Bruce Lee and training formlessness

The late famous master Bruce Lee demonstrating his equally famous kick. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

The famous master Bruce Lee demonstrating his equally famous kick. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

This just wouldn’t be a martial arts blog without at least one post about Bruce Lee.

Back in 2013 May, one of my pals asked me the following: “Bruce Lee advised to do free-form. how did he practice without any form?”

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The survival of authentic kung fu

Venerable Hai Deng, who was famous for his One Finger Zen skill, was the last abbot of the Shaolin temple who advocated traditional kung fu training. After he left the Shaolin temple in the 1960's, the focus of the Shaolin temple gradually shifted towards demonstration wushu rather than martial arts. Image reproduced from www.shaolin.org

Venerable Hai Deng, who was famous for his One Finger Zen skill, was the last abbot of the Shaolin temple who advocated traditional kung fu training. After he resigned in the 1960’s, the focus of the Shaolin temple gradually shifted towards demonstration wushu rather than traditional kung fu. Image reproduced from http://www.shaolin.org

Many kung fu practitioners have heard of the Cultural Revolution in China which led to the death or exile of many practitioners of traditional arts, including kung fu. In fact, many people have the mistaken belief that no authentic kung fu exists anymore!

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Does form follow function or function follow form?

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Black Tiger Steals Heart. Many generations worth of lessons and fighting experiences were crystallized into this basic pattern. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Black Tiger Steals Heart. Many generations worth of lessons and fighting experiences were crystallized into this basic pattern. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

We had a great discussion on G+’s martial artist forums regarding the question posed above. On the kung fu side of things, first there was random and haphazard fighting. Eventually, people figured out (and more importantly, passed on) the idea that certain ways of moving and fighting were better for their purposes; folks moved from the typical “boxing” jabs and hooks to crystallized kung fu patterns like Black Tiger Steals Heart (a level punch to the chest at the Bow-Arrow stance) or Hang a Golden Star at Corner (a punch to the side of the temple at the Bow-Arrow stance) because of certain advantages (a protected groin, more agile footwork, and being able to use waist rotation to generate and send spiral force from the abdomen into the opponent to deal injury).

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