Black Belt's entertainment blogger has a personal story to tell about Bruce Lee, and it has the potential to benefit all martial artists.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee passed away at age 32. After so many years, there’s very little anyone who didn’t know him on an intimate level can add to any conversation about his legacy. Yet on a personal level, everyone has a story to share about the “Little Dragon.” Mine is the subject of this blog. I actually have two Bruce Lee stories to share. One you may know, and the other you probably don't. The 75th anniversary of Bruce Lee's birth is celebrated in the August/September 2015 issue of Black Belt. When I was 16, I was forced to down 30 pills a day and required to report to the hospital every three months. My doctor said I'd be dead in five years due to cystic fibrosis, a progressive, incurable disease. Death by malnutrition, suffocation, dehydration and lung infection was what I had to look forward to. Two weeks later, I watched Bruce Lee kick butt in Fists of Fury (aka The Big Boss). It was 1973, and all of a sudden I was no longer depressed and waiting to die. All I could think about was learning what Lee was doing. As I immersed myself in the martial arts, I found that their real purpose is not to convey ways of fighting but to spread the art of healing. And I needed to heal myself. I discovered one chance for survival: an ancient Chinese healing skill that was seldom taught to outsiders.


Download a free guide titled “Jim Kelly: Martial Artist and Co-Star of the Bruce Lee Movie Enter the Dragon — A Vintage Interview” today. Just click here.

With that in mind, I moved to Taiwan in 1979 in search of a cryptic cure that most doctors claimed didn't exist. At the airport, I was arrested and wrongly charged with smuggling illegal weapons and trafficking drugs. I was even threatened with the death penalty. It was definitely a bad time to be an American in Taiwan. After straightening things out, I became a stuntman in kung fu soap operas and eventually won the trust of the man who would teach me his interpretation of chi kung (also spelled qi gong). Five months later, I was off all the meds and no longer needed therapy — as has been the case for the past 35 years. Later, my teacher introduced me to chi healing, and my wife and I have been practicing it for more than 28 years now. We've done everything from working with Olympic athletes to helping veterans returning from war. Some of you may know this Bruce Lee story — I’ve written about it in the past. Here’s one you don't know. The newest Bruce Lee/jeet kune do book comes from researcher Tommy Gong. Click here to order. One day while serving as an apprentice to a Hong Kong fight director who was working on CBS's Martial Law TV series (Sammo Hung and Arsenio Hall), I arrived on set only to discover that my mentor was experiencing a severe headache. When the TV crew members offered him their heavy-duty painkillers, he looked at me and said, "That's how Bruce Lee died, blindly taking a prescription drug that wasn't his." True enough. Lee did die from an allergic reaction to the prescription drug Equagesic. Because the fight director was familiar with my background, he asked if I knew how to get rid of a splitting headache. I did my thing, and a minute later, his headache had disappeared. It recently hit me: Why didn't Bruce Lee know how to do this? In olde martial arts schools, a sifu was often a healer who would pass his knowledge down to his students, Huang Fei-hung being a famous example. Yip Man (also spelled Ip Man), the man who taught Bruce Lee wing chun kung fu, wasn't a healer. Based on the literature, we know that Lee didn't buy into the esoteric aspects of kung fu or chi kung. Maybe that was because he just never met the right sifu. Lee accepted Western medicine, which is not a bad thing, but I wonder if his lack of interest in traditional Chinese medicine was related to his rejection of traditional martial arts. Lee was enthusiastic about using herbs, juices and teas as a means to create energy for training and optimize overall health, but when he found himself suffering a headache on that fateful day, he turned to Western medicine. This brings us to modern-day martial artists. We respect and admire Bruce Lee for his jeet kune do, his physical abilities, his dedication to self-development and his deep-seated philosophical beliefs. Yet how many of us know how to heal our opponent if we, God forbid, happen to injure him or her in the dojo or on the street? If you’re a teacher, are you prepared to take care of your students as they inevitably experience the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual ups and downs that are inherent in martial arts training? Are you teaching them how to heal in addition to how to hurt?

Curious about the Little Dragon’s exercise program? Check out “The Fighting Man’s Exercise: Bruce Lee’s Training Regimen.”

The first take-away here on the anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death probably doesn’t need to be reiterated, but I will do so nevertheless: No one should ever take another person’s prescription medication. The second is if we understand how our health and emotional choices are tied in to our chi, we’re more likely to invest some time in learning a few simple healing skills that could avert a tragedy like the one that took Lee’s life in 1973. My own take-away is this: I will always be grateful that I'm alive because of Bruce Lee — hell, I walked 3,000 miles to pay my respects at his gravesite in Seattle! — and I will continue to spread the word regarding his work. I hope that on this occasion when the martial arts world reflects on Lee's life, we can look behind the Oz curtain and see the potential of the art of healing. After all, Bruce Lee is the martial artist who taught us to have no limitation as limitation. (“Bruce Lee” is a registered trademark of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC. The Bruce Lee name, image and likeness are intellectual property of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC.) Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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