The Cult of Bruce Lee

18 Feb

In the martial arts, there is nothing more “sacred” than Bruce Lee. There is no way to objectively discuss him, every conversation that is anything but blind praise sets the internet on fire. Yet, as part of the Truth project, here I go again!

First, for everyone whose knee jerk reaction to any discussion of Bruce Lee is to respond “he made the martial arts popular”; while it may be true, it isn’t that simple either. Bruce Lee was of course a man trying to promote himself and build an acting career. He wasn’t above playing to biases and misconceptions. Some of the biggest misconceptions about the martial arts originate with Lee, his writings and his movies.

Bruce Lee quotes and memes flood the internet. He is, pardon me in this, credited as a deep thinker. The reality is Lee was a philosophy major. He was exposed to a lot of thought that certainly effected him, but wasn’t necessarily his own! Lee took famous Buddhist teachings, such as “At First, I Saw Mountains As Mountains And Rivers As Rivers” and paraphrased them to make his points about his view on martial arts. While other people’s ignorance, especially his family posting his personal notes without annotation after his death, isn’t directly Lee’s responsibility, it is still true that 50 years after his death people still are being corrected on the origins of much of his so called “thought”.

Just as much of “Bruce Lee thought” is not actually his own, much of his technical material also has other sources. As stated, Lee is not responsible for his family publishing his personal notes without annotation after his death, but the clear result was many were not credited. “Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, the title itself absurd and demonstrating a complete lack of basic understanding of both martial arts and Chinese language, initially failed to credit boxer Edwin Haislet and fencer James Castello as sources of both illustrations and text. At my last review, it still doesn’t credit the French Savate book that Lee also copied, nor the illustrations taken from both a Judo text and Gene LeBell’s grappling book.


Of course, if you really want to see violent reactions on the internet, ask questions about Bruce Lee’s actual, personal martial arts skills? I don’t know, and honestly I am not making a claim one way or the other. However, it would be naive to not recognize that certain people owe their fame, the success of their schools and the success of their seminars to the fact they were associated with Lee. It is not unreasonable to suggest that these people are NOT the most unbiased, reliable source. “Bruce Lee was just a man, he was a good martial artist, but nothing special, now pay me $350 for my Bruce Lee seminar“….

Was Bruce Lee really the god of martial arts some of his fans make him out to be? He was, truth be told, famous for being a movie star, not a martial artist, not a “fighter”. Did he drop his hands because in film, you want to see the star’s face? Perhaps? But we certainly have a lot of footage of him training with bad form, hands down. Is it “blasphemy” to discuss this? I wasn’t even aware there was a church of Bruce Lee ™?

From an objective viewpoint, the video we have of Lee hitting a bag at his house is full of technical errors. To be clear, it wouldn’t even merit discussion if it were not constantly displayed as evidence of Lee’s skill (?). The justifications presented when the technical mistakes are brought up borders on the absurd. Isn’t it fair to just ask, WHY? Why must people present Bruce Lee is the Jesus of the martial arts world?

Was Bruce Lee a “fighter”? Not at all in any conventional sense. He made his living making films, and teaching martial arts privately. And there is nothing at all wrong with that, except that certain fans must make it out differently. We are frequently told that Lee lectured on the deficiencies of traditional martial arts and was challenged by someone who did Karate. Lee beat the man. Is it wrong to point out; we don’t know who this man was, we don’t know how much training he really had, we don’t know if he had any skill at all. There is a big difference between “Bruce Lee vs the 5th Dan Karate master” and “Bruce Lee vs the guy who took six months lessons at the YMCA”, is there not?

Bruce Lee engaged in an amateur boxing tournament while in Hong Kong. We certainly know boxing influenced Lee. But the tournament is often offered as yet again evidence of fighting skill? Again, we don’t know very much about this event, so it doesn’t really tell us all that much. I will say, Golden Gloves tournaments are organized in many cities in the US, but winning them in certain cities like NY, Chicago and Detroit mean a lot more than winning them in other cities. Which is to suggest that we not put too much weight on a small event held in Hong Kong that we have no footage of nor know much about.

Where we do have footage, the oft cited “rooftop fights” we have learned that legends grow in time often out of proportion with reality.

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The kung fu troll in 8 easy lessons

25 Jan

If you belong to my Facebook group Real Kung Fu Application, you saw some house cleaning recently. Two rather straight forward posts magically brought the kung fu trolls out of the woodwork. Of course, this also let me REMOVE THEM.

Really, they had already shown their true colors from the beginning. That’s because they all inevitably exhibit the same characteristics time and time again. There are probably the top 8 easy ways to spot the kung fu troll.

1. Their Facebook profiles might as well be Russian news bots. Their icon pic is often something obscure, or a small grainy picture you can barely make out. They is virtually nothing explaining where and with whom they train (much more on that later), there may be a few still pictures of some poses straight out of “kung fu theatre” and there is most definitely NO VIDEO of them doing martial arts.

2. They usually show up in a discussion when they either comment about something that is NOT being actually discussed, or insert some ludicrous claim that immediately demands addressing.

3. After they make some mind boggling absurd claim like “I killed 10 guys once in a fight, I used my spear” (!) they will immediately get upset when questioned. They will then REFUSE to provide context, explanation, or most importantly EVIDENCE.

4. They will say they practice some martial art NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF and act like it’s world famous and should instantly bring them not only credibility but reverence.

5. Most often, they will when questioned refuse to identify their teacher. If not this situation, they will name some one no one has ever heard of, act like they are the most famous teacher ever, and then refuse to provide more information.

6. Inevitably, they will continue to make impossible, absurd claims. They are world champions, but often in secret events that they can’t talk about. They’ve beaten big name fighters, but can’t talk about it (it’s secret). They got “black belts” in 27 styles, some in 8 months or less! the longer you listen, the more they sound like the scripts to grade C martial arts movies.

7. Often a closer look at their Facebook profile will show they have at best a highschool education. If the profile doesn’t outright tell you this, their grammar, spelling and disregard of dumb stuff like facts and science are usually the next big hint. Now, there are ton of fine people who ONLY have a highschool education, but there IS a strong relationship between lack of education and buying into fake things.

8. And, of course, when they can’t provide any evidence, can’t keep up with a discussion and are called on the many inconsistencies in what they say, they have nothing left but the INTERNET CHALLENGE! These have several variations, though often they involve promises of money (of which there is no evidence it exists), uniform considerations, footwear rules and finally a complete absence of practical logistical considerations like “you live in Texas and the person you challenged live in Sweden”.

I promised eight, you got eight, but I will conclude with another observation;

No one who has real training in a real martial art under a real teacher seems to believe these sorts of things, and doesn’t ever act this way.

Asking for a little help…..

17 Jan

I admit I feel awkward asking for this help. But when I’ve coached other instructors and owners, one of the most important lessons I’ve stressed is the need to ask for help when you really need it. I came home last night and realized I need some help.

Help NY San Da pay their real estate tax

As any business in NYC, part of our lease includes our proportionate share of the real estate tax increases. I usually set aside a little money every month towards what I ASSUME will be the bill each year. This year, I was shocked by how high the bill is. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been, the city makes a lot of it’s money bucking up these taxes. Totally my fault 😦

Anyway, I need to pay this to keep the gym open, and while I had the original amount set aside, I am still short. If you can help me out, I’d appreciate it

Help NY San Da pay their real estate tax

More from the OMFG file….

12 Jan

If you follow this blog or follow me on Facebook, you probably know that more than once I’ve discussed the weird, inconsiderate, rude and outright A-holes that wander into martial arts schools. I believe my last blog on the subject was “Advice on how not to be that guy”. Honestly, things have been rather calm here lately, but then last night I got the worst person EVER! And that is saying a lot!

How you can be a jerk literally every second you are in a facility boggles the mind? This person literally did every single thing I am about to highlight in this blog.

1. Showed up late. We ask you arrive 15 minutes before we start. You have paperwork to do, you have to change, we don’t want to rush you. But we do want you to not miss the warm up and we want you to go through the whole warm up because we literally walk you through all the basics like stance, hand position, footwork and basic strikes.

2. Asked if we had wraps, yes we do. BUT he wanted to “borrow” some wraps? Who would ask to borrow wraps? Would you like to borrow dirty underwear?

3. Disappeared into the locker room. He was already late, so we needed him to change and get onto the mat. He disappeared into the locker room, so…..

4. He then walked on the mat late. OK, you are now really late, you are missing the warm up, you are missing the instruction, but, ok, finally you are on the mat, EXCEPT

5. After disappearing in the locker room and walking on the mat late for class, he announces he now wants to buy wraps. I am the only person working that day, I am running the warm up, but I manage to run off the mat, throw handwraps at him, take his money (of course he wanted to “pay afterwards”! Do you know how many times I’ve NOT been paid by “pay afterwards” guys?), make change and get back on the mat.

6. So I am back on the mat, running the warm up. This guy is now wrapping one hand. He misses almost all of the warm up.

7. The few times he stops wrapping his ONE HAND, he decides to completely ignore what the entire class is actually doing and does something that I can safely say I can not identify?

8. We are done with the warm up. I tell everyone to find a heavy bag. At this point, he decides to wrap his other hand. He misses entirely the first two rounds.

9. 40 minutes into the class, he has finally wrapped his hands and decided to join class. Everyone is on the OUTSIDE of the bag rack hitting bags. He decides to stand INSIDE the bag rack. he also keeps changing which bag he is hitting.

10. Needless to say, the remaining rounds he does not pay attention to any of the instruction, does not do the actual rounds, and does his own thing, which is unidentifiable.

11. Of course, at the end of class he asks about advanced classes, sparring and “fighting”

The evidence of a higher being is the fact I have yet to kill one of these people. I am of course joking…..

Belts, ranking and other thoughts on organizing martial arts

6 Dec

As I have announced, one of my biggest projects has just launched! The Lion’s Roar martial arts curriculum is now being presented online at https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/nmr-online-curriculum. It is a combination of new footage with re-edits of previous archival material. It will present new material each week and will eventually be an entire system online.

Probably one of the first thing you will notice when you visit the page is how I have organized the material into “belts”, AKA “ranks.” Let me be perfectly clear; this is a completely arbitrary arrangement, not to be taken as Truth in any way! All you have to do is read one of my most famous blogs, “Capturing truth in a bottle?”, to know I do not think you can really “organize” Truth. Yet, just as the blog describes, this is a form of expedient means. And, frankly, it will also make it easier for those already in that frame of mind to absorb the material.

There are some “interesting” stories in the martial arts world regarding rank. One stated that in the “beginning” there was only white belts and black belts. I strongly believe this is metaphorical. But it does serve that purpose. Making us consider what ranking really means? What is a beginner? What is advanced?

In the late 1970’s, before I even met the Shuai Jiao people, I read an article in Black Belt magazine that claimed that belt ranking came from Shuai Jiao. It IS a form of jacket wrestling and belts ARE worn. A white belt is clean, the student hasn’t really practiced much yet. Yellow comes from wear and sweat. Green is from grass stains. Brown is from the dirt, when the grass is worn away from the practice area after years of drilling. Black is the accumulation of all the blood, sweat and dirt…

There is probably some reliable evidence that Judo’s Kano invented the first real belt ranking scheme. He also apparently used the method the Brazilians are still using; white, blue, purple, brown and black. Was there a significance to these colors? I don’t know. Anyone out there?

In the Korean martial arts, they were really big on applying concept to the colors. I was originally ranked and taught the belt colors as

– White representing purity
– Yellow, representing a seed responding to the light of the sun
– Green, that seed actually growing
– Red, that plant reaching for the brightness of the sun
– Brown we were taught meant danger, ie you have technique but not necessarily good control

I am not sure I want to tell you that the ranks I just created for the online program mean anything. They either do or they don’t; and it doesn’t really matter either way

Martial Arts Frauds, “martial virtue”, “respect” and other BS…..

5 Dec

Human nature such as it is, I suppose we should not be shocked that the martial arts community (like all communities) has its share of con men and frauds. With the Chinese martial arts in particular, this has become a bit (no, an outright) problem. Perhaps we should ask WHY we have these con men and frauds?

If you’ve read my book, “Chinese Martial Arts: A Historical Outline”, you will already know that for much of Chinese martial arts history, martial artists traveled frequently in the same circles as con men and frauds. The “JiangHu” was full of street performers and snake oil salesmen, as well as outright thieves and bandits. For every teacher selling real Dit Da Jow, there had to be at least three selling utterly worthless brown water (or worse). Still, we would suspect that most of those in the JuangHu, even the con men and frauds, still probably had some martial arts skills. They did after all have to defend themselves.

Later in my book, we look at the so called “boxers”, and there is strong evidence that much of this movement were not orthodox martial artists, but rather ignorant peasants convinced that spirits had taken over their body. Their so called “martial arts” were often nothing more than flowery movements they had copied from local opera performances! So, clearly, we can find evidence of outright fraud and “quackery” even in the “good old days”.

The problem is, it is relatively certain to say that con men, frauds and “quackery” has EXPANDED in recent decades in Chinese martial arts circles. Some of it frankly boggles the mind; grown men acting like fools to sell the BS of some obvious fraud? And let us never forget that increasingly these days, these con men survive because increasingly they are NOT called to task.

Of course, something negative CAN be said of challenging an “old man” to a fight. There is this embarrassing example. And even some legit schools these days may not really want to “go there” with paying students there for classes that are supposed to be going on, etc etc. However, exposing facts and discussing the truth is a big departure from kicking a 70 year old in the head. Yet, we have those who will rattle on about “martial virtue” and / or “respect.”

If you know me, you know where I sit on these issues. Frauds and con men should NOT be hiding behind false claims of “martial virtue” or “respect”. Their is nothing virtuous or respectful about lies, fraud, nonsense and staining legitimate lineages. And, frankly, if you are not part of the solution, you ARE the problem.

The online martial arts curriculum is HERE!

30 Nov

I have a lot of ideas, and usually three or four projects going on at the same time. Of course, there is a down side to this, often I admit I lose focus. Things get delayed or just do not get done. However, right now one of by biggest and most ambitious ideas is now a reality! A complete curriculum is now being filmed and made available online via a monthly subscription on my teachable page.

https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/nmr-online-curriculum

If you know me, you know I am never short on content to share with you. So take a look at what I put up in just ONE DAY!

You might say that I already have a ton of content out there, much of it for FREE. You would be partially correct; this online curriculum is going to be very particularly organized and progressively offered. Much of my current online content is just random samplings of my ongoing classes and seminars.

Furthermore, as the teachable online curriculum grows, I will be REMOVING much of the free content you can find on the web in places such as youtube. NO, I am not going to take it all down, but a lot of the random stuff will be removed. And a lot of the more detailed stuff will be reintegrated into the online curriculum. So I guess I can suggest two things;

1. Enjoy the free content while it lasts

and

2. SUBSCRIBE NOW to the online curriculum. It will NOT disappoint you! I promise!

https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/nmr-online-curriculum

Ross Defensive Methods – on “self defense”

24 Oct

For as long as I have done martial arts, I have had very mixed feelings about “self defense” training. I know many people who practice martial arts, as much as two or three sessions a week, who are woefully unprepared for a real conflict. Of all the things that matter if you must defend yourself, technique is perhaps one of the least important. You must deal with the adrenaline dump and you must have experience with being hit, really being hit. Most “martial arts” programs either do not address these aspects correctly, or at all.

If you have followed me at all, you know that I do not believe anyone has a monopoly on Truth. If you are looking for source material for “self defense” you can find it in many places, but certainly a major resource is pre-war Judo. The politics of Japanese ultra-nationalism, the resulting war in the pacific and the American occupation all had direct impact upon the history of Judo and it might be hard now to understand that pre-war Judo was very much a martial art about fighting and self defense. It was the source material for the Gracie family’s jiujitsu in Brazil and for the pioneers of “self defense” in the west; American, English and French.

Pre-war Judo was perhaps the first mixed martial art as we now understand it, and it was fertile ground for, perhaps it even suggested, mixing with western boxing, western wrestling and French savate. A resurgence in interest in “combatives” means we can now find pictures, copies of the old manuals and even video of these many projects. They would be rather familiar to most modern mixed martial artists, but that is also one of my points here. Early attempts at “self defense” in the West were often not that different from the works produced by their Asian instructors. Asian and Western techniques were integrated and the program was directed at Westerners but really they were just another form of “martial arts” training.

Among the western pioneers of “self defense,” William E Fairbairn stands tall. Fairbairn was a British Royal Marine and police officer who developed hand-to-hand combat methods for the Shanghai Municipa; Police (SMP) during the interwar period, and for allied special forces during World War II. He also created his own fighting system known as “Defendu”. Among his source material was most certainly pre-war Judo, along with boxing, wrestling and savate. Of course, many focus on his years with the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) where of course he was exposed to Chinese martial arts.

A number of things made Fairbairn unique, but among them were both his practical experience and his scientific approach to the subject of fighting. He observed and recorded actual conflicts, noting what was actually used and the outcomes. His methods were not supposition, they were statistically derived.

Those who practice Chinese martial arts often focus on the Chinese martial arts influence upon Fairbairn’s work. They miss the point. As a historian of Chinese martial arts with good connections in Shanghai, I can tell you that the men Fairbairn observed, members of Chinese organized crime, were in fact well trained in martial arts. They were often actually members of various sects / pai / schools. Yet what Fairbairn observed, indeed focused upon, is what they actually used in real conflicts and which of those things actually worked! That is to say he could have cared less what “school” they belonged to or what they practiced as part of their “tradition” but rather what they actually did when a conflict occurred.

I often cite the Dog Brothers’ brilliant “DIE LESS OFTEN.” When it comes to real conflict, there are no guarantees. Ideally, a person should be training in a real martial art for both their fitness / wellness AND self defense. Certainly, my campaign towards more realistic and productive martial arts training is well known. Yet there will be people who are not going to pursue that sort of ongoing training. And those people also need “self defense,” increasingly so in this world! I am the father of a daughter and so I ponder these issues now daily.

In keeping with the above observation that no amount of training offers any guarantee, I have still created “Ross Defensive Methods” to offer realistic and practical training for the average person who is only going to do casual training. We will continue to offer seminars at my location in New York City, and begin to offer short-term courses as well. I will also begin a book on this subject. As always, I will do what I can to improve my little corner of the world.

More on POWERFUL WOMEN…

1 Oct

Unless you are in a cave, and without internet access, you must know there is a lot going on around us. It is perhaps (hopefully?) a time for the beginning of significant change. But in the meantime, I can understand how people can be on edge and how the flat internet can make people hard to read. All that said, I still strongly objected when recently I was called a rapist. More precisely, someone made the claim that “most men” are rapists.

As I have already said; I have female friends, I’ve trained and continue to train many women, and I am the father of a daughter. As I said in response to the above comment; men are sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and friends of women. To dismiss them all as rapists serves no one.

That being said, I am also reminded (vaguely?) of something that Malcolm X said as he made his momentous change in positions. He had previously disregarded all white men, but modified his position. He would accept them in a sense, they could help his movement, but they were not PART of it. Something to this effect (?). And this is precisely how I feel about all this.

I would like to think I can make a positive contribution to this all: from ongoing classes, to self defense seminars, to helping to produce a positive community in which much more can happen. But be gentle with me as I proceed. And I ask not only for your help, but your insight and your contributions.

THANK YOU

My Qin Na / Kah, Na seminar now available online

27 Sep

Missed my recent Qin Na / Kahn Na seminar on concepts vs practical application? No worries! You can learn all the awesome Qin Na I covered in my seminar online at https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/qin-na-concepts-and-practical-application

I have over 40 years of training, most of which under the direction of the late master Chan Tai San. This is REAL Qin Na (AKA Chin Na or Kahm Na); joint locking, escapes, chokes, neck locks, etc. The BEST close in fighting you will ever learn!

#kungfu #chinesemartialarts #chinna #qinna #chantaisan #lamapai #lionsroar #sifudavidross #nysanda

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