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Martial Arts Phonies and Those Who Believe Them -- Part 1

The martial arts -- including, of course, the internal arts -- are strikingly similar to religion. Students, some of them very young, are exposed to an authority figure who tells them amazing things. It can be a minister, a priest, a black belt, or someone who calls himself a "master."

When the authority figure is charasmatic or mysterious, or appears extremely knowledgeable, he or she can  (a black belt, a "master," or a minister or priest) and does have a manner that invites trust. Throughout my life, I have met people in business, in my personal life, in religion and in the martial arts who I liked and trusted. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Over time, I learned that very often, that trust is misplaced. Especially with martial arts instructors.

Going ClearI am currently reading the book, "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief." Author Lawrence Wright discusses the early days of Scientology in the beginning chapters, and tells the story of one particular young man who was drawn in during the Seventies. Scientology was created by a charismatic science fiction writer who had a tendency to "embellish" his background and experiences. During that Seventies, there was a saying among Scientologists -- "After drugs, there's Scientology." Here is an excerpt:

" was true that many who were drawn to the religion had teken hallucinogens and were open to alternative realities. Recruits had a sense of boundless possibility. Mystical powers were forecast; out-of-body experiences were to be expected; fundamental secrets of the universe were to be revealed."

Does this sound familiar to anyone out there in the internal arts (other than the hallucinogens)?

The "ultimate secrets" of Scientology were in a secure building. If you were not prepared for these secrets, reading the documents could harm you or cause death.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

When I was first studying Hsing-I Chuan in 1987, I was told that if I did the fist postures wrong, it would damage the internal organs that corresponded to each of the 5 elements -- lungs, large intestines, spleen, bladder, kidneys, etc.

The Rational Voice inside my head said, "It can't hurt you to do the fist postures, because if the truth be told, everyone does them improperly for a while as they learn, and how can exercise harm you internally?"

But I continued anyway because I liked Hsing-I.

As he was creating Mormonism, Joseph Smith -- who was only semi-literate, meaning he could read but he couldn't write -- asked a man who could write to transcribe what Smith told him to write. But as he dictated the words, Smith sat behind a curtain. He told the transcriber that if the transcriber looked behind the curtain, he would be struck dead by God.

Man, that is one strict Supreme Being, don't you think?

Smith's dictations became The Book of Mormon. And he had no trouble recruiting believers. At one point his Book of Mormon was lost or destroyed. His skeptical wife -- who some believe destroyed the original document -- told him that if he was so holy, and if he had the golden plates and the magic stones that helped him decipher the plates, he should be able to recreate the original Book of Mormon word-for-word.

No wonder Smith needed more wives.

This is part one of a short series on this topic, and how it has plagued so many people in the martial arts and the internal arts. It is the result of information I have learned over the past couple of decades or more, with some of it learned during the past week or two.

If someone is a Scientologist or a Mormon or a Christian or a Buddhist (or these days a Republican or Democrat), they reject information that threatens the emotional, financial, time, and physical investments they have made in their beliefs. So many of us cannot accept the fact that we were fooled.

Martial artists are the same way. 

In this series, I will be naming some names and asking some questions, because it's about time we called people on their behavior. A con artist is a con artist, regardless of what he does for a living. And believe me, you can be fooled.

More coming in part 2. 

A Weekend with Bruce Lee's Family -- Linda and Shannon -- A Benefit for the Bruce Lee Action Museum

Guest Post by Myles Gullette

I first met Shannon Lee, the daughter of Bruce Lee on two occasions at the Farmer's Market in Pacific Palisades, California where I help out every Sunday at a friend's dog adoption get together. Shannon walked through both times with her daughter. I introduced myself and told her how much her father had meant to my brother and me. Shannon was very friendly and gracious, and as we talked, I became aware of BLAM, the Bruce Lee Action Museum, a historic place she, her mother Linda Lee Cadwell (Bruce Lee's widow) and their Bruce Lee Foundation wanted to build in Seattle.

After talking with her and exploring the wonderful world of and joining their mailing list, I learned of the annual fundraiser that The Lee Family, through their Bruce Lee Foundation were going to have. All proceeds go toward the future Bruce Lee Action Museum.

My brother Ken (publisher of this blog) introduced me to Bruce Lee by taking his little brother to see Bruce's movies in 1973 when Ken was 20 and a martial arts student, and I was 8 years old. Ever since, I've been an admirer of the work, legacy, philosophy, honesty and passion of Bruce Lee as well as his children, the late Brandon and Shannon as they became actors and martial artists, both following in the footsteps of their father. I also hold Linda Lee in high regard as someone who tirelessly furthers the legacy and memory of her late husband Bruce Lee. When I learned of an intimate dinner to be held the weekend of February 8th where all monies would go to BLAM, I knew I had to be a part of it.

Landing in Seattle on Friday, February 8th, I only had minutes after arriving by train to my hotel (Hotel Seattle) to get to the private dinner held at O'Asian Restaurant in downtown Seattle. I arranged for my hotel to be in the center of downtown which made it incredibly convenient. I was a 5 minute walk away from the Restaurant as well as the next evening's Gala, held at the Sheraton Hotel.

Once in the restaurant, I was taken to a private dining room where Shannon and Linda and Kris, the COO of Bruce Lee Enterprises were mingling among the small group of guests. The capacity for this special dinner was only 20 on the invitation sent worldwide. Only 12 people ended up coming, some from as far away as Europe.

Myles-Gullette-Shannon-Lee-webI went up to Shannon and said, "Hello". She was pleasantly surprised to see me. As we talked, Linda came over and Shannon introduced us, telling the story of how we met a couple times in Pacific Palisades. Linda was incredibly gracious, warm and friendly. After talking with some of the other guests, we all sat down for dinner and wine. As we ate, Linda and Shannon thanked all of us, spoke about the Foundation and Museum and let us ask anything we wanted regarding Bruce, Brandon, Shannon, Linda, Bruce Lee Enterprises, etc.

Out of all the guests, there was one woman, the wife of another attendee. She asked Linda to talk about how she met Bruce and if it was love at first sight. Linda laughed and talked about how when she was a senior in High School, Bruce came and was a guest lecturer on Philosophy and Martial arts. She and others soon began taking martial arts lessons from him, especially once they both attended University of Washington. Linda talked about how they would all hang out sometimes after training and that one day while her and Bruce were sparring, he got her on the ground after a move and asked her if she'd like to go to the space needle in Seattle. She asked him, "What. All of us?" to which Bruce replied, "No. Only you." As she smiled at remembering it all, she said, she knew at that point something special was happening.
So many more topics were discussed during the dinner. A couple of guests, both major Bruce Lee collectors, spoke about what they had. One of them has among the biggest collection of Green Hornet TV show memorabilia in the world. That got us into Bruce's American television career. One guest asked about the whole Kung Fu TV show story and Linda spoke about Bruce having come up with concept calling it "The Warrior", but that it was eventually renamed Kung Fu and after some talk of Bruce playing the lead, the TV executives and decision makers decided America wasn't ready for an Asian leading man in a prime time television series, leading Bruce to go to Hong Kong to make his mark in the films, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and The Way of The Dragon.

I got into the conversation with Linda by saying, "You would've thought that since Bruce proved himself in The Green Hornet, Marlowe and Longstreet, amassing a TV following that the executives would've realized he COULD carry a TV series like Kung Fu. But, then if that had happened, he wouldn't have gone to Hong Kong." Linda replied, "That's right." So, in the end, it was agreed, everything happened for a reason and Bruce going to Hong Kong turned out to be a very good thing.
One of the guests had the idea of each of us introducing ourselves. So, one by one we each talked a bit about where we were from, what we did for a living, a bit about our life, how Bruce Lee influenced us and what brought us to the evening. Some people spoke longer than others. Everyone came from different states and countries. When it came time for me to talk, I said, "Hi. My name's Myles and I'm originally from Kentucky but now live in Hollywood. I'm a DJ, writer, actor, painter, drummer in a band and videographer."

Linda smiled and said, "You're a renaissance man." 

I smiled and continued, "I first became aware of Bruce Lee through my brother Ken, who's been a martial artist for nearly 40 years. He took me to a double feature, Enter The Dragon and Chinese Connection. I was immediately taken with Bruce's talent. And, as I got older, I got into Brandon's films and martial arts work as well as Shannon's. (Looking at Shannon), I loved your appearance on Martial Law, especially that fight scene of yours in the alley. It was so great. Did you choreograph that?" 

She replied, "I wish." and laughed. "We had a great fight choreographer on that show."

"It was a great scene," I answered. "So, I met Shannon a couple times in Pacific Palisades and through her and the website, learned of this fundraiser dinner and knew I had to be a part of it. I've just been so inspired by the work, talent and passion of not only Bruce, but Brandon, Shannon and you, Linda. There's just a love you all bring to everything that's very heartwarming and wonderful." As I talked, making direct eye contact with Linda, her smile touched me. She was enjoying my experience and words.
After everyone had introduced themselves, we continued to eat, talk and drink wine. At one point, Shannon lifted her glass and we all gave a toast to Bruce, the Museum, the dinner and she thanked all of us deeply for caring enough to be a part of the evening. She then spoke in detail, along with COO Kris about the plans and vision for the Bruce Lee Action Museum (BLAM). It would be a place to further the memory, legacy and philosophy of Bruce Lee. It would have training rooms/spaces, a library of all of Bruce's writings as well as books that he read and were inspirations.
Also included would be the film and video works of Bruce Lee.

I asked Shannon and Linda if there would be a section of the Museum devoted to Brandon and they said yes. The museum would be a place for everyone throughout the world to come and learn everything about Bruce Lee. Shannon also spoke of how they had a property in mind to purchase for the museum, were getting city and federal support and that the museum would enrich the city of Seattle and the region. One wonderful idea they came up with was the "Buy a Brick" program, where anyone could buy a brick, for an amount to be determined. On the brick would be your name and whatever few words you wanted to include. Once the museum is being built, a wall will be made using the bought bricks to become a permanent part of the facility.

As the evening progressed, I couldn't help but feel a bit of sadness that both Bruce and Brandon weren't here to witness Linda and Shannon embracing the Lee legacy. Witnessing the humor, class, beauty, intelligence, passion and warmth of both of them, I knew Bruce and Brandon would be so proud, not only of Linda and Shannon but also of all of us for taking the time out of our lives to be a part of such a special event and by doing so, taking "action".
After the dinner, Shannon and Linda both graciously posed for pictures with all of us and autographed anything we brought or that was in our gift bags. We all got gift bags that included an exclusive yellow Bruce Lee - JKD hoodie, a Blu-Ray of the new documentary "I Am Bruce Lee", the book "Bruce Lee and I" by Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, an Original "Green Stripe" Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute Membership card with certificate of authenticity, an original "Deputized an Ally of the Dragon" promotional card handed out at the premiere of "Enter The Dragon" along with a certificate of authenticity and an original Bruce Lee Print by artist Yhoshihito Sugahara (only 30 made), numbered and signed by Shannon Lee and Linda Lee. I had Shannon sign my "I Am Bruce Lee" Blu-Ray (she was executive producer of the film) and talked more with her, Linda and the others. Some of the other guests brought their own personal memorabilia for them to sign, which they did so graciously. One guest even brought a life mask of Bruce, made of plaster that was used during the "Green Hornet" period. He donated it to Bruce Lee Enterprises that night. A beautiful gesture.

As Linda and Shannon signed, they mentioned that anyone who wanted to, could return on Sunday morning at 10am to the same restaurant for a breakfast with the cast of "Enter The Dragon": Bob Wall, John Saxon and Jim Kelly as well as Shannon and Linda. Knowing my flight was at 8am, I knew I wouldn't be able to make it. Even though I was disappointed, I was glad to have had the opportunity for this lovely, intimate dinner and time with Shannon and Linda. After a few more minutes, we all bid our farewells and thus ended a most wonderful night. The dinner was to be from 6:30 to 9:30. It ended up going to just past 10:30.

It was an evening I'll never forget. And, the weekend wasn't over yet. Tomorrow was the Gala, benefiting the Bruce Lee Action Museum.

Bruce-Lee-Grave-blogOn Saturday, wearing the Bruce Lee - JKD hoodie, I ran a few miles through the city to the gravesite of Bruce and Brandon Lee. People came and went while I was there and flowers, coins and fruit adorned the ground and tombstones. It was a quiet, peaceful afternoon, a slight mist in the air.

Afterwards, I ran back to the hotel and got ready for the black tie event known as the 2013 Chinese Lunar New Years Gala organized by the Hong Kong Association of Washington Foundation. The entire evening was to benefit the Bruce Lee Action Museum. Proceeds from the ticket price as well as silent and public auctions held at the Gala all went to BLAM.
Arriving at the Sheraton Hotel where the Gala was held, I went in and had a wonderful evening of food, drink, socializing and Bruce Lee. At every turn in the huge lobby were many wall sized stand up posters with Bruce Lee pictures and quotes, original paintings depicting Bruce and various auction items.

The silent auction items included Bruce and non-Bruce items. The Bruce ones were everything from an 18 inch "Game of Death" action figure to work out gear to books, including the inaugural Bruce Lee book written by Shannon Lee, which is an exquisite book full of Bruce's history, including posters and rare memorabilia built into the book. Wonderful. It'll be available through in the very near future.

The Gala was a wonderful affair with many speakers, including the mayor of Seattle and Shannon Lee herself, who brought up her own daughter to join in, which was beyond adorable. Attending the event were political figures from all areas of government as well as many from American and Chinese corporations and organizations, both in Washington State and elsewhere. There were Chinese New Year dances and performances related to the ancient Chinese culture as well as a live auction where an auctioneer sold many items, with proceeds going to the Bruce Lee Action Museum. The food, wine and entertainment was top notch.

Also in the audience at the table with Linda and Shannon were Jim Kelly, John Saxon and Bob Wall, all of which I saw, but unfortunately didn't personally meet. Having gone to Bruce and Brandon's gravesite, I was late getting to the early pre-Gala part of the evening. It was there that I would've gotten to meet them. I did however get to talk more with Linda and Shannon at the Gala, going up to and hanging around their table.

Shannon-Lee-Myles-Gullette-Linda-Lee-Cadwell-2013-webI thanked them both for everything and wished them the best. Linda remembered my name and I told her, "I would come to the breakfast tomorrow but I've got an 8am flight. I'll be in touch though and I'm sure we'll see each other again." Linda replied, "I'm sure we will." I hugged both Shannon and Linda and before leaving was introduced to and talked with Taky Kumura, who was Bruce Lee's student and first assistant instructor. He was gracious and completely down to earth. He also said that anytime I was in Seattle to come to his classes, free of charge, because I was "family" having been a part of the dinner and weekend. After talking more with Taky and meeting his son, the three of us posed for a picture together.

Around this time, the Gala was winding down. After a few more minutes, soaking in the surroundings, I said another goodbye to Shannon and Bruce Lee Enterprises COO Kris, giving him information about a Seattle artist friend of mine who is interested in doing a mash-up painting of Bruce and Brandon calling it "The Dragon and The Crow". He welcomed the idea. Saying goodbye, I left, returning to my hotel for an early morning flight. What a fantastic and unforgettable weekend this turned out to be.

Bruce Lee said some things that explain why I took this weekend journey to Seattle and to be a part of the Bruce Lee Foundation's efforts to raise money for the Bruce Lee Action Museum:

"You have to create your own luck. You have to be aware of the opportunities around you and take advantage of them."

"If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done."

"Success means doing something sincerely and wholeheartedly."

"Be a practical dreamer backed by action."

"So, action! Action!"

And, there you have it. My weekend with the Lee family. 
-- Submitted by Myles Gullette