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Timing in Bruce Lee's Writings as Inspiration for Listening Musically to Hand Combat and Martial Arts Performance

McGuire, Colin P. 2019. Timing in Bruce Lee's Writings as Inspiration for Listening Musically to Hand Combat and Martial Arts Performance. Martial Arts Studies (8) , pp. 73-83. 10.18573/mas.83

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Timing is how we know when to do something in order to achieve an aim, and it is essential to all manner of human endeavour. In his posthumous international bestseller Tao of Jeet Kune Do [1975], Bruce Lee discussed timing as a quality of martial arts. His most influential timing concept is broken-rhythm, which is an idea that has resonated with martial artists around the world. Notwithstanding Tao of Jeet Kune Do’s impact, the strategies, tactics, and methods of timing remain poorly expressed in hand combat discourse. That is not to say that martial artists have poor timing, but rather that most martial artists are not very good at explaining how exactly they time their actions. Lee’s own choice of vocabulary was eclectic, drawing from music, fencing, chess, and military drill, which allowed him to discuss diverse approaches to combat time but also led to inconsistencies that muddy the waters for those wishing to engage with his ideas. This article takes up the question of timing in two ways. First, I re-interpret Bruce Lee’s ideas about the rhythm of combat using music theory, which provides precise, self-consistent vocabulary for the task. Second, I explore the meanings that a musical hearing of hand combat reveals at the intersection of sound and movement. Based on extensive fieldwork at a Chinese Canadian kung fu club, I identify some of the ways that percussion-driven performances of choreographed fighting skills have overlooked value as combat training.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Publisher: Cardiff University Press
ISSN: 2057-5696
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 6 August 2019
Date of Acceptance: 30 June 2019
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2019 08:36

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