Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bruce Lee's combat strategy

A traditional view on Chinese martial art training can be appreciated through viewing some of the 70+ movies of Huang FeiHong (黃飛鴻) starred by late famous actor, martial artist, Taoist Neidan practitioner Guan DeXing (関德興).  In addition to some standard morality codes, Master Huang's training system consisted of two parts: firstly martial arts workout (for health and a foundation combat training), and secondly combat strategy and techniques. Those who were, for whatever reason, only interested to fight and win in the street were labeled as "engaging in gangster's fight 打爛仔交" and would be despised upon by the Master.

In the movies, needless to say the Master always won in the end, very often the Master would formulate different strategy to win a combat against other martial artists with different styles (in addition to Chinese martial arts, Muay Thai, Judo, Boxing, Karate etc were also included), with or without weapons on both sides.

In many cases, a sound strategy plus well-trained good execution almost completely determines the outcome of a combat situation. If you are familiar with UFC (the first popularized MMA platform), you can remember the Gracie Jujitsu guys (notably Royce Gracie) always won the fights with the strategy of tackle, full-mount, and finish with submission technique (choke was their preference). Standup fighters couldn't survive the tackle, grapplers lost the mounting position, after that the submission came "naturally".

It is interesting to note that it was Japanese submission fighter Kazushi Sakuraba 桜庭 和志 who first definitively overpowered this strategy with another strategy: punch to intimidate, escape full mount advance, finish with arm (elbow) or leg (ankle) submission - submission techniques that the Japanese fighters were more proficient in. As the saying goes: the rest is history.

In the 60's, many Hong Kong young men from the New Territories (rural areas) couldn't find decent jobs and had to go to UK to help upon (and eventually opened one's own) Chinese take-away shops or sit-in eateries. My once sifu the late Master Shao HanSheng (邵漢生: a famous North Style kung-fu master and a minor actor with thousands of students. It was said that he once bartered his kung-fu with Bruce Lee's Cha-cha!) once told us that once in a while there would be young people who came to him asking for a few lessons of kung-fu before they went to UK. Master Shao said sometimes they could only take ONE lesson, and he would teach them a practical set of double-headed pole (a pole approximately stands up to one's eye-brows). His set turned the pole into an extension of one's arms and could do blocks against hand and leg attack as well as doing straight, side, up, down attacks in various combinations. Assuming that the student could do the necessary practise in UK, he would be able to live in confidence running his (or his relative's) eateries in remote areas. What is Master Shao's strategy? As he said, Chinese were shorter and physically weaker than an average Caucasian, a double-headed pole could give his students the necessary strength and length! As the Master said, probably most of them wouldn't need to use the pole for the rest of their lives, but after learning it, together with the strategy, he would most likely be living with confidence and have a good night's sleep thereafter. A good benefit of a good strategy!

Back to the title of this post, what then was Bruce Lee's combat strategy. Bruce Lee sometimes liked to express his ideas in a philosophical way. These are his famous strategy statements:

1. Live water
2. Use the unlimited to do the limited, use the undefined to execute the defined. (以無限為有限,以無法為有法)

The above statements are very "Taoist".  Bruce was probably talking about the same thing.
Bruce Lee's combat strategy

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