Monday, July 27, 2015


As part of my ongoing Everyone's at Gen Con so why bother series, where I relax the tone and content of the Blog, I am going to talk about two men named Bruce and why they matter. 

Even people who are not into martial arts movies or martial arts, probably know who Bruce Lee is. Heck, folks who haven't seen his films know who he is. Not only was he one of the greatest Kung Fu actors of all time, he was was a pioneer on screen and off. He was a student of Wing Chun and went on to create his own style called Jeet Kune Do.  To this day he still is still respected by martial artists for his off-screen training methods. 

If you haven't seen a Bruce Lee movie, you should do so. I would start with Fist of Fury (sometimes called The Chinese Connection) or Enter the Dragon. My favorite is Way of the Dragon

Here is a clip from Fist of Fury:

Bruce Lee had a lot of Charisma on screen and it is no wonder his success generated a Kung Fu craze in the 70s, but for martial artists he still gets respect because he real-life martial arts practice was experimental and grounded in a desire for effective outcomes. What you see on screen above has little resemblance to how he actually trained. 

This is footage from a public demonstration that involved sparring. I believe the sparring is still demo, which isn't the same as full contact, but this will give you an idea of how he performed away from the camera:

According to people who trained with Bruce Lee, like Joe Lewis (the kick boxer, not the boxer), his methods for training at home revolved around practical things like conditioning, full contact sparring with gear, and low line kicks rather than high kicks (Lewis described Lee's sparring kicks as being more like Muay Thai than Kung Fu for example). Keep in mind Lewis is possibly not the best source, but I don't think he had much reason to be dishonest about these sorts of details. 

About thirteen years ago I was very into Bruce Lee and read anything I could find on him. There were a lot of questionable books about his life but there were a few well researched ones. There is one story about him that appears in several different accounts which describes a private match between him and Wong Jack Man which changed his attitude toward training. It isn't clear exactly what happened, but Lee apparently didn't like how tired he felt at the end of the match so he started incorporating more conditioning into his daily routine. I should state there are seriously conflicting reports on this one, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Lee was known to do regular road work (running for conditioning) in his later training. Fighting really is one of the most exhausting things in the world and conditioning is a huge part of getting ready for sparring. 

He also developed an approach that eschewed unnecessary elements and took what worked. It wasn't about one style being better than others, but about acknowledging what was effective and using that, being a bit more scientific about it. He was about being adaptable. If something from boxing worked, he would bring into his training. If something from weight lifting helped, he'd bring that in. This is why even modern MMA fighters will usually speak well of Bruce Lee. There isn't a direct line to him and MMA or anything but once can look back and see aspects of modern training methods in stuff he was doing. In fact in Enter the Dragon, which is supposed to encapsulate his philosophy of martial arts, there is  sparring match at the beginning that greatly resembles an MMA style fight. 

Among Metal Fans, Bruce Dickinson is a god. Not only does he have one of the most powerful and distinct voices in the genre, he brings a ton of personality to the stage when he performs. 

His range is also pretty impressive. Someone actually went to the trouble of charting it with some examples online: 

But he's also more than a heavy metal singer, Bruce Dickinson is a proper renaissance man. Most Iron Maiden fans know that Bruce Dickinson was a skilled amateur fencer. He took the sport seriously and participated in it until age 23, when he was ranked 7th in Britain. Here is a old clip of Dickinson giving a fencing lesson: 

Dickinson has also tried his hand at writing, releasing a books and dabbling in script writing Perhaps most impressive is this: Bruce Dickinson flies planes. And I don't mean he flies them as a hobby like a lot of celebrities, I mean he became an actual airline pilot as a second job and was even able to fly Iron Maiden on tour. Here is a clip of him talking about why he became a pilot:

None of this detracts from his musical abilities however. Despite a brief period away from Iron Maiden in the 90s, during which he released a number of solo albums, he's continued to remain a vital force in metal as the band still puts out great music (they have an upcoming release in September). Like most singers, his voice has changed over the years, so there is difference between his sound on Number of the Beast-Seventh Son, No Prayer for the Dying-Fear of the Dark and Brave New World-present (there seem to be three distinct phases in his voice). 

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