Read First: http://www.xanga.com/zao_tok/572506029/item.html
My Comments (since commenting is disabled on the linked xanga):
I’ve been reading your blog for quite a long time now and I think you have a pretty firm grasp about everything Bruce Lee ever taught. Your writing is consistent with all the books he’s written (which like you, I’ve also read).
But I think you’re reading too deeply into his writings. Economy of Motion is one of the principles of Jeet Kune Do… and I agree that it is only logical. And Lee himself did address the kiai issue in numerous writings. However just because Lee said it doesn’t mean I agree with it. The kiai issue is, today, a non-issue. Lee’s work was in large part reactionary, and a product of the times. He worked in an era of stereotypes and expectations– that’s why with his gritty “western” scientific approach to a domain previously dominated by eastern mysticism caught so much attention.
I don’t beleive that kiais are intrinsically a waste of energy. They are a waste of energy if you make noise for the sake of making noise. However, the kiai is also used as an attack. And it can also simply be the byproduct of energy usage (not the goal of energy usage). Depends on how you look at it, and the situation.
If all your energy was going into your screaming, that’s simply not the way it’s done. If that’s what your previous master expected, i mean, volume, then he’s mistaken as well. There’s a difference between a kiai and screaming. And though Lee picked on kiais in general, I beleive that if we had a chat with him he wouldn’t be against it if it was done with proper intent and expectations.
I am not attributing a mystical power to kiais, I’m simply saying that all things have their place in realistic combat if you match your input with your expected result. If you beleive that screaming is useless, then it is useless for you. You have found a way to fight without it. What I’m saying is that if there were such thing as an ‘objective’ method of fighting, and we really applied Lee’s writings of efficiency and economy of motion to the very extremist, our entire combative training would consist of nothing but eye gouging, since it’s the most damage you can inflict with the least amount of effort.
But of course, eye gouges won’t work on everyone. That’s why we end up compromising with less efficient tools, such as punches. Maybe even kicks. maybe even some locks. Somewhere down the line, we might also note that, as they teach in self deffense classes for women, you get your first break when you shout ‘your lungs out’ for that sudden stunning effect that gives you a slight edge. But I digress. My point isn’t to validate the kiai as a ‘technique’. My point is that though Lee’s philosophy does make a lot of sense, you mustn’t look at his lessons too deeply to the point that you miss his philosophy by getting stuck on his words. You remember the idea: missing the moon because we’re too busy following the finger? Same idea.
Lee did emphasize the importance of being practical. But life isn’t only about fighting. In that sense, there are other conditions to being ‘practical’. A man might wear stiff soled dress shoes to work, even though it would be more practical in an unexpected mugging attempt for him to have been wearing running shoes or steel toed boots. A person might have long hair because it’s practical in the sense that it makes the person attractive and that might lead to happiness– even though long hair in a fight is a bad idea.
My point is– what you deem as practical comes with a very specific context. What is practical for fighting may not be practical for your job, for your social life, etc.
So what of screaming out? For a lot of people, going to a martial arts class is about a social aspect. Screaming out loud is part of fitting in. As much as ‘fitting in’ comes with a lot of stigma, what’s wrong with fitting in really sometimes, just for me to play the devil’s advocate? What if that makes you truly happy?
Think of the true intentions of martial arts classes nowadays– some people do it for money. Some people do it for fun. Some do it for fitness. Shouting outloud can have the practical benefit if the person goes through his entire life without ever needing to use those skills in a street fight, and yet, they still managed to enjoy their experinece in martial arts class. Maybe they never get to scream in normal life…
These hypothesises of mine are ridiculous, I know, but I’m just saying that the reasoning that screaming takes too much energy is as circumstantial as anything I’m saying right now, and I beleive it’s one of the prime examples where Lee wasn’t “wrong” to say what he did but he wasn’t “right” either.
Bruce Lee was a product of his times. I beleive kiais at the time were one of those things that were part of the martial arts world, and his purpose was to bring forth the revolution. Ironically, in many of his movies, he does a lot of screaming himself. So shall we do as Lee says, or do as he does?
Don’t get me wrong– his teachings played a pivotal role in my own education, both in terms of martial arts and in other contexts. But ultimately, what I ‘took away’ from his method was nothing at all… I simply realized that his way of thinking was nothing special, and that’s in a sense what made it special. I can think just like him.
His writings are, I beleive, like a snapshot of his situation. His methodology is different from his first books to his last books, and that demonstrates that it was evolving. And I dont mean either to emphasize his obsession with simplicity… I mean to say simply that his books aren’t so much his ‘instructions’ for future generations so much as ‘observations’ of his own studies in process. And if we can assume that his art wasn’t static, then why are we even clinging to his techincally specific ideas?
Anyway– it’s not that I disagree explicitly with your post. I do know people who, while fighting, really aren’t fooling anyone or getting any results with their empty shouts. But there are others whose roars are not idle threats– nor are they even intended as threats sometimes. Sometimes, they are merely a statement. And a statment is neither wrong nor right– it is what it is and any qualifications we give it are only substantiated by the uses we find for it. Some people find it useful, others don’t. Bruce Lee had his opinion, and indeed, through it he could create his own reality by fighting from that context– but there are others out there who do the same from their own perspectives with equal success, regardless of the ‘traditionality’ of their ‘styles’.
Things like energy conservation? It is important, yes. And so are the principles inertia and all that.
… what I’m getting at though is that there is a ‘wrong’ way and a ‘right way’ to look at ‘styles’. The wrong way is when the style exists and you learn that style. The right way is when you exist, and the style is defined by you. You aren’t trying to be ‘special’, you’re simply trying to do what works for you.
And to be honest, JKD doesn’t work for everyone. Principles of economy of motion sound logical, but with the limited amount of training time that people have, there are at times more efficient ways of training that lead to ‘non-energey efficient techniques’ but which can still get results. Like I say– an eye gouge might have excellent power return, but there are situations that evolve where you are forced to be less than efficient. We climb that ladder with increasing difficulty in every situation to find what will ultimately work out. Energy efficiency is important– but we must also understand that it is an ideal, and we can no more subscribe to it as a mantra anymore than we could say that capitalism works perfectly. In theory, it does– in practice, everyone has to be allowed their own methods to navigate the big picture.
There is one point I disagree with you on though. You say that when you fight, logic, thinking, morality don’t matter.
I disagree with this.All that does matter. While I do beleive in the concept of being ‘in the zone’ where the fighting experience takes over, I beleive that for a true warrior, thinking, morality and logic must come into play. I’m not talking about technique. I’m talking about choices. Why are you fighting?
WIthout logic, thinking and morality, you have no chance of deciding when a fight has gone too far. You have no chance of stopping if you’re winning already. You have no chance at giving mercy.
On the flipside, if your opponent was winning, you’d have no chance of surviving either if there wasn’t some appeal to reason.
What I’m saying– all this talk of practicality, especially in terms of the teachings of Lee, makes a big deal out of the concept of ‘winning’. But one can win a battle but lose the war, so to speak. And that is what happens to a lot of people who get caught up in the technical bits of JKD but miss what it means to, philosophically, be a true martial artist.
The goal of martial arts is an improovement of self– not a return to the basest of animal instincts. The highest form of the warrior isn’t just someone who gives himself over to instincts– no matter how honed these instincts are. It is one who understands, not only the mechanincs of fighting, but the reasons for fighting.
This is something which is all too easily overlooked if we concentrate too much on the mechanical improovement of fighting rather than the philosophical implications of fighting. Weapons, even sharpened ones– they need reason to be wielded, and that ultimately determines the infinite merit of a dull blade. Bruce Lee’s writings are too often used only as intructions for weaponsmithing.
I think though he would have liked for us to see his writings as memoirs, so that we could understand his passion. It is his having of a passion, the dynamic mechanics of self exploration, that he would have liked to pass on to us. Ultimately, JKD would be useless in itself, even to Lee.