The Annotated Tao of Jeet Kune Do

An Unauthorized Bibliography

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

There’s nothing new within this book; there are no secrets. “It’s nothing special,” Bruce used to say. And so it wasn’t.

With over 750,000 copies sold in nine languages, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the bestselling martial arts book in modern history. Although Bruce Lee’s name and photo appear on the cover, dedicated fans know that he did not actually write Tao of Jeet Kune Do—at least not in its current form. (The book is a compilation of Bruce’s personal notes, organized and published posthumously by Dan Inosanto, Linda Lee and Gilbert Johnson.)

While credit for fighting methods expressed in Tao of JKD is rightfully given to boxer Edwin Haislet, fencers Hugo and James Castello, and others, we are left to infer that Jeet Kune Do’s philosophical underpinnings are Bruce’s unique contribution.

Quite the contrary, Jeet Kune Do is an orthodox expression of Taoist, Buddhist, and Western metaphysical principles. From the poem on the book’s opening page, to the passionate expressions of its final chapter, ideas in Tao of JKD can be traced directly to earlier written works. Here is a sampling of these sources. Continue reading The Annotated Tao of Jeet Kune Do

11 (Mostly) Painless Ways to Flatter a Martial Artist

I posed the following survey question to a group of martial artists:

What is the nicest compliment that anyone has ever paid your martial art performance? Or, if you can’t remember, then what compliment would you most like to hear?

Here are some of their answers:

The sound of tapping. ~Fraser

“For a fat guy twice my age…you left me in the dust” was the best one I ever got. ~Jerry

I get people telling me “you’re really good” all the time. Or “I always learn something rolling with you.” ~Trav Continue reading 11 (Mostly) Painless Ways to Flatter a Martial Artist

The Rise and Fall of Mesmerism

The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine

The following passage is excerpted from “The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine” by Anne Harringtona recent addition to my recommended reading list.

The End of Medical Exorcism in Europe

Appreciating the interweaving religious, philosophical and political stakes [in 18th century medicine] is important, because it can help us make sense of an episode whose significance we might otherwise misinterpret: the showdown between the German exorcist Father Johann Joseph Gassner and the Viennese physician Anton Mesmer.

Johann Joseph Gassner

Gassner was an exorcist whose ability to cast out devils was legendary. People came from all over to be healed, and in dramatic public performances—witnessed by crowds from all sectors of society—Gassner would oblige. Official records were made; competent witnesses testified to the extraordinary happenings. All agreed on the basic facts. On being presented with a supplicant, Gassner would typically wave a crucifix over his or her body and demand in Latin that, if the disease he was seeing had a “preternatural” source, this fact must be made manifest. The patient would then typically collapse into convulsions, and Gassner would proceed to exorcise the offending spirit.

Sometimes he added flourishes to this basic routine: in one dramatic instance, for example, he ordered the demon inside a woman to increase the poor woman’s heartbeat and then to slow it down. Continue reading The Rise and Fall of Mesmerism

Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Pick up an issue of Black Belt or Inside Kung Fu magazine. Watch a self-defense DVD. Browse a martial arts website. If you had to write captions under each picture, what would they say?

Black Belt Magazine

My hands are deadly weapons.
I am nobody’s victim.
Don’t mess with me, or you’ll regret it.

These poses remind your would-be attacker what they stand to lose. And sure, they are intimidating, to a degree.

The problem is, your attacker doesn’t harbor any intention of losing, and so the potential downside may just be disregarded. Continue reading Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Investing in Loss, Investing in Ego

Manjusri
Manjusri, destroyer of illusion
Credit: Jpatokal

“Tell me, Subhuti,” Buddha inquired, “Can an arhat think to himself: ‘I have attained the realization of an arhat’?”

Subhuti, his disciple, replied, “Of course not. With such a thought, he would be grasping to the illusory notions of an ego, a personality, and an individual self. Any so-called arhat who holds these notions is a fake.”
~Diamond Sutra

The meaning of “investing in loss”, as originally recommended by the late Tai Chi master Cheng Man-Ching, was to neutralize a superior force through the practice of non-contention:

Now when I say, “Learn to invest in loss,” who is willing to do this? To invest in loss is to permit others to use force to attack while you don’t use even the slightest force to defend yourself. On the contrary, you lead an opponent’s force away so that it is useless.

Against genuinely applied force, the method is so difficult to apply that it usually fails; thus, it is called a loss. After becoming familiar with every misapplication of wuwei, the non-contention principle, one can eventually start using it correctly and effectively; thus, it is called an investment.

Investing in loss can be a tiresome and disheartening method, but it is a reliable one. Sadly, the term is often misapplied as a catch-all justification for fruitless endeavors. Not every loss qualifies as an investment. Continue reading Investing in Loss, Investing in Ego

Scientist, Master, or Deviant? Three Perspectives on Qigong

Excerpted from Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China by Nancy N. Chen

Qigong in the Scientific Community

Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China

Qigong began to be actively debated within the [Chinese] scientific community during the 1980s, when scientists, especially physicians, sought to legitimate the phenomenon of qi. While popular publications focused on practice or gave life histories of particular masters, the discussions of qigong among scientists addressed questions of how to measure the force field of qi energy. Qi as a material phenomenon had to be quantified. This interest paralleled attention to the phenomenon of teyigongneng, or special psychic abilities.

…The doors of scientific research opened when Qian Xuesen, the prominent founder of China’s space research, declared that teyigongneng merited serious study. In his account of this movement, Paul Dong, a US-based qigong master, described how young children in China were tested for their abilities to “hear” characters being written and to perform psychokinesis (the power to move objects with their minds); there were reports of pills disappearing from bottles only to materialize outside their containers.

Scientific experiments also commenced during this period, as many researchers believed that special abilities could be enhanced with qigong. Over a dozen scientific journals and publications, among them, Zhiran Zazhi (Nature magazine) and Dongfang Qigong (Eastern qigong), began to discuss human potential and somatic science. Continue reading Scientist, Master, or Deviant? Three Perspectives on Qigong

Why You Should Never Turn Your Back on a Predator

From the March-April 2008 issue of Desi Life:

Gitanjali Kolanad: A Force of Nature

Force of Nature: Graceful yet powerful, Kalaripayat is inspired by a wilder world

Some scholars estimate that Kalari (also written as Kalari Payatte or Kalarippayattu) dates to 12th-century India. According to one legend, Kalari is the world’s first martial art.

Gita Kolanad is 54, but she looks, and moves as though she were at least a decade younger. Born in Kerala, she moved to Winnipeg at age 6. She used to do yoga, but says she found it boring and took up Kalari in her 30s to keep in shape for dance.

“Kalari is a real holistic system. It’s not just the martial art, but the healing aspect and the focus aspect,” Kolanad says. “When you get into the weapons, it’s a constant lesson in focus. When you lose your focus, you immediately get hit. I know that yoga has this aspect of meditation, but you don’t get any feedback on whether you’re doing your meditation right. Here you’re constantly getting feedback,” Kolanad says. “That’s why I love Kalari and I think it’s poised to be bigger than it is right now.”

At the highest stages of Kalari practice, it is said “the body becomes all eyes.” Masters become totally aware of everything around them. Kolanad doubts she will get to that point, but says that’s not a concern: “I enjoy every aspect of it.”

Continue reading Why You Should Never Turn Your Back on a Predator

James Randi’s Million Dollar Hustle

In medical science, one must pay attention not to plausible theorizing, but to experience and reason together.
— Hippocrates

The James Randi Educational Foundation has not validated any extraordinary human ability; ergo, none is likely to exist.
— Anonymous crank

Are psi and other forms of mental kung fu real? Some research suggests that they are, but to properly evaluate the data, you need a solid background in experimental design, statistical probability, and the subject itself. Science is hard.

Supposition and common-sense appeals are easy, and unlike research data, they always support the desired outcome. A suitable bit of folk wisdom can be found to justify any emotional investment.

For example, if you want to master a difficult new skill, you’ll remember that practice makes perfect; later, if you become frustrated and finally give up, it is only because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This is all ex post facto rationalization—not reason, and certainly not science.

So belief and disbelief are not two poles on the spectrum of opinion, or two sides of the same coin. They are both on the same side of the coin. There is nothing inherently rational about a default to skepticism, it’s just another bias.

Maybe we can do better than that. Continue reading James Randi’s Million Dollar Hustle

Precognition and Psychic Martial Arts: A Scientific Perspective

Recognizing the tremendous importance of timing, Japanese martial artists classify their responses into three types:

  • Go no sen refers to a late reaction, initiated after the attacker’s movement has begun. Late reactions are unreliable, relying on extraordinary motor speed for their successful application.
  • Sen no sen describes a response launched roughly in time with its attack. While obviously superior to go no sen, some practitioners consider this an intermediate level of skill.
  • The ultimate timing, sen-sen no sen, responds to an attack that has yet to be launched, one that has only just formed within the opponent’s mind. An expert in sen-sen no sen might use this timing to guide his assailant into a futile and vulnerable position, or launch a preemptive strike.

Martial legends aside, how does science explain this seemingly paranormal ability? Is it possible that high-level martial artists have used precognition and other psychic abilities to enhance their effectiveness? Or are they all just very quick? Continue reading Precognition and Psychic Martial Arts: A Scientific Perspective

Meditating on Death Increases Happiness, Study Shows

Philosophers and scientists have long been interested in how the mind processes the inevitability of death, both cognitively and emotionally. One would expect, for example, that reminders of our mortality—say the sudden death of a loved one—would throw us into a state of disabling fear of the unknown. But that doesn’t happen. If the prospect of death is so incomprehensible, why are we not trembling in a constant state of terror over this fact?

Psychologists have some ideas about how we cope with existential dread. One emerging idea—”terror management theory“—holds that the brain is hard-wired to keep us from being paralyzed by fear. According to this theory, the brain allows us to think about dying, even to change the way we live our lives, but not cower in the corner, paralyzed by fear. The automatic, unconscious part of our brain in effect protects the conscious mind.

But how does this work? Continue reading Meditating on Death Increases Happiness, Study Shows