Bruce Lee on Simplicity – garry’s posterous or Bruce Lee on Teaching (ht @daylemajor)

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In Jeet Kune Do, one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity… It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation. Jeet Kune-Do is basically a sophisticated fighting style stripped to its essentials.

Art is the expression of the self. The more complicated and restricted the method, the less the opportunity for expression of one’s original sense of freedom. Though they play an important role in the early stage, the techniques should not be too mechanical, complex or restrictive. If we cling blindly to them, we shall eventually become bound by their limitations. Remember, you are expressing the techniques and not doing the techniques. If somebody attacks you, your response is not Technique No.1, Stance No. 2, Section 4, Paragraph 5. Instead you simply move in like sound and echo, without any deliberation. It is as though when I call you, you answer me, or when I throw you something, you catch it. It’s as simple as that – no fuss, no mess. In other words, when someone grabs you, punch him. To me a lot of this fancy stuff is not functional.

A martial artist who drills exclusively to a set pattern of combat is losing his freedom. He is actually becoming a slave to a choice pattern and feels that the pattern is the real thing. It leads to stagnation because the way of combat is never based on personal choice and fancies, but constantly changes from moment to moment, and the disappointed combatant will soon find out that his ‘choice routine’ lacks pliability. There must be a ‘being’ instead of a ‘doing’ in training. One must be free. Instead of complexity of form, there should be simplicity of expression.
To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.

In building a statue, a sculptor doesn’t keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiselling away at the inessentials until the truth of its creation is revealed without obstructions. Thus, contrary to other styles, being wise in Jeet Kune-Do doesn’t mean adding more; it means to minimize, in other words to hack away the unessential.
It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.

This post was for the design realm, but it took on new meaning when referenced to teaching, particularly post-method perspectives. Following passage was particularly interesting.


A martial artist who drills exclusively to a set pattern of combat is losing his freedom. He is actually becoming a slave to a choice pattern and feels that the pattern is the real thing. It leads to stagnation because the way of combat is never based on personal choice and fancies, but constantly changes from moment to moment, and the disappointed combatant will soon find out that his ‘choice routine’ lacks pliability. There must be a ‘being’ instead of a ‘doing’ in training. One must be free. Instead of complexity of form, there should be simplicity of expression.

Over-reliance on set methods strangles creativity. Unfortunately, this is now how teachers are currently trained. Most teacher trainers understand the need to vary approaches (yes, I’m using these interchangeably. Don’t freak out) and move beyond method, but the tendency is for teacher education classes to focus on distinct methods. I understand why. We want to provide a foundation for teachers to base their practice on. The problem is that this presentation of methods ends up convincing students that they have to pick one (usually the one the teacher is pushing most–we all have biases).

The end result is batches of teachers who strive to stick to a method even in the face of realities that suggest changes in method, or strategies. Dogma is dangerous: dogma is stubborn, dogma doesn’t bend, and dogma unrealistic.

We need to focus more on the art of teaching than the practice. Pedagogical ecology (Daniel & Poole, 2009) is probably a better approach to both teaching, not only in teacher education but the broad range of teaching and training contexts.

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