Through the 1960’s and until his untimely death in 1973, Bruce Lee rocked the world of Martial Arts. He pushed the community to re-think their “why”. Why are there so many different styles? How can they all claim that their way is the only way and the best way to win a fight? He also questioned the teaching methods that had been used for centuries (and are still used to this day). It probably should not surprise us that what he was pushing is basically what we see today in the UFC or Mixed Martial Arts. He even pushed for the adoption of open-finger-boxing gloves that would allow the contestant to grapple! He was truly ahead of his time.

I was a youngster during his heyday, and I remember being fascinated with what he said. It sounded like common sense, so I couldn’t understand why he was incurring so much push-back from the martial arts community!

Now, I think I do!

As a disclaimer, I’m no Bruce Lee and I don’t compare myself to him. I even find it humorous to make such a disclaimer!! I simply find it interesting, even fascinating to see the similarity between what he wrote about Jeet Kune Do (his UNsystem of fighting) and what you and me are trying to do with the Read & React!

Below are some selected quotes from Mr. Lee, many of them taken from his book “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”. To make the comparison a little more fun to read, I inserted BASKETBALL or BASKETBALL PLAYER wherever he used words like “fighting” or “combatant”.


“As a result all members will be conditioned according to the prescribed system. Many will probably end up as a prisoner of a systematized drill.”

“Styles tend to not only separate men – because they have their own doctrines and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being, BASKETBALL PLAYER, how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won’t create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it’s a process of continuing growth.”

“To me totality is very important in sparring BASKETBALL. Many styles claim this totality. They say that they can cope with all types of attacks; that their structures cover all the possible lines and angles, and are capable of retaliation from all angles and lines. If this is true, then how did all the different styles come about?”

“To me a system that clings to one small aspect of combat BASKETBALL is actually in bondage.”

“In combat BASKETBALL, spontaneity rules; rote performance of technique perishes.”

“The height of cultivation BASKETBALL is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum.”

“Learn the principle, abide by the principle, and dissolve the principle. In short, enter a mold without being caged in it. Obey the principle without being bound by it. LEARN, MASTER AND ACHIEVE!!!”

And my two favorites:

“A martial artist BASKETBALL PLAYER who drills exclusively to a set pattern of combatBASKETBALL 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 BASKETBALL is never based on personal choice and fancies, but constantly changes from moment to moment, and the disappointed combatant BASKETBALL PLAYER will soon find out that his ‘choice routine’ lacks pliability.”

“This statement expresses my feelings perfectly: ‘In memory of a once fluid man BASKETBALL PLAYER, crammed and distorted by the classical mess.’ “

Let’s untangle our classical mess and look at the game with fresh eyes!