After presenting in Seattle for Perform Better a couple years ago, I took some time to walk up to visit Bruce Lee’s grave.
Bruce Lee was a huge inspiration to me as a young martial artist, and I think that was true for thousands of martial arts practitioners so his grave is visited often.
In fact, Dana White has said that Bruce Lee was the “”Godfather of Mixed Martial Arts”.
Bruce Lee passed away in 1973. Some time in the 60′s he developed a philosophy that there was no single best martial art. Lee felt that fighters needed to cross train in different systems as they all had their strengths and weaknesses. This was best summed up by his famous quote:
Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless.
Accept no way as the way, accept no limitation as limitation
Bruce Lee was violently criticized because of this. Martial artists fought it. They didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to believe that their own style – their own little world – was superior….
In 1993 the ultimate fighting championship was created.
The initial concept was to determine which martial art – under a no holds barred scenario was superior.
It was karate vs judo vs wrestling vs boxing etc.
Fast forward 23 years…..
We no longer talk about martial art styles — we talk about MIXED martial arts. It’s a mainstream term.
We no longer use the term ‘style’ to describe a fighter — we say “he has good stand-up” or a “good ground game”.
Because martial arts have evolved and have embraced a totality. Bruce Lee was correct – there was no superior style. Everything had strengths and weaknesses. In fact, styles were a reductionist approach.
A strong guy in the American mid-west became a wrestler. A tall kid in Thailand went to kickboxing etc….
But a holistic or total approach to fighting was always superior. A mixed system using the strengths of each to create the best approach possible.
Here we are, 43 years since Lee’s death and the martial arts world has embraced that ideology completely.
But in our world – the fitness world – we are still arguing about which method is better – powerlifting vs olympic lifting, aerobics vs intervals…. Which certification? Which course? DB’s or Kb’s? FMS or another evaluation? “If you could only pick one exercise…..”
The answer has to be — there is no one single best approach. A hybrid approach will always be superior.
But this does not mean “dabbling” or just picking stuff you like in training. Lee’s approach was to immerse yourself totally in one style to truly understand it.
[Absorbing what is useful] … is the idea that a martial artist can only learn techniques in their proper context, through a holistic approach. Styles provide more than just techniques: They also offer training methods, theories, and mental attitudes. Learning these factors allows a student to experience a system in what Lee called its “totality”. Only through learning a system completely will an artist be able to, “absorb what is useful,” and discard the remainder. Real combat training situations allow the student to learn what works, and what doesn’t. The critical point of this principle is that the choice of what to keep is based on personal experimentation with various opponents over time. It is not based on how a technique may look or feel, or how precisely the artist can mimic tradition. In the final analysis, if the technique is not beneficial in combat, it is discarded. Lee believed that only the individual could come to understand what worked; based on critical self analysis, and by, “honestly expressing oneself, without lying to oneself.”
In Lee’s world – the Litmus test of a technique is it’s effectiveness in an actual combat situation.
In our world we can only evaluate a training philosophy honestly by first understanding it completely and then looking at the results it produces consistently over time with our clients.
At Results Fitness, if it works, we use it. If it doesn’t we disregard it.
We need to evolve from this reductionist approach and follow Bruce Lee’s lead. We need to become “mixed” training specialists.
Absorb what is useful