I’ve just finished reading Matthew Polly’s excellent biography of Bruce Lee. Lee stretched the boundaries of what it is to be human and the book is full of stories of what he was capable of – watch him doing his two-finger press-ups then see how you get on trying to copy him. Lee was a street fighter who managed somehow to take the best of many martial arts and turn them into something that was unique to him. He fought with incredible power and extraordinary speed. There’s a Youtube video of a karate world champion telling the story of how he challenged Lee to a fight and Lee told him he would hit him four times in the face before he had even raised his hands to protect himself – which he proceeded to do. And there are stories of tough guy stuntmen on the set of his films challenging Lee to a fight and regretting it when Lee had them flying across the room in seconds.
But as well as being an astounding martial artist, Lee was a creative artist too and it is such a sadness that he died (from heat stroke, most probably – don't believe all the lunatic conspiracy theories) at the age of 32 just when his talents as a filmmaker were about to find their full expression.
By the way, if you ever thought it was a waste of time warming up before your workout, just remember Lee forgetting to warm up one time and injuring – permanently – his fourth sacral nerve. Doctors said he would never kick high again – but this was Bruce Lee.
I have a few clients who do martial arts visiting me in Highbury. Although I’ve always been fascinated by Bruce Lee, I’ve never learnt any of the martial arts. But Lee has taught me to use the power of my hip when practising massage rather than the power of my arms – it adds a noticeable additional force when I need to go in deeply on someone who might otherwise be impossible to get into.
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”