The Bruce Lee Philosophy of Extreme Training Results

Jorg Mardian By Jorg Mardian, 14th Sep 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Exercise & Fitness

When we think of Bruce Lee, what comes to mind is a uniquely special martial artist who was on top of his game compared to his contemporaries. In other words, his combat methods were far away superior to other practitioners, and there’s a good reason why.

Training: The Way Of Water

When we think of Bruce Lee, what comes to mind is a uniquely special martial artist who was on top of his game compared to his contemporaries. In other words, his combat methods were far away superior to other practitioners, and there’s a good reason why.

Although I’m not advocating martial arts here, I will look at Bruce’s philosophical approach to training, which was, shall we say, unique. It’s also what made him the best of the best.

At any given time, Bruce weighed between 135 and 165 pounds at a 5’7 height. However, his smaller stature was never a limitation to his skill set. Bruce Lee was the first to truly say that there is no one way that is perfection, only the culmination of philosophy and fighting techniques. He took what worked best and discarded all else as ineffectual. He was his own best example of potency in action. By detecting his own weaknesses and limitations, he overcame them, raising his physical ability to what bordered on the phenomenal.

What made Bruce Lee’s training unique?

Bruce Lee never used one form of training, but adapted and created his own style from a culmination of what he perceived as the best elements of all art forms.
A favourite saying of his was:

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

OK, so what exactly does being formless like water have to do with fitness? Is this just a nonsensical saying? Not exactly. To Bruce it meant using training techniques that work for the goal you want to achieve, not copying others. Do you read magazines about the perfect workout? Guess what, it doesn’t exist. Neither does the perfect diet. If you want to get to where few others will, use your body as it currently exists, envision where you want it to go, and apply the absolute best tools and techniques which will get you there.

Here’s what not to do. Don’t get attached to a certain training routine in bodybuilding, Crossfit, P90X or whatever methods you think is the flavour of the day. All have strengths and weaknesses. Yoga may not build big muscles, but it will keep your muscles flexible and pain free for harder workouts. Use its strengths, discard its weaknesses. The same goes for Pilates, cardio, boxing, callisthenics, range of motion, balance, dynamic or isometric exercises, and every other training method that exists.

They all have benefits, and they all have drawbacks. Analyze them and use them to your benefit. If a tool is ineffective, find a way to make it effective or discard it for another tool. Use your imagination, make it fun and change it up, but keep it effective. Be like water – always get to where you want to go.

This philosophy is important because everyone is different and no one size fits all. Unique goals require unique (fluid) solutions. So attaining Bruce Lee like fitness isn’t just about copying the man, its about doing what made him so unique, which is allowing natural curiosity and drive to constantly explore and learn more about fitness and personal growth. Challenge yourself to new levels of fitness. Go beyond what you think you can do. This requires simplification. Hack away at the unessential, the surplus of what every training flavour of the day gives you. Take away only those things which you believe are useful and effective to your own training.

You should also avoid a dependency on validation from others. Emotional stability comes not from following circumstances, but rather by creating opportunities. Be proactive in thinking about your goals, not reactive by following others. Take the lead, which can be scary but ultimately rewarding as you blaze ahead in your fitness levels. Make training your own unique approach and don’t worry about limits. As Bruce used to say”

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
Are you starting to see what I mean? Think, plan and act to cultivate ideas which express your body in form with fewer restriction or confinement, and to the highest degree of efficiency and effectiveness.

With regard to Bruce’s philosophical training approach, he practiced a fluid set of operating principles which helped him live life at the pinnacle of developed potential. It was purely his, and no one else could lay claim to it. Make your training approach your own also.


Balance, Bodybuilding, Boxing, Bruce Lee, Callisthenics, Cardio, Combat, Dynamic, Fighting, Isometric, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Pilates, Range Of Motion, Training, Yoga

Meet the author

author avatar Jorg Mardian
I am a Certified Fitness Trainer, Kinesiology Specialist, Myoskeletal Therapist and Registered Nutritionist. My writing will focus on nutrition, fitness and pain therapy.

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