Tuesday, 10 April 2012

At Last! - The Charity Shop Book Review...

...Yes, the Charity Shop - or 'Goodwill Shop/Thrift Shop' for those of you from the US of A; thanks in part to our 'Economic Recovery' (Spelt D.i.s.a.s.t.e.r.) they are springing up everywhere. Staffed by kindly-intentioned old ladies and invariably the haunt of the, shall we say, socially-bereft? (In England we call them 'Fiddlers' - you know, the kind of person, usually male, that is of a certain age range and sporting a breathtakingly bad selection of clothing, glasses (held together with tape), dubious personal hygiene and a court order restricting their proximity to primary schools. To narrow this down, think of a startled mother clutching her frightened child and then imagine the person causing their discomfort and unease. Hey-ho, it takes more than that to scare us... right?. Anyways, despite the drawbacks, there remains a lot to be said for these domains of the desperate; they raise cash for worthy causes, they provide the less well-off with cheap clothes and crockery and, lets face it, they are always good for a laugh-a rinse round these places and you are left with a rather-too-accurate picture of the taste of the average Briton (Just how many wooden clogs from Amsterdam and porcelain thimbles marked 'A Souvenir from Blackpool/Made in China does one country need?)AND, (At last, a point...)then there's the books.

Books, remember those?, yes, spool back to, say 1980 BK (Before Kindle) and you'll find there were loads of these papery delights around - and thats the main reason I visit these places; once in a while, after wading through piles of Sharon Osbourne and Jordan biographies you come across a gem; Our first example shall be...

BRUCE LEE - Fighting Spirit by Bruce Thomas (ISBN 0-330-34930-9) Pan Books, 1997 Edition/Paperback.

The last person you'd expect to write a biography of a dead Martial Arts star would be the bassist from Elvis Costello's band The Attractions. Or, possibly, Torquemada from the Spanish Inquisition (Well, nobody expects them...). Well, he did; The bass player, that is. A Martial Artist himself (He studied Kung Fu from the late, legendary Derek Jones in London), Thomas was obviously unhappy at the previous treatments given to this phenomenal man - Bruce Lee biogs tend to lean towards drugs, mafia plots and sinister kung-fu masters bent on poisoning the man who dared expose their secrets... well, thats what I found when, in the eighties I found a book by Alex Ben Block on the late star.

Why this book?; well, several reasons, but mainly the fact that, whatever your level of interest this book has it; facts about Lee's life and films for the fans, plus plenty of insight into the philosophical aspects of both Lee's life and martial arts for those seeking to either develop personally generally or through the medium of martial arts. Yep, deep. Illustrated with black and white photos, the book really is a gem. Apart from re-discovering the whole Bruce Lee 'thing' that so captivated me that (here goes) I bought a kick/punch-bag, all the Bruce Lee fighting style books I could find and even black satin kung-fu trousers and slippers. Can I just point out that at no point do I claim that aged sixteen I was ever in danger of having a clue?.

Jeet Kune Do - Translated as 'The Way of the Intercepting Fist', this is Bruce Lee's own name for his art. Roughly stated, Lee took Wing Chun style Kung Fu (He pronounced it GUNG-Fu), a style he had been taught in Hong Kong as a boy and from it developed a fighting 'method' incorporating the best elements and moves from Boxing, Karate, Ju-Jitsu, Thai Boxing etc. etc. There are - despite the many 'experts' offering classes - no set moves or patterns in Jeet Kune Do; it simply is down to the individual to develop their own Jeet Kune Do. The only common denominators are hard physical training, mental preparation and the self-motivation and discipline required to both seek out different Martial Arts and then extract what is useful. The way to the freedom of expression Lee achieved is not an easy path, but a rewarding one.

I learned a lot from this book - and I value my copy dearly. (The following pictures are 'rinsed' from kungfucinema.com - an amazing site full of rare and interesting pictures from various martial arts stars; I also include pictures of my copy of Fighting Spirit for reference.)  

PS-These pictures are NOT in the book Fighting Spirit - they are here purely because they are A;Cool, B;'cos they are...

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