Bruce Lee Underestimated

Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

September 6th, 2018, 5:28 pm #1

By Patrick Strong (Original Bruce Lee Student, Seattle Era)

QUOTE:

Just the other day I received word from a European writer who has written a number of articles on Jeet Kune Do and, having known many of JKD's top people, is now completing a book on Bruce Lee and his Jeet Kune Do. I enjoyed the discussion, but there was something in the writer’s reporting that troubled me. It was the notion that Bruce Lee has been overestimated. Boy, how many times on different JKD forums have I read that very same thing.

My response was just the opposite. I maintained that Bruce was not overestimated but, in fact, that he was grossly UNDERESTIMATED! I went on to say that Bruce has never really received proper credit for the TRUE DEPTH of his KNOWLEDGE. What he has been credited for was an amazing exhibition of skills, breaking tradition, and the forming of a new martial art; and while these thoughts can be appreciated and are certainly true, they are, at very best, very shallow. In truth, Bruce had a scientific approach to martial art that began with a proven body of knowledge containing a host of pragmatic principles and startling mechanical advantages.

As a researcher, he was not only interested in experimenting with new ideas and concepts, but actually putting them to test and proving them out. As a young student of Wing Chun Gun Fu, he was driven to prove that what he learned in the kwoon would work in the street. In Hong Kong, Bruce Lee, his close friend and training partner, Hawkins Cheung, and a few other young men gained deserving reputations as "The Rooftop Fighters". When not fighting in the street, Bruce and Hawkins would meet go out of their way to meet other stylists on either a rooftop or is some darkened garage, as such fights in Hong Kong were illegal.

Whenever either one of them would run into a problem in a fight they would not rest until they figured out how to solve the problem. Fortunately, they had two wonderful sources to draw from. There was Wong Sheung Leung (Hawkins says he was known as, "Crazy Leung"), who was the most notorious battler of the Wing Chun clan, and one of the original Rooftop Fighters. Leung was older than Bruce and Hawkins, but he took an interest in them. Bruce and Hawkins, in turn, hung out with Leung to learn everything they could about real combat. Leung had been so respected as a fighter that even though he was a wing chun man, fighters from the other systems welcomed him as a referee even when fighting Wing Chun fighters. At the same time, Bruce and Hawkins would go to Master, Yip Man who, behind closed doors, would analyze their queries and give them special pointers to take into the street.
When Bruce packed his bags and left Hong Kong, he brought with him a unique fighting ability, based on a set of highly unique principles and mechanics. So unique were they, that martial artists in America would be amazed by his effectiveness. In 1959, Bruce gave a demonstration at Edison Technical School in Seattle where he met James DeMille, a former U.S. Army Heavy Weight boxing champion with over 100 fights in the ring. At 225 lbs, James was also a highly reputed and feared street fighter, yet he was no match for Bruce at around 135 lbs who could tie him knots and shut him down in an instant.

I remember when a karate sensei came over from Japan and challenged Bruce to a fight. After the fight, the Sensei explained his injuries as being in a car accident. It is reported that Bruce, after his fight with Won Jack Man, had been displeased with his performance and that is why he began to change his art. I recall having had dinner with Bruce shortly after that fight. At that moment, he had been most pleased with himself, considering that Won Jack Man was so very difficult to hit because he kept running and spinning and way from Bruce’s attack. It wasn't until Bruce was finally able to catch up to Man that they went to the ground where Bruce finished the fight. Knowing Bruce, I give Won Jack Man tremendous credit for his skills in avoidance. I think he was smart not to stand his ground with someone the likes of Bruce. At this period in Bruce’s life, he believed in ending the fight quick within the first few seconds. But this fight went on a bit with Bruce chasing his adversary with chain punches (straight blast). Anyone who has ever thrown bunches of chain punches knows how easy it is to tire quickly, since the activity requires involvement of Type II, Fast Twitch B muscle fibers for explosive outburst. Those type of fibers do indeed tire quickly before giving over to Type II, Fast Twitch A fibers, that also tire fast. Nevertheless, the outcome of a somewhat prolonged fight would have been adequate reason for Bruce Lee to more closely examine his method. Obviously, he viewed it as a problem and, like in the past, he set out to solve the problem.

I have told the story of how when in 1964 Ed Parker presented his first International Karate Tournament in Long Beach, where he invited a young and virtually unknown Bruce Lee to come and demonstrate his gung fu. For his demonstrators and forms competitors, Ed had had made available a special room where they could rehearse. In the room surveying the talent was Sensei Oshima, direct descendent of Funakoshi. Accompanying Sensei, Oshima was his highest ranking black belt, Caylor Atkins, a legend in his own right, who told me this story. At the time, neither Oshima nor Caylor had ever heard of Bruce Lee, nor had just about anyone else in the auditorium. Only Ed Parker knew of Bruce's economy of motion, speed, and power that were so incredibly unbelievable. Oshima and Atkins were standing in the center of the room when Oshima's eyes fastened on a handsome young man. As Bruce walked past, Oshima pointed his finger and said, "That one.. He is the only one here who can do anything"! Without having before ever seen Bruce Lee, Oshima was able to sense the young man’s ability simply by the way he carried his body. My friends, this was in 1964. Jeet Kune Do, as such, had not yet been invented.

Shortly before Bruce has left Hong Kong, he and Hawkins went to train with an old man who had mastered a number of gung fu styles. Although Bruce was only nineteen when he left Hong Kong he had already developed himself as a martial artist and a fighter. In Seattle, he would go on to train with an old man who had belonged to a Chinese ballet troupe (gung fu) and, who would take on all challengers whenever the troupe had entered a new town. The old man, among his other skills, was a Master of Red Boat Wing Chun. Bruce was already quite extraordinary. At 135 lbs., he could easily handle a 225 lb., U.S. Army Heavy Weight Boxing Champion/street fighter, not to mention the other four boxers in the original Seattle group, and the three judoka, one of which was a U.S. Judo Champion, Charlie Woo.

However, it was not Bruce the fighter that I feel is so much underestimated, rather Bruce the martial artist. Bruce has been underestimated because the level of his knowledge has been underestimated. Whatever people think JKD is all about, I can assure them that Bruce had his personal JKD that consisted of a lot more than strong side forward, straight lead, straight blast, some footwork, kicking, timing, etc. A lot more, indeed! In the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, page 24, is one of my favorite sentences: “It is not difficult to trim and hack off the non-essentials in outward physical structure; however, to shun away, to minimize inwardly is another matter. “Inwardly,” wrote Bruce. For a great deal of his personal training was to dig deep within himself. It was not technique that mattered, but how the tools, themselves, worked in relation to the body’s structure. To dig this deep he had to feel, explore, and analyze. He had to turn his study within to best learn how to maximize forces without resorting to using muscular strength. He taught himself how to use the short arcs of the joints, tendons, and bones for maximizing power. He eliminated intention in his initial movement, because with it he would not be as fast. He eliminated choice reaction, because it not only hamper his speed, but sacrificed the all-important beat in his timing. Instead, he would make his opponent make the choices. This was the foundation for what he called his “Fistic Law,” a worthwhile study unto itself. Bruce had gone within to study how to eliminate tension. Tension at the wrong time could become a dangerous tool for the opponent to use against you. A tense arm, shoulder, or body could act like a handle on a t-cup, giving the opponent a tool to disrupt you. Bruce’s way was to not create a handle within himself, but instead create the tool in his opponent.

How often have I heard knowledgeable martial artists and even kinesologists attribute Bruce Lee’s amazing speed to having superior genetics, claiming that he must have been born rich with the right kind of muscle fibers. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. To be sure, Bruce Lee was faster than thought. Aside from the fact that he was in a trained state of physical condition, his lightning speed was not the result of the proportion of genetically prescribed, different types of muscle fibers. Rather, his speed was the direct result of unique martial principles and mechanics, heightened by his own internal discoveries. In the scene with the young monk in Enter the Dragon, Bruce slaps him on the forehead, telling him to feel or he will miss all of that heavenly glory. Hawkins Cheung likes to call Bruce, "The fastest gun fighter". Before Bruce came to the U.S. he was already greased lightning. Consider that there are four kinds of speed: start speed, body speed, hand speed, and reaction speed. Bruce's greatest speed was his start speed. Incredibly, it is the start speed where others are slow. Start speed is how fast can you move from zero. In Enter the Dragon Bruce demonstrates his start speed in the scene with O'hara (Bob Wall). The editor who cut the film watched the scene over and over again and was not able to detect the beginning of Bruce's movement. It was as though Bruce had finished without ever having started. He was just there! Bruce had fast hands and fast reaction speed, but not the fastest by his own estimation. His fast hands were once again the result of proper principles and mechanics, while his reaction speed was largely based on his ability to read his opponent's intention. Joe Lewis has said that Bruce was the fastest man that ever stood before him. After over 41 years in martial arts, I attest to the same.

Shortly before Bruce's death, Bruce and his old friend, Hawkins were able to spend some time together. Of course, every second was dedicated to their love of fighting. As he had done before, Bruce updated Hawkins on his own development. Finally, Hawkins asked him exactly what was JKD? Bruce smiled and said, "Pak sao and hip". Pak sao and hip! That was Bruce's own definition of Jeet Kune Do to his close friend and long time training partner, speaking in Cantonese, and at a mutually very high level that few could arise to, or even begin to understand.

So then, what is pak sao? Translated, pak sao means "slapping hand". However, pak doesn't really slap, at all. In reality, the technique of pak sao involves a great deal of information learned by close attention to details. Be sure, pak and slap do not share the same energies, nor even the same results. You may execute a slap, but not Bruce. His was pak! Nevertheless, pak sao has still another meaning in wing chun. It's in the nature of the meaning whereby Bruce spoke when he defined Jeet Kune Do as, "pak sao and hip". Pak sao's nature is to intercept. Thus, the name Jeet Kune Do, The Way of the Intercepting Fist. Actually, there are only three ways to intercept. Ahead of the opponent's beat, at the same time as his beat, or behind his beat. We call this a half-beat ahead, same beat, or half- beat behind. To go a half-beat ahead is to go at his intention, before he actually fires his muscles. In pak sao it means to cut off his movement. It means to SHUT HIM DOWN! Translated, Jeet also means "to cut off". This cutting off was Bruce Lee's #1 specialty. Bruce could shut you down before you could go. You couldn't start because he already hit at the very instant you intended to start. To go at the same beat as your opponent is to start at the same time. The interception takes place in the area generally half-way between you and the opponent, a little ahead or behind depending on the speed differences between you. This is a good time to avoid, intersect, jam, dissolve, disrupt. To go a half-beat behind is good for slipping, countering, and going to a takedown. All are within the concept of pak sao. The Five Ways of Attack are based on these three timings. To go between the beats is to go behind one beat and head of the other. Bruce said, "pak sao and hip". So what exactly did he mean by hip? It is the action of the hip and all mechanics that effect it based on a unique set of principles learned and studied in Wing Chun. People have said that Bruce Lee abandoned his Wing Chun. They say this simply because they are not able to see the Wing Chun inside his Jeet Kune Do. Nevertheless, the Wing Chun is there. And, it could be felt! Bruce's Wing Chun was in its principles and mechanics that were at the beginning and in the final end of his punch, kick, trap, jam, or whatever. It was the way his body worked as a unit, externally and internally. It was at the very core of all that he did. It is how he hit so fast, so hard. It was why he could shut down and overpower bigger and stronger men with relative ease. It was why his traps worked when so many others claim that trapping does not work. Ask James DeMille, the heavy weight boxer whether or not Bruce’s trapping worked. You may have all seen the photograph of Bruce doing an isometric exercise on the Smith machine where it appears that he was strengthening his forearms and biceps. In actuality, Bruce was training the structure of his hip. It was because of this structure of the hip that he could raise huge dumbbells straight out in front of him like no weightlifter could possibly dream of doing. Bruce modified his Wing Chun stance to the Jun Fan stance, and then to the Jeet Kune Do stance, yet all shared the same hip structure for applying huge forces with minimal effort, and with only the slightest adjustments. For the JKD'er who has not trained the hip structure, he can never hope to achieve the same efficiency rating as did Bruce, when using his methodology.

Bruce's start speed came from “Non-intention,” as he called it. Non-intention is NOT the same as non-telegraph. I am always amazed at how Bruce came to figure out non-intention whose origin came from Wing Chun. However, Bruce took Non-intention to another level. Bruce would often demonstrate incredible feats of strength, power, and speed based on nothing more than mere mechanical advantages. So incredible were the performances that onlookers could only doubt their authenticity. The truth is that these extraordinary feats can be performed by almost anyone, aside from two finger pushups and some his abdominal feats, but those too with practice.

At the core of Bruce's art, is what I refer to as his inner game. This is the part that you don’t see, but it’s the part that makes everything work as well as it does. It involves, among other things, how structure can work in two separate modes, independently or together. The first mode is the Physical Structure, the hip and tools. Second is what I call the Vital Structure. It is when the Physical Structure is compromised that the Vital Structure must take over.

Bruce researched every avenue for improving himself. He also had the faculty to explore his own kinesthetic awareness. In other words, he took the time to feel and analyze what he felt. He not only looked to the outside, but he dared look to the inside where he reached not only for answers, but for the very questions, themselves. And what came out of all of this was truly stunning. Bruce had developed more than a martial art. He developed extraordinary means and certainties by which an average person could aspire to and reach a true level of mastery. One last thing, to learn to get to his personal truth, Bruce did not have to compete in the ring. He did it on rooftops and in the street.

END QUOTE
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Joined: December 19th, 2017, 9:38 pm

September 6th, 2018, 9:34 pm #2

I've heard many of Patrick Strong's quotes, but this is the longest one. Where did you find that? I have seen him talking much of this in the "Disciples of the Dragon" by Paul Bax, but it is not that long. I agree with Patrick and, I assume, the poster, FO.
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Joined: December 19th, 2017, 9:38 pm

September 6th, 2018, 9:43 pm #3

Looking back I've had a couple instances of 'Non-Intention' speed and I'll just recount one of them. I might have posted it here before, but can't recall.

I was sparring with a larger guy and I was using Safe-t-punch Hand guards, and he was not. We were going light contact. I told myself that I wanted to tag him in the nose, but not hard.

However, as we were lined up his hand was between me, or my fist and my eye-line and his nose. I thought to myself 'as soon as his hand drifts off-line such that my lead hand can clear it, I want to fire.

So, to be clear, I was not thinking about that after that thought, and we were moving around a little, but apparently, the internal 'cue' to do that remained inside me, which is the best I can describe it. 

Suddenly, to my astonishment, it must have cleared and I fired the lead hand and it tagged him, but again not that hard. The point is not that I hit him but that I did not have the 'intention' to do so. I don't know if I could repeat that phenomenon.

Now, this was LONG before I ever heard of 'non-intention' but after hearing Patrick Strong talk about it, I thought back and that was one of the times I sincerely believe I had that happen. It was definitely a case if 'it hit', not 'I hit'.
---
Interestingly, we are taught that in shooting handguns that we want to use a similar method of squeezing the trigger such that when it goes off it should be a surprise. The idea is that if you don't know when it will happen you won't pull to the left or flinch. It's the same description as 'non-intention' but obviously not really the same concept.

FWIW.
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Joined: December 19th, 2017, 9:38 pm

September 6th, 2018, 9:46 pm #4

Just to clarify, I think 'non-intention' involves using an external 'cue' to act, and one that is somehow below the level of the self-conscious thought process. It's kind of 'outside of you'. There are probably other ways to call it up, but this is definitely one of them. I'm not sure one can actually 'intend' to do a 'non-intention' move, so that's a bit of a paradox. I do think you can contrive a 'mechanism' of some kind that will 'allow' it to happen,
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Joined: August 26th, 2018, 8:39 pm

September 7th, 2018, 1:42 pm #5

The problem with jeet kune do is that there is a lack of information or a lot of contradictory information. This is certainly the essential reason why Bruce Lee can be underestimated. The interest of JKD is essentially its pragmatism. Pragmatism implies simplicity. But knowing how to simplify things does not mean being simplistic.
In this article, we note that there is an internal aspect in Bruce Lee's art. And that this aspect would be the matrix of the JKD. If we consider the internal arts as something mystical, it can shock a lot of people. But according to Jessie Glover, Lee first became interested in the mysticism of Gung Fu :
“Bruce read books every day searching for the mystical key that would open the gates to understanding that he wanted so badly. He was always taking about the mystical powers of Ging (internal strength), and claimed that Ging was seated in the pit of the stomach, and that it ould be trained to flow through the arms and legs in ways that increased the power of strikes. He showed me a book on poison hands and told me that he would like very much to meet and talk to the author. He seemed to favor the belief that poison hands, and the delayed death touch exist, and he also had a strong belief in Chinese medicine which he often used on his hands.”
Thereafter, it is by studying philosophy that he hoped to understand the inner part of Gung Fu : “He felt strongly that the secrets of Gung Fu were deeply locked in the soft arts and that a philosophical study of them could reveal the path to success.”
Patrick Strong on the other hand, brings other interesting elements. Outside of sports or martial arts, Bruce was interested in different disciplines: psychology, bio-mechanics, anatomy, and so on. However, the way he had worked on the joints, tendons and muscles seems similar to what chi kung practitioners do. But Bruce did not train to break stones or bricks or to make an iron shirt. The effectiveness of what he was doing had to be checked in sparring. There is no contradiction in all this. Only a good application of yin and yang.
Maybe his research led him to develop a streamlined form of chi kung… I like when Patrick Strong says: “his speed was the direct result of unique martial principles and mechanics, heightened by his own internal discoveries”. I also think that everyone is able to study different subjects to make a synthesis, but that very few people are able to internalize their practice to develop a kinesthetic awareness. This brings us now to the principle of Non-intention, particularly with regard to interception.
The stop-hit technique was not a new concept in the 1960s. This is an integral part of fencing and boxing. It's not a big deal. Strong says that Bruce took Non-intention to another level. Why not? But, he problem is that he does not explain what this "Vital Structure" is about…
Reading the thoughts of his opponent to intercept him is an oriental concept that is found mainly in Japanese martial arts. This does not exist in Western fencing. However Joe Lewis who was a Cartesian fighter, reports that “Bruce had an incredible kind of a Zen level of consciousness and psychology as some called it the implicit level of consciousness.”
In kenjutsu (the art of Japanese sword) the translation of "stop-hit" is "sen no sen". "Sensen no sen" is the upper level.
At this point, it is said that it is possible to read in the mind of his enemy to hit him before he attacks. Miyamoto Musashi was supposed to master this art. In his notes on kendo, here are the qualities that Bruce saw in this martial art:
1. The Zen approach
2. The determined clash
3. The footwork

I don’t know how much Chinese martial arts have developed this mental martial art. However, it is certain that Bruce Lee had studied Musashi. Here are some strategies of this famous samurai. This fits perfectly with the spirit of the JKD:

To Hit the Enemy "In One Timing"
"In One Timing" means, when you have closed with the enemy, to hit him as quickly and directly as possible, without moving your body or settling your spirit, while you see that he is still undecided. The timing of hitting before the enemy decides to withdraw, break or hit, is this "In One Timing".

No Design, No Conception
In this method, when the enemy attacks and you decide to attack, hit with your body, and hit with your spirit, and hit from the Void with your hands, accelerating strongly. This is the "No Design, No Conception" cut.

The three methods to forestall an enemy: A great swordsman or other artist will have mastered the ability to forestall the enemy. The great swordsman is always "before" his environment. This does not mean speed. You cannot beat a good swordsman, because he subconsciously sees the origin of every real action. One can still see in Kendo practice wonderful old gentlemen slowly hitting young champions on the head almost casually. It is the practiced ability to sum up a changing situation instantly. Or, as the enemy attacks, attack more strongly, taking advantage of the resulting
disorder in his timing to win.

Tai Tai No Sen
These things cannot be clearly explained in words. You must research what is written here. In these three ways of forestalling, you must judge the situation. This does not mean that you always attack first; but if the enemy attacks first you can lead him around. In strategy, you have effectively won when you forestall the enemy, so you must train well to attain this.

To Hold Down a Pillow" means not allowing the enemy's head to rise.
In contests of stategy it is bad to be led about by the enemy. You must always be able to lead the enemy about. Obviously the enemy will also be thinking of doing this, but he cannot forestall you if you do not allow him to come out. In strategy, you must stop the enemy as he attempts to cut; you must push down his thrust, and throw off his hold when he tries to grapple. This is the meaning of "to hold down a pillow". When you have grasped this principle, whatever the enemy tries to bring about in the fight you will see in advance and suppress it.
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Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

September 10th, 2018, 2:04 am #6

[quote="badger01j"]
I've heard many of Patrick Strong's quotes, but this is the longest one. Where did you find that? I have seen him talking much of this in the "Disciples of the Dragon" by Paul Bax, but it is not that long. I agree with Patrick and, I assume, the poster, FO.
[/quote]

I ran across it years ago and saved it.

Thought you might find it of interest, since you had mentioned the "Pak Sao and Hip" comment.
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Joined: December 19th, 2017, 9:38 pm

September 10th, 2018, 3:05 pm #7

If you like PS's words there's a 4 DVD set out from him. I found an inexpensive set on Amazon. He has some things that nobody else seems to discuss. I have to assume the don't know. Can he do it? It's not clear. Does he know the entire method and internals? It's not clear. He discusses but doesn't have all the essentials. 

He says he worried about BL using the 'adrenal' thing too often but doesn't say what that is exactly. You'd think, given that he's selling the DVDs and BL and even that era is long past that if he knows he should tell. I don't think he's training any more - he's got to be late 50s now.

I think the 'adrenal thing' is a combination of chemicals and self-hypnosis, but we don't know for sure.
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JTF
Joined: June 21st, 2018, 10:03 pm

September 10th, 2018, 6:33 pm #8

Patrick Strong was 56 years old when that 4 DVD set was shot and he is currently 75 years old. To my knowledge, Patrick was training a handful of students and teaching JKD seminars as late as 2012. Fellow Seattle Era student Skip Ellsworth felt that Strong was one of the most gifted martial artists he had ever met.
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Joined: July 16th, 2003, 11:43 am

September 10th, 2018, 8:04 pm #9

I have a few of his dvd's - lord of speed and lord of shock I think. I've corresponded with him in the past via email and he used to post on the Bax forum along with Jesse, DeMille, Steve Golden etc.
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Joined: August 26th, 2018, 8:39 pm

September 10th, 2018, 8:23 pm #10

[quote="badger01j"]
If you like PS's words there's a 4 DVD set out from him. I found an inexpensive set on Amazon. He has some things that nobody else seems to discuss. I have to assume the don't know. Can he do it? It's not clear. Does he know the entire method and internals? It's not clear. He discusses but doesn't have all the essentials. 

He says he worried about BL using the 'adrenal' thing too often but doesn't say what that is exactly. You'd think, given that he's selling the DVDs and BL and even that era is long past that if he knows he should tell. I don't think he's training any more - he's got to be late 50s now.

I think the 'adrenal thing' is a combination of chemicals and self-hypnosis, but we don't know for sure.
[/quote]

If Bruce Lee worked on chi kung he then integrated it into his isometric, cardiovascular and weight lifting training, in addition to everything he studied on anatomy, biomechanics, etc.
Usually, the mystical and traditional aspect of chi kung repels the most pragmatic martial artists. However, the notion of kinesthetic awareness applied to a training which has for finality real fighting or at least sparring, is interesting.
By learning philosophy to understand the inner part of gung fu, Bruce Lee was already showing great maturity for his young age. Optimizing his martial art was his concern from the beginning. For that, he certainly did not neglect the inner internal part of his curriculum. Maybe the western sciences he studied allowed him to demystify and understand the essence of chi kung. It is true that none of Bruce Lee's students give any precision on this subject. But, in the case where he would have obtained satisfactory results from these experiments, one can also think that he would keep this for himself.
When he returned to HK, it seems that he was still studying gung fu. Certainly, it is not without reason. If he was satisfied with the delivery system he had developed to be effective in sparring, we can assume that he was more free to explore or deepen areas areas that are less directly related to combat. If this is the case, the Chinese internal martial art deserves further investigation ...
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