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The Bergsonian martial artist : Bruce Lee’s philosophies on the martial arts

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Bruce Lee's studies into philisophy.
    2. His similarity, in modes of thinking, to Henri Bergson.
    3. Shaolin Temple's growth in China and later in Japan.
  2. Bruce Lee and Henri Bergson attempts to bring both areas to a new starting point.
  3. Bergson's first claim.
  4. Bergson's second Claim.
  5. Bergson's third claim.
  6. Conclusion.

Bruce Lee, international film star, martial arts master, and founder of Jeet Kune Do, received his undergraduate training in Philosophy at the University of Washington in Seattle during the early 1960's. He studied Eastern and Western Philosophy, as well as the history of thought. It is unknown as to which specific philosophers Bruce studied during this time, however it is likely that he may have read some of Henri Bergson's work, given the nature of his academic career and of the philosophy he would later develop concerning the martial arts. Philosophies which reflect Taoism and Zen Buddhism, but also carry with them a scientific overtone virtually non-existent in most Eastern philosophy, while at the same time reflecting many of the assertions made by Henri Bergson.

[...] Much like a scientist can become a specialist in a field, and at the same time lose the basic roots of his science in the process, a martial artist can learn one style of martial arts, specialize in that style and lose all sense of grounding in the reality of melee combat. For example, a Wing Chung Kung Fu man can throw a punch that is perfectly sound within the form of his style, yet get out-punched by a novice street fighter. [...]


[...] He says, is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life.? In what is often called the ?Lost Interview' on the Pierre Burton Show of the late 60's and 70's, Bruce says, do not believe in style anymore Here I am as a human being, how can I express myself, totally and completely??6 Bruce Lee calls for martial artists to dedicate themselves entirely whatever to action they are doing, much like Buddhism. In his film Enter the Dragon6, Bruce Lee wrote the dialogue in many of the scenes. [...]


[...] On page 7 of Introduction, Bergson is explaining the process by which he meditates on the nature of his self. He is describing the elements of his emotions and memories, saying, "There is, beneath these sharply cut crystals and frozen surface a continuous flux which is not comparable to any flux I have ever seen."1 This incomparable flux he refers to is his ultimate self as the source of his multiple durations. Bruce Lee uses the word crystals when referring to the various styles of martial arts. "Styles are a crystallizations, with which you have [...]

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