The Idol Learning Barrier

I saw some people mentioned that today is Bruce Lee’s birthday followed by the gushing of how he was their idol, how they worship him, blah, blah.


I mean there are many positive things that I learned from Bruce Lee the martial artist such as the following :-

a) Have an open mind and analytical approach to learning

b) Strive to be better, or better still, be the best

c) Add on to knowledge and skill


But I also learned why I should not over idolize Bruce Lee :-

a) I am and will never be Bruce Lee. He was uniquely him and I, me

b) Bruce Lee for all his skills in Wing Chun never completed his learning and had many gaps in his knowledge on the system. That he tried to learn more is admirable. Changing his Wing Chun to JKD allowed him to express his limited understanding of Wing Chun in a manner that worked better for him. However, Wing Chun is a much deeper system that it appears to be and what I see in JKD is like a simplified version of Wing Chun. In fact, even the version of Wing Chun that Bruce Lee learned, what I would call Ip-style Wing Chun, is a pared down version of the older Wing Chun systems. It is only because I have the patience to keep looking into the art rather than modify it within my limited knowledge that I now know much more about Wing Chun

c) Bruce Lee had a great looking toned body but I wonder if pushing his body to the limit ultimately killed him. Traditional Chinese martial arts strive for a balanced approach. Sure, I know its slower learning but in the end you will live a longer, healthier life. Just look at how many of Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun contemporaries lived to much older age. Perhaps being a Chinese superman that is idolized by many is great but still, if I were to choose I would rather be alive than dead. What is the use in being a dead idol?

d) I see Bruce Lee as an impatient learner. Little patience for tradition and picking up bits here and there, adding on to his rojak dish and presto, his expression of his understanding which works for him. Great for the short run but how about long term development? Unfortunately, we will never know how Bruce Lee would be like over the later years cause he is dead. But if we look at today’s MMA fighters perhaps we have an idea. In terms of skill development everybody grows old, grows slow and grows weaker. As fast as you are, as beautifully shaped as your body is today, if you don’t maintain it you will revert to just like the rest of us. But we are alive and well. The skills we learn over many slow years will stay and deepen. I would not want to be famous when young, body riddled with injuries when old, unable to practice any more and can just look on, reliving the past glories in my memory. No Sir, I rather be able to practice when old, to keep up the exercise, have some fun, be alive and be well.

Thank you Uncle Bruce for the memories and lessons. Like your fellow Wing Chun student, Master Hawkins Cheung, whom I once had the fortune to learn something from, said if you are good, then you are good, no need to have to bring up Ip Man’s name to sell his (Hawkin’s) skills. If we want to be good then as much as we idolize you in the past we have to stop putting you on a pedestal.

Yes, dues should be given but there is a time to idolize, to worship and there is a time to leave tradition and blind idol worship behind so that we can be the best that we can be by breaking through our personal barriers. Looking back this is why I admire Bruce Lee and the real lesson I learned from him.


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