They say every dog thinks that it’s a wolf, which would surely explain the inexplicable swagger of a cocksure Chihuahua. According to the writings of Bruce Lee then, each Chihuahua must surely be in touch with its wolf within. This inner wolf is a massive reserve of energy that resides within us all, seemingly intangible, but with enormous benefits just waiting for the Chihuahua to summon. It is worth noting, of course, that Bruce Lee was a human and as such was less interested in providing life advice to Chihuahuas. It was for this reason, and perhaps others, that his posthumously published work was titled The Warrior Within.
The inner warrior of humans can seem equally as implausible, easier to see the potential in a young Arnold Schwarzenegger than an old Hilary Benn – Mr Benn representing, as he does, UK politics’ answer to the Chihuahua. But this is to misunderstand the meaning of The Warrior Within. Bruce Lee’s philosophy was intended as something broader and more applicable than martial practice alone. The most iconic martial artist of all time intended to produce something as useful to Arnie as an unmemorable Labour politician.
Bruce Lee became aware of a primeval force that resided within him when he was a young man. He perceived it as a source of huge potential energy, which he believed could be channelled to any purpose. He learned that it could be summoned in order to perform great physical labours, but equally channelled into his mind in order to accomplish more cerebrally focused tasks. When working with students, he saw his role as helping them to identify and harness this energy.
Central to the process of harnessing your inner warrior is the journey of self-realisation, which is central to Bruce Lee’s philosophy. Individuality is paramount when engaging the warrior within. While learning is important, it alone is not enough. A learned action is insufficient, only when it finds personal expression is the journey complete. He advises not to follow the well-trodden path, but cut a unique course.
He applies this philosophy to the teaching of martial art disciplines, which he sees as fixed and inflexible. Believing that much of the debate surrounding the efficacy and merit of each discipline to be influenced by national prejudices, he acknowledges that all the major styles has their advantages, but that mastery of one form is insufficient. He describes his own experiences of practicing Wing Chun as too restrictive; he describes it as akin to being trapped in a cage. While conforming to someone else’s interpretation of combat, he was unable to fully express himself.
Bruce Lee advises not to trust to one form, it is better to study many forms and apply their lessons to your own personal practice. These forms must be filtered by a process of experimentation, applying what works and discarding that which doesn’t. A principle that we can all take from: living not by prescription, but though a process of trial, error and discovery.
The Warrior Within is a treasure trove of advice and insight into the life and mind of Bruce Lee. I am a Bruce Lee fan and, as such, this was enough to overlook the book’s major failing: How to access the warrior within was never comfortably explained. The book could easily be seen as vague mix of, sometimes profound, sentiments. The book is also extremely inconsistent in its detail. He provides a long explanation on the correct way to wake on a morning, but provides no such depth of detail on martial arts training, a strange inconsistency, given the author’s prowess and his readership’s obvious interest.
The Warrior Within is essentially a rambling collection of life hacks, eastern philosophy and Bruce Lee wisdom; more than enough to keep any fan entertained, whether they be pumping iron or looking for re-election – or even, I dare say, a Chihuahua.