Bruce Lee: 5 Reasons He's the Biggest Influence in MMA
Bruce Lee is the modern grandfather of Mixed Martial Arts.
There is no denying his impact on the sport—the fighters, the coaches, the fans and even its promoters. In some way or another, almost every person touched by MMA will praise Bruce Lee for the contributions he's made to the form of martial arts.
But Lee would've been the first to tell you that the phrase "martial arts" should not be used as a means to encompass all forms; rather, to classify an ever-evolving way of training and learning.
"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, 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." - Bruce Lee
Lee's impact on the sport was, is, and God willing forever shall be irreplicable. Here are five ways Bruce Lee most definitively changed today's fastest growing sport in the world.
5. Humility for Opponents
"Showing off is the fool's idea of glory."
Lee was known very much for the art of defense just as much as he was known for his offense. He never intentionally showed malice or violence to his opponents, as that would've clouded his judgement and humility.
If you don't believe this, look no further than Lee's most famous technique: the one-inch punch. This punch was not intended ever to strike fear or impose pain on another human being, rather to defend yourself against your opponent.
Surely, a technique so difficult and effective has not been used in today's MMA, but the idea of mercy and kindness towards another was what Lee tried to communicate to practitioners of the art.
Fighters in the sport today almost entirely display this restraint while having foes in the most painful techniques imaginable. And while there are fighters like Renato "Babalu" Sobral that disobey the form, they are anomalies in a sport of pure class and respect.
4. The Art of Jeet Kune Do
Jeet Kune Do was Bruce Lee's creation, of which karate amongst other forms are loosely based off of today.
Lee's principle belief was that this art, Jeet Kune Do, was a "style without style." It has lesser boundaries maintained by modern martial arts, and addresses the ways to attack foes using the simplest means without wasting motion or time.
Lee describes it best, saying,
"There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one's feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is."
3. Training of the Body
There are fighters that are in peak physical condition, such as Georges St-Pierre. There are legendary bodybuilders whose job was their body. But to this day, there is no human that perfected their body in such a compact dynamic way.
Undoubtedly Lee spent years pushing his body to physical greatness, while breaking through barriers that the average Joe (or Jane) will likely never accomplish. Lee's bodily completeness was only surpassed by his wealth of knowledge.
Today we see many fighters who appear to have similar, or better physiques than Lee's. It is important to note it is highly likely these same fighters will never have the flexibility or endurance Lee did, though. He was the complete package of physical ability, and sage-like wisdom.
"I refer to my hands, feet and body as the tools of the trade. The hands and feet must be sharpened and improved daily to be efficient."
2. Training of the Mind
This is by far my favorite Lee quote, and for good reason. Bruce Lee was a complete fighter in every way, but more gratifying to Lee was the ability to have a complete life.
Lee's quote above can be applied to any aspect of a person's life, and surely many fighters try to emulate the water-like style Lee described. But it is more than a style, it was a way of life to Lee and his disciples. It was quotes like this that allowed Lee to be such a versatile human, enabling his mind and body and freeing himself from the confines nearly every person faces today in one form or another.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Lee's training was indeed his mind. During the time Lee lived, he faced many struggles even as a young boy. Look at what Lee had to say about his youth in Hong Kong:
"Kids in Hong Kong have nothing to look forward to. The whites have all the best jobs and the rest of us had to work for them. That's why most of the kids become punks. Kids in slums can never get out."
1. The What-If Legacy
This was perhaps the biggest question left by Lee's life, as he died quite young at the age of 32.
Take into consideration fighters like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman, and you'll find many of them performed at their best after the same age as Lee died.
There isn't a decent living soul who wouldn't give anything to see what 30 or 40 more years would've done to the already epic legacy that is Bruce Lee.
He redefined the idea that martial arts was a static form, arguing it was an evolutionary process forevermore. Lee set the martial arts bar so high many years ago, that to this day, arguably no one person has ever eclipsed the Chinese-American's mark on martial arts.
And so fittingly, I'll end with another of Lee's famous quotes:
"If you love life, don't wast time, for time is what life is made up of."