“Bruceism”: Secret Scourge of the World of Martial Arts

There is a disease in the World of Martial Arts. It runs rampant among both young & old, completely unchecked, seemingly unstoppable. It infects practitioners subtly, in unexpected ways. It can manifest immediately or lay dormant for years, even decades.

It is always destructive, sometimes fatally so. And there is no known cure.

It is the insidious scourge called “Bruceism.” At least, that’s what I call it.

Bruceism is fairly uniform in its presentation, being remarkably similar across ages & cultures. In its most basic form, the curse of Bruceism is a redirection of effort & practice away from the cultivation of skill & toward sycophancy or impersonation. A Bruceist cultivates pitch perfect imitation of Bruce Lee’s on-screen martial mannerisms: the overblown facial expressions, the unrealistic stylized postures, the constant “waa-tah” noises, & only the most crotch exposing of high kicks.

While the expression is nearly identical in all cases, the causes tend to be unique to the individual. Each carrier of Bruceism is unique in their reasons for it. Sometimes stupidity, sometimes hero worship, sometimes insecurity, but usually a more complex combination of multiple factors. Like those who suffer from bowel diseases, those who suffer from Bruceism are unique in the roots of their illness. And make no mistake: it most certainly is an illness.

I’ve seen good men, friends, brothers in martial arts, completely destroyed by this insidious scourge. It strikes indiscriminately, afflicting both the talented & hopeless alike. Once infected, the victim’s Kung Fu begins to rot from the inside out. At first it’s “just a joke,” here or there, every now & then. But that’s how it always begins: very small. Before long they’ve stopped wearing shirts & can’t go more then a few minutes without belching up an off-key “wah-taa” noise or twelve.

To be clear, I’m a fan of Bruce Lee & his films. They are riveting & ground breaking for their time. His performances revolutionized the heroic protagonist role. But that’s as far as it goes for me: I enjoy Bruce Lee’s performances for what they are. Performances, not exemplars of behavior or lifestyle templates.

And that attitude is exactly what separates me, you (probably), & the vast majority of movie fans from the poor, deluded souls suffering from Bruceism. Worst of all: there is no known cure for this dreaded scourge of the Martial World. The only treatment is prevention. Stay focused on perfecting your own Kung Fu, embodying your own personality & essence within the framework of your chosen style. Encourage your friends & Martial brothers & sisters to do the same. In this way you can, with a bit of luck, innoculate yourself & those close to you against Bruceism.

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