, and a way of life. Gung fu is the best of all martial art; yet the Chinese derivatives of judo and karate, which are only basics of gung fu, are flourishing all over the United States. (I have set a time limit of ten to fifteen years to complete the whole project).
My reason in doing this is not the sole objective of making money. The motives are many and among them are: I like to let the world know about the greatness of this Chinese art; I enjoy teaching and helping people; I would like to have a well-to-do home for my family; I like to originate something; and the last but yet one of the most important is because gung fu is part of myself.
I know my idea is right, and, therefore, the results would be satisfactory. I don’t really worry about the reward, but to set in motion the machinery to achieve it. My contribution will be the measure of my reward and success.
Before he passed away, some asked the late Dr. Charles P. Steinmetz, the electrical genius, in his opinion, “What branch of science would make the most progress in the next twenty-five years?” He paused and thought for several minutes then like a flash replied, “spiritual realization.” When man comes to a conscious vital realization of those great spiritual forces within himself and begins to use those forces in science, in business, and in life, his progress in the future will be unparalleled.
I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominating force which I hold in my hand.
When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool. This is exactly what will happen when I give my ideas a definite plan of action. Right now, I can project my thoughts into the future, I can see ahead of me. I dream (remember that practical dreamers never quit). I may now own nothing but a little place down in a basement, but once my imagination has got up a full head of steam, I can see painted on a canvas of my mind a picture of a fine, big five- or six-story gung fu institute with branches all over the States. I am not easily discouraged, readily visualize myself as overcoming obstacles, winning out over setbacks, achieving “impossible” objectives.
Whether it is the God-head or not, I feel this great force, this untapped power, this dynamic something within me. This feeling defies description, and [there is] no experience with which this feeling may be compared. It is something like a strong emotion mixed with faith, but a lot stronger.
All in all, the goal of my planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life – peace of mind. I know that the sum of all the possessions I mentioned does not necessarily add up to peace of mind; however, it can if I devote myself to real accomplishment of self rather than neurotic combat. In order to achieve this peace of mind, the teaching of detachment of Taoism and Zen will prove to be valuable.
Probably, people will say I’m too conscious of success. Well, I am not. You see, my will to do springs from the knowledge that I CAN DO. I’m only being natural, for there is no fear or doubt inside my mind.
Pearl, success comes to those who become success-conscious. If you don’t aim at an object, how the heck on earth do you think you can get it?
Warm regards, Bruce