Thursday, October 26, 2017

ToJKD Notes

ToJKD Notes

Notes on Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Some quotations, much paraphrasing, some running with my thoughts. Fun read because it has nice harmonics with texts on both sports psychology and mysticism that I’ve been reading.

This book opens with a grounding of his training experience in a philosophical paradigm. He means to articulate the spiritual (take the word with a grain of salt, he’s a professed atheist) practice that informs his martial practice, just as his martial practice informs his spiritual practice. As such, the content isn’t immediately useful. A bit like waitzkin (who is also deeply rooted in Tao, so you could say exactly like waitzkin, lol), you can’t just know it, you have to live it. It bears fruit exactly proportional to its cultivation. As such, the bulk is not a worthwhile read for someone that wants “7 effective habits for a good performer.” Stick with The Mental Game of Poker for that.

After discussing zen, the book proceeds to describe JKD training, essentials, tactics, etc. Some of that is of no use outside of martial arts and some is. I parsed what I thought key/interesting.  

- - -

Jeet Kune Do = The Way of the Intercepting Fist
with the mottos “Using no way as the way” and “Using no limitation as limitation."
A free style has no limits. No limitations breeds a free style. Nothing is freedom.


void and acceptance. Like Simone Weil. A living void that does not exclude or oppose exp is a loving void. In this way negative is positive.
To see a thing as it is, without heeding desire, is to see it as it is.

Thoughts move. They move from the past through the present into the future, unbroken. This continuum by non-attachment is an original nature.

Six diseases
1 desire for victory
2 desire to resort to technical cunning
3 desire to display what has been learned
4 desire to awe others
5 desire to passivity
6 desire to rid disease
Desire is attachment. To desire not to desire is attachment too. But paradoxes are only absurd in the imagination. "All goals apart from the means are illusions.”

“we acquire a sense of worth either by realizing our talents, or by keeping busy or by identifying ourselves with something apart from us— be it a cause, a leaser, a group, possessions, or whatnot."
We have an impulse to avoid responsibility or to justify our own actions in relation to the good of others (or the will of god/good/etc). Schema.
This extends to the choices that we attempt to refuse by imitating others or imitating teaching/tradition. Schema.
These are unreal barriers between ourselves, action, and ourselves.
Better to accept impotence than allow falsity to take root. temet nosce
But the route through impotence is action, which is itself because it is always in motion and it is distinctly not imagined.

Eight-Fold Path
elimination of suffering by elimination of fallacy
1 understand what is wrong, right view
2 aspire to correct, right purpose
3 speak as you aspire, right speech
4 you must take action, right conduct
5 livelihood does not conflict with therapy, right vocation
6 therapy is sustained at critical velocity, right effort
7 seeps into all mental corners, right awareness
8 with the deeper mind, right meditation/concentration
“not by seeking knowledge, but by discovering the cause of ignorance"

Explicitly platonic model. Behind the limitations of perceptible/imaginary lies the thing in itself. Recognition and expression through no(pre-conceived)thing is the (re)cognition of truth. In this expression, essence is allowed to manifest.

"intellectual proficiency does not cover the whole ground” What we think consciously is such a small part of consciousness. What we know declaratively, while obviously important, is still just a part.


"The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.”
There’s a difference between self-consciousness and cognitive fusion and the mindful/flow awareness of everything. I think it's mostly solved by MAC vocabulary. The problem isn't self-consciousness, it's self-orientation at the cost of task-orientation. You can be in flow and still experience thoughts about yourself etc, the difference is that in flow they aren't orienting, the task is.
The localization of the mind freezes process. The mind is a tool for action, moving, assessing, working. The process is the art.
Absorption is distinct from attention. Attention is not exclusive, it expands instead of containing. 
“Seeing everything that is happening and yet not at all anxious about its outcome with nothing purposefully designed, nothing consciously calculated, no anticipation, no expectation.”

“It’s not, ‘I am doing this,” but rather, an inner realization that ‘this is happening through me,’ or ‘ it is doing this for me.” It’s a matter of acting, not being an actor. Action as a vehicle. The self as a vehicle for action. Again, the partial dissolution of the subject object via reversing the relationship. 

“To be of no-mind means to assume the everyday mind."

He says in buddhism there is no place for effort. Eat, shit, sleep when tired. That is, special effort isn’t ordinary behavior. It is staged. 
To give up thinking as if not giving up, to observe as if not observing. That is, take action without staging actions.
The oneness of all life: that there is no compartmentalization. The self is the self is the self. The actions of the self now define the whole self. “Leave sagehood behind and enter into ordinary humanity.”
Masters of an art must first master living, because the living soul generates the art. In this way, the art cannot be perfected because it is merely a reflection of the living, which cannot be perfected--only experienced. Outside of imagination (in living) there is no ideal.
And for us the temptation to complacency is ever at the doorstep, dressed as security. Death is at the door, life in the moment. In martial arts, you let an opponent break your bones so that you might take his life. Is my spiritual today so different?
Active choices always that we may or may not recognize but always make.
There is a distinction between the death result and the death moment. And so life and death can be looked at indifferently. This is easier to comprehend out of the imaginary. Consider flow. Flow might exp emotions, but these do not disturb/distort (like god’s anger is not disturbed, it is still and infinite, consequence). That kind of thinking, free of bias and gravity (disturbance), is characteristic of zen because it is identifiable with clarity/lucidity. It might be cultivated, just as flow might be cultivated, into ordinary living.

fallacy must fall away
imagination must fall away
vagueness must fall away

Practicing Martial Art

"The height of cultivation runs to simplicity. Half-way cultivation runs to ornamentation.” Full cultivation permeates and transforms, half cultivation adorns with certain additional habits. Similarly, it is easy to break bad habits, but difficult to change how you see/think/are/operate thus act.
A top competitor performs at top speed all the time. Thus he cultivates his upper ability and his upper attitude.
Not from techniques into totality, but totality seeping into techniques. This is expansiveness.

Do not gain, do not seek. It will come. Do not avoid. Do not establish anything for yourself, be quiet and present in this moment now. (fall 2017 hbox for sure).

strength in martial arts is a product of hard work and comprehension. With understanding of the movements of living things, you may comprehend and exploit an opponent. The heart of martial arts is in understanding techniques, in comprehension.

"Simplicity is the shortest distance between two points.”
And this is the virtue of no style. No limits. Only a direct problem met with a direct solution.
In the same way that forms/styles (as well as likes and dislikes) are inherently restrictive, it is tempting to pursue spiritual or mental ideals/theories that after elaboration, abstraction, and desperation are also oh so far from a simple, active truth. There is a gulf of unreality between “should be” and “is."
Freedom from conditioning is simplicity.
Lee substitutes cultivation of the body and of awareness with classicism.
Non-attachment as having a mind that does not select or reject. It is deliberate in that it hangs no thoughts, does not condemn or approve, simply observes in action.

Having no form evolves from having form. Engagement comes from depth of experiencing details.

Rejection of tradition is reactive in itself.

combat is fluid and alive. It cannot be lived and dissected simultaneously.
Knowledge is accumulated in the past, whereas knowing is a movement in present, as is learning.

I wonder why there is such a clear manifestation of these ideas in martial arts as a violent, destructive pursuit? Maybe it is just because martial arts require an ultra-focussed self-mastery.
"To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person."


Lee claims that the cultivation of the human person is often neglected, though it has the greatest impact and is the entire objective. Changing oneself (physical, mental, holistic) is as necessary for growth/change as learning skills. Intensity conditioning. And familiarity with what harms as well as what helps.

"not daily increase but daily decrease! Hack away at the unessentials!"
"The more aware you become, the more you shed from day to day what you have learned so that your mind is always fresh and uncontaminated by previous conditioning.”

warming up reduces a muscle’s resistance to its own movement and primes bodily resources
tightening makes the muscles bad at their work, causing error.
Movement is employed to overcome resistance.

Ease is characterized not by the small effort spent doing, but by the great effort not spent overcoming superfluous resistance. This is good form. Always train in good form.

training is simply precise repetition to reinforce neural paths. We learn and remember by doing. Naturally we learn and remember correctly by doing correctly and incorrectly by doing incorrectly. As such, it is important to train fine skills with a sharp focus.

It is important not to have any unnecessary preparatory movement attached to a given action.

1 Alternate splits
2 push ups
3 running in place
4 shoulder circling
5 high kicks
6 deep knee bends
7 side kick raises
8 twisting sit ups
9 waist training
10 leg raises
11 forward bends

integrate intensity into everyday opportunities (take stairs, walk to destination, visualize, stand on one foot, etc)

The purpose of training is to make an action automatic so that consciousness can be free of it.
In JKD, you learn a technique not to use it, but to let the mind do what it will.
“Sharpen the psychic power of seeing in order to act immediately in accordance with what you see. Seeing takes place in the inner mind."


"Tactics require the ability to think at least one move ahead.”

Experience what the attack feels like. Before, after, during. Observe yourself and the opponent. Experience what the defense feels like. Before, after, during. Observe yourself and the opponent. Recognize the problem, the pattern, the solution. Solve at the correct moment. The perfect moment is sensed rather than perceived.
Aquire and practice the feeling of the above. Practicing the feeling is more total than just the knowledge or action.

reactions are faster when you heighten attention (“get set”)
choice reactions are slower than simple reactions.
consider tactics in which you have simple but they have choice reactions. (including feints or things that look like several things)

Types of speed
1 perceptual speed
2 mental speed
3 initiation speed
4 performance speed
5 alteration speed
(6 low opportunity cost)

reaction time is slower when
1 untrained
2 tired
3 unfocussed
4 emotional
5 immediately after an event
6 conflicting ideas
7 misdirected
8 inhaling
9 uncommitted/withdrawing

In this way an equal opponent that is caught in a rhythmic exchange has accepted a pattern and can be beaten by breaking the tempo (by slowing down), etc. This rhythm can be explicit or not. It may be relational or individual (muscle memory for L canceling is disrupted by a lightshield).

A good technique involves quick succession, variety(use a broad system), and speed.


Feints protect attacks from being singularly overcome by counterplay. It is characterized by being most concerned with what happens immediately after. In martial arts it has no substance in itself.
Feints may look like movement or evasive attacks as well as direct attacks, but they always resemble a real and meaningful threat.
A feint must be rapid, precise, deceptive, threatening, done naturally.

1 to open a line in
2 to represent a threat in the space in front of you
3 to provoke a response to be punished.

It is composed of a deep, false thrust followed by a short real thrust(short because fast and distance is closed). Long then short (then short). 
Short->long might look like one unit, then additional short punishes response.

Opponents that don’t react to feints lose to attacks.
You should lead with economic attacks to prime for feints.
The solution to a feint/situation that feels bad is to change the engagement.

Drawing (a bait) requires and is best used aggressively, thus coupling with advancing movement. The objective is to toe inside edge of their effective range then out at the moment of reaction+execution speed.
Like attacks, use when necessary. Just enough is enough.

Counterattacks, to be effective, are not improvised. They are learned actions/responses. The too are consequences of understanding the opponent(’s tactics)

consider positioning as implied movement


spacing is a primary skill. Adjustments are rapid and profound, changing attack ranges and potentials.
Remaining within range for an amount of time assumes that you can overwhelm your opponent. The ideal is to where you can react with initiation or counterplay in time.
The purpose of moving is to make your opponent misjudge distance.
Movement is a commitment that has opportunity cost, thus it’s best to do so incrementally unless the reasoning for a bigger commitment is clear. A feeling that is calm and precise.
Effective movement confuses your opponent’s scheme.

You attack at the distance that they will be the moment before they can react. If you sense you have that opening, commit wholly.


Facts of JKD
1 economy (no telegraphing. No wasting energy.)
2 artlessness
3 broken rhythm
4 bodily fitness
5 direct attacks without repositioning
6 light on feet
7 unpolished (in that it’s not precious)
8 strong tactics
9 all-out contact training
10 continuous sharpening
11 individual expression, not patterns
12 total rather than partial
13 continuity of self behind movement
14 pliable not lax
15 constant flow
16 exertion as balance

Attack when they are preoccupied, not when they are expectant. Attack in the rhythm of concentration withdrawal. Attack his preparation to attack. Don’t attack readiness.
Know when to attack and when to allow attack. It is a science.

1 attack when the will senses it
2 to punish weakness
The rest are feints, but not in excess. Exactly what is necessary. 

The intelligent fighter defeats his opponent using the weaknesses apparent in the system before him. Mercilessly. Recognizing this system is the mental battle. The purpose of training is to allow him to work in this way without heeding execution.
"Coordinate all power to attack his weakness."

"The difference between an expert and a novice fighter is that the expert makes use of each opportunity"

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