Dropping the name "integral" on anyone doesn't quite fly. It implies the ability to witness the "bigger picture" of things without needing to stuff everything into one expression. "Integral" implies a creation from a holistic and inclusive perspective. Art and writing, science and music expressed through deeper levels of understanding; this is integral. It can be a simple brush stroke of Zen calligraphy or a vibrant note on a guitar. Or in this case, a round kick performed to the face.
That being said, I would like to propose this crazy idea: Bruce Lee was one of the pioneering integral thinkers of the past century. This may sound a little far fetched. After all, images of Bruce's flying side kicks come to mind, as he mercilessly battles hoards of unskilled henchmen. Classic kung fu films, like "Enter the Dragon," "The Chinese Connection," and "Fists of Fury," are great -but what is it that even hints the word "integral" anywhere?
Well, right beneath the surface there was a man who practiced a mind, body, spirit and shadow workout. Thats right. Anyone familiar with biographies on Bruce Lee's life will find his lifestyle quite inclusive. The daily schedule included meditation, exercise and martial arts practice. All the while he was always reading up on philosophy, whether it be directly applied to his art or not. Authors such as D.T. Suzuki and Jiddu Krishnamurti were on his reading list. Not to mention, Bruce was responsible for the creation of "Jeet Kune Do," or "The Way of the Intercepting Fist."
This new "system" he described as "no system," heavily influenced by Taoist thought. As he developed as a martial artist and philosopher, he came to realize that no given "way" is complete. What one martial art lacks is what another excels. He realized early on that there could be no ultimate way, and various schools of thought, be they philosophy or martial art, are limited to their own particular conditioning.
In his own words:
Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can assume all forms and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit in with all styles. As a result, Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by non, and, likewise, uses any techniques or means which serve its end."
It's philosophy is very simple: There is no one way to truth, to mastery. Therefore, study as much as you can, balance your art and do not limit yourself to one particular style. Embrace what works, reject what does not. Efficiency, inclusiveness and depth are key points.
One key element that needs to be included in any integral practice is shadow work. And yes, you guessed it, Lee mentions it. The practice of martial art forces you to confront your shortcomings, your fears, your pathologies. They will arise in combat, and without proper confrontation, they will hinder your success and stunt your growth.
Punches and kicks are tools to kill the ego. The tools represent the force of intuitive or instinctive directness which, unlike the intellect or complicated ego, does not divide itself, blocking its own freedom."
The body is seen as a tool, and one of its main purposes is:
To destroy your own impulses caused by the instincts of self-preservation. To destroy anything bothering your mind. Not to hurt anyone, but to overcome your own greed, anger and folly. Jeet Kune Do is directed at oneself.
I had read Bruce Lee's work long before I stumbled upon integral philosophy. So, this suddenly hit me today as I was buying a sandwich at the deli: Bruce Lee- Integral Martial Art! There is such a thing! Integral isn't all books, books, books. Knowledge is certainly a form of empowerment and depth, but as long as that intellect is turned toward cultivating self-knowledge and transformation. Martial art, along with many or -any- forms of art, it seems, are quite capable of being wonderful integral practices. So, martial artists out there, keep kicking, keep punching, and I'll keep watching kung fu.
I'd just like to end with one last quote which strangely reminds me of something an integral philosopher might say:
I hope martial artists are more interested in the root of martial arts and not the different decorative branches, flowers or leaves. It is futile to argue as to which single leaf, which design of branches or which attractive flower you like; when you understand the root, you understand all its blossoming."
P.S. - A few treats...
Bruce Lee Interview