April 2023 Book Survey Part 2
Welcome to the April 2023 book survey, part two. I decided to break this month's survey into three posts. The themes for this month are kendo/swordsmanship, Bruce Lee, and Jun Fan/Jeet Kune Do. This is part two. Part one is here.
In April 2023, I (Richard) continued my reading plan. This post surveys books on Bruce Lee's fighting method.
Bruce Lee's Fighting Method Volumes 1-4, Bruce Lee and M. Uyehara, 1976-1977
I bought my copies of the four volumes of Bruce Lee's Fighting Method in the 1990s. Mine all bear reprints with dates of 1994 and 1995. Each book is a paperback measuring roughly 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches with 128 black and white pages each. I'm not sure why all of the titles are not exactly the same size.
These specific editions are out of print (due to the next title) but they are all available on the Internet Archive.
The introductions in each book are slightly different. The introductions each say that the book was "in the making" in 1966, including photographs.
Here's an example from the first volume, on self defense techniques.
Looking through the content, it seems that Bruce Lee's answer to almost every problem was a kick, a punch, or an eye poke!
These specific editions are probably only of interest to researchers, due to the publication of the following title.
Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: The Complete Edition, Bruce Lee, M. Uyehara, 2008
Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: The Complete Edition arrived in 2008. It is also available at the Internet Archive, although my main copy is for the Kindle.
This version adds a short introduction by Shannon Lee. It also collapses all of the individual volume 1-4 introductions into a single version. That text says that the photos were taken in 1967 by Joe Bodner.
Here is an example of the reformatting done in this version.
The photos seem pretty small in the Kindle edition. Here is the same content for comparison.
Overall these are still great Bruce Lee books. While they were not published during Bruce Lee's lifetime, he did substantial work on them in the late 1960s. I suggest at least checking out the complete edition at the Internet Archive.
Jun Fan Gung Fu: Origins and Evolution, Ryan Ohl, 2023
I don't remember if James Bishop recommended Jun Fan Gung Fu: Origins & Evolution, or if I found it through a martial arts Facebook group. My copy is a paperback measuring 7 inches by 10 inches, with 444 pages. It is a print on demand book. I wish I could have bought a digital edition, because the text seemed a bit too small for my older eyes.
This book is quite an accomplishment. As noted by the title, the author seeks to understand the development of Bruce Lee's art of Jun Fan kung fu. I was immediately impressed by how well organized and documented this book is. These sample pages from the Amazon listing provide a flavor for the book.
I'd like to highlight four aspects of these samples. First, the author includes Chinese where appropriate. In some places he lists the English name, Chinese characters, and a Chinese translation. Second, he is fond of breaking down the art using lists. Third, he includes simple and clean figures to demonstrate techniques and concepts. Fourth, he uses endnotes to document sources. I like all of these characteristics.
The author tracks down some sources for Bruce Lee's art in this book. For example, he notes the importance of the 1963 book Sports Medicine for Trainers (source of "economy of motion") on page 71, and the 1931 book The Theory and Practice of Fencing (which contributed "broken rhythm") on page 78.
The book also incorporates material beyond Bruce Lee, including old photos from other sources. For example:
I really liked chapter 16, which covered "teachers of the dragon." The next chapter on terminology should have been an appendix.
Note that the table of contents has page numbers which do not correspond to the actual pages in the book. The table of contents also does not list chapter numbers.
In brief, I really liked this book. I would much prefer to buy a PDF with the errors fixed. This book is an Amazon POD title, so I know the author is submitting a PDF to Amazon as a source. I hope he offers it for sale at some point, as researchers would benefit from being able to digitally search the content.
Sijo Bruce Lee: From Classical to Non Classical, Gianfranco Mento, 2018/2022
I bought a copy of Sijo Bruce Lee: From Classical to Non Classical after a researcher I highly respect recommended it. The hardcover was $76.80, only $1.80 more than the paperback (!), so I opted for the hardcover. My copy measures 8 1/2 inches by 11 1/4 inches, with 395 color pages.
I should have done more homework on this book before buying it. I did not initially note that this book bears a copyright for the Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC, and not the author. I quickly realized that this is another hagiography endorsed by the Bruce Lee estate.
Right at the beginning, the book states "A tribute from the depths of my heart to Linda Lee, Shannon, Taky Kimura, Leo Fong, Mike Stone, Dan Inosanto." The book concludes with a colorized photo zooming in on Bruce and Linda from their early days. It was an odd way to begin and end a book, but not so weird when you realize it's hagiography.
Concerning production value, when I first opened the book, I was struck by how big the fonts were. I complained about the last title having small fonts, but this work veered in the other direction. It's tough to convey this feature in a screen shot, but take a look at the following and keep in mind that the page is 8 1/2 inches by 11 1/4 inches:
Another contrast with the previous title is the lack of sources, or at least sources and sourcing that are of the same quality. This book has chapters which end with a note saying "material in this chapter was based on interviews with X, Y, Z," or a list of articles from martial arts magazines. I do not have a lot of faith in this method of research. A few examples will make the point.
First, the book begins by repeating the myth that Bruce Lee invented the Kung Fu TV series. In reality, Ed Spielman created it, independently, as documented in The Truth about the Creation of the Kung Fu TV Series. On page 30, the author returns to this myth, and fails to recognize that Kung Fu and Bruce Lee's The Warrior were separate projects.
Second, on page 56 the author claims that Bruce Lee's Chinese name, rendered here as Jun Fan (i.e., Lee Jun-fan 李振藩) means "who returns," and supposedly reminds the reader of Bruce Lee's return to the United States after turning 18. However, I can find no support for that translation. Consider the following from this online source:
It seems one could say that "raising a fence" would be another way to translate these characters?
Third, the author repeats the myth that Bruce Lee's mom was 1/2 German. As I noted for Quora, Was Bruce Lee really half-white?
"Bruce Lee was 5/8 Chinese and 3/8 Caucasian. Matthew Polly’s definitive autobiography has the details.
“For decades, Bruce Lee biographers have asserted that Bruce’s mother, Grace Ho, was half German.
Robert Clouse wrote, “Grace had come to Hong Kong with her Chinese mother and German father at age 19.” (Bruce Lee: The Biography, p. 9.) Bruce Thomas concurred, “Grace was the daughter of a Chinese mother and German father.” (Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit, p. 3.) Linda Lee wrote, “Grace Lee was half German and a Catholic.” (The Bruce Lee Story, p. 20.) Even Bruce’s younger brother, Robert, stated in his book, “My mother was half-German, one-quarter Chinese, and one-quarter English by blood.” (Bruce Lee, My Brother, pp. 40–41.)
Based on these incorrect statements, it was assumed that Bruce’s great-grandfather Charles Henri Maurice Bosman must have been German Catholic.
In fact, Bruce’s mother, Grace, was one-half English, one-quarter Dutch-Jewish, and one-quarter Han Chinese. Her father, Ho Kom Tong, was half Chinese and half Dutch-Jewish. Her mother was English.”
Matthew Polly published his findings in his definitive Bruce Lee: A Life, publishing in 2018. The author of Sijo should have read it and adjusted his own work, translated from Italian to English in 2022.
Speaking of translation, I wondered if any native English speakers copyedited this book. There are typos or weird phrasing throughout, like "have done researches" on page 33 or "which Bruce gave importance and was attracted" on page 198. In some cases, names are spelled several ways, on the same page; see "Taky" and "Taki" on page 189 or "Hou" and "Huo" on page 115.
Returning to Bruce Lee's parents -- while researching this post, I found Lee's immigration papers here, and discussions of the topic by two bloggers.
Overall, this book suffers from sloppy reporting of myths, exaggeration of Bruce Lee's life, and related weaknesses that are typical of hagiography. Here are a few more examples:
Page 90 talks about the southern Shaolin Temple as the source of Wing Chun. That temple was a myth.
Page 139 says Bruce Lee "won the national boxing tournament," when in reality he won a single match in an inter-school competition among three private Hong Kong high schools.
Page 292 repeats myths about Bodhidharma and Chinese martial arts.
Pages 344-345 repeat myths about Vic Moore and Bruce Lee's "unstoppable punch."
On the positive side, there are a lot of great photos in this book, likely thanks to the close connection with the Lee family. Too many are low-resolution and grainy, possibly due to scaling up to the large page size.
This is another book that I wish was available in PDF. The book is also POD, meaning the author provided Amazon with a PDF for printing.
I would only buy this book if you are curious and have a decent amount of money to spend on a book with questionable content.
If I had to pick one book for readers, I would suggest the Complete Edition of the Bruce Lee Fighting Method.
You may know about our Amazon Wish List. If you would like to help us get books to read and review from that list, then please consider supporting us via Buy Me a Coffee.
If you like this article, check out our Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed, and Amazon Wish List. Be devoted!
Post a Comment