There are ideas that strike, there are characters that inspire and who remain engraved in history.
And then there’s Bruce Lee, who went further.
A boy suspended halfway between two worlds, the West and the East, who with the strength of his thoughts, words and fists has managed to establish himself in the world of cinema, martial arts, and culture, to influence generations of men and women, to wipe out racial stereotypes, to become an immortal symbol of intelligence, power, skill, success.
Bruce Lee learned and learned and learned and learned all the time, right down to the last second and he did it his way, with an unwavering will and an out-of-the-ordinary skill.
Focus and Persistence
Doing one thing at a time and doing it right, is Bruce Lee’s second secret. And here, is one of the best-known quotes:
“I’m not afraid of the man who trained ten thousand kicks, I’m afraid of the man who only trained one ten thousand times.”
For Bruce, specialization is fundamental, it is right to be curious and multifaceted but we cannot let the mania of multitasking and the passion for learning distract us from what we are doing.
Do you want another quote? Okay, okay, here it is: “the victorious warrior is an ordinary man focused like a laser”.
Not only that, but it is also necessary to develop constancy and perseverance, you do not learn something thoroughly in ten minutes, it takes time, effort, and training.
“Persistence, persistence, persistence. Power is created and maintained with daily practice and continuous effort”.
And this should be put in mind by those who propose “study methods” for exams in a few days.
Application, testing, concreteness: “Knowing is not enough, we have to apply. Wanting is not enough, we must do “.
This is a fundamental lesson, from the method of study at school or university to martial arts theory and practice must always go hand in hand, alternate, exchange, and mix, like the Yin and Yang of Chinese Taoism.
After learning something you must immediately put it to the test to consolidate it, clarify what was missing, and prepare ourselves for when we really have to use those skills, in an exam, a test, a competition, or a merciless fight against an entire school of Japanese martial artists..
“If you want to learn to swim, jump into the water. There is nothing on dry land that could be useful to you ”.
Flexibility and Adaptation
Whether in a ring or in front of a textbook (ah, by the way, Lee devoured books and had a huge personal library), Bruce Lee maintained the same attitude, fierce opposition to the concept of rigidity and static. You have to adapt, adapt your method, your style, and your thinking to the situation you find yourself in front of.
This is fundamental and it is a principle that I myself have tried many times, in my field, to communicate: dogma, whether it is in the movement of a fist or in the choice of always the same type of scheme when studying, is stupid. The only smart move is to have an arsenal of techniques and principles and to master them so well, so thoroughly, that you can choose which ones to apply, when, and how. And also to create new ones when needed.
“Empty your mind, it becomes formless, changeable, like water. If you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. If you put water in a bottle it becomes the bottle. If he puts it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, the water can flow, or it can hit. Be water, my friend”.
But we can also learn this same lesson of flexibility from the natural world: “note that the stiffer tree is the one that cracks more easily, while bamboo or reed survives by bending in the wind”. You could also apply this philosophy to your studying also. For example, when met with many burdening tasks, it might be a better idea not to try and deal with them all by yourself and ultimately fail, but delegate some of them to a paper writer and focus on the really important ones.
Learn from the Mistakes
Finally, here’s the eighth secret: Bruce Lee was a ruthless critic of himself and others. He is a keen and pragmatic observer. He analyzed and brooded over the mistakes of himself and everyone, drew conclusions, and exploited every failure and every mistake to draw a useful lesson for the future.
“It is not a shame to be knocked down by someone. The important thing is to ask yourself when you get knocked out, why did this happen? If a person reflects in this way, there is hope for him”.
He lost a fight against a Judoka because he didn’t know how to deal with holds, he made the mistake and spent the following months incorporating holds, throws, and counterattacks into the Jeet Kuned Do (a story that really happened). Did he observe that a particular tendency of a martial art did not lead to good results? He marked it and found a way to make it disappear from his repertoire. Did he understand that the audience didn’t like a certain type of scene? He removed her from the film.
“For me,” said Bruce, “defeat is something temporary. Defeat just tells me that something I’m doing is wrong. It is the way to success and truth”.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking of Bruce Lee as just that little sculpted guy who kicks in 70s movies and yells “uatta”. The quantity and depth of that man’s thoughts are worth being taken seriously and placed close to those of many other great minds.
One does not become an immortal icon by chance, one becomes one by studying, learning, and constantly improving oneself.
And I would say that Bruce Lee’s model, for anyone who wants to learn something, in any context, be it a student at school, a university, or a worker is an absolute inspiration.