Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bruce Lee Movie and Special Force Operations

As a young man I loved Bruce Lee movies. In the movie, Bruce Lee is always righteous and forever fearless.

Bruce Lee’s is righteous. His action against his nemesis is always just. After all, he was always pushed against the wall before fighting back, reluctantly, and apologetically. I remember saying to myself, as I watched “Fist of Fury”: “Quick, do something, anything, to show the Japanese that Chinese are not "Sick Men of East Asia" (東亞病夫).” In every Bruce Lee movie I cheered him on. In every movie Bruce Lee would take his time, with insult after insult from the bad guys, before he fought back, and won, at the very end. What a gentleman!

Bruce Lee is fearless. He can take on 10, 100 people with a fist, leg and at times a pair of Nunchuck. His moves are fast. His kills are clean. He never walks away from a good fight. He is full of bravado. His body posture and hand gestures always send off the message: “Bring it on, if you dare." What a hero!

Years later, I became a black belt karate instructor and riot platoon commander. I started to learn about martial art and military operations, from inside out and not outside in. That was when I started to realize that Bruce Lee’s movie as imaged has nothing to do with reality as lived.

In reality, there are few (if any) completely good guys or totally bad guys. People just do not get along. One thing leads to anther, instead of talking, people get into fights. Marriage couples are good examples. As a divorce lawyer for a number of years, I have heard enough of such a saying: “It is all is his/her fault.” In fact, with any human relationship, there is enough blame to go around, for both sides. In US, there is this saying: "It takes two to tangle." (We cannot fight with ourselves, alone. In actuality, when we get into a fight, we are fighting our internal demon. In the US, we are always fighting a war with someone - we need to show our goodness by attacking badness!) There is an age old Chinese saying: “The most wise judge cannot begin to sort out a family dispute.” (This means that human relationship are reciprocal, full of gives and takes.) The point here is that in real life, as distinguish from a Bruce Lee movie, everyone are righteously disposed, but not everyone is free of blame.

In reality, there are few (if any) heroes. As a karate practitioner and police commander, I am both competent and confident. I know how to handle myself/my troops. If I am in a fight, I am sure I would win, in the end. But I am always fearful of the fighting process. I am fearful of getting into a fight for any number of reasons. What if I make a wrong move? What it I have read my opponent wrong? What if luck is not on my side? What if there is a freak accident?

As I get into a fight, I always know I would get hurt. What I do not know is when, where, how and how seriously I will be hurt.

Through the years, I learn to have a lot more respect for my adversaries. In my victory, I always hope that I did the least harm to others. Sometimes when fatality happened or injury occurred, I always wonder out loud whether I could have avoided or minimized the harm, even with risk to my own well being. To a martial expert, fighting a good fight does not necessary need to be a mean and demeaning process. A fearless warrior takes on a whole new meaning. There are all kinds of fear and apprehension in anything we do, that is of consequences! In stead of being fearless we need to be fearful; luck running out or doing the wrong thing. One thing that “intelligent” fear teaches us is not to get into a fight at all. And, if we have to fight, we have to fight to save life, not to pile up damages.

I wrote at length about Bruce Lee movie and my experience with martial art to make a point – do not believe what the media say about the special force. More pointedly, do not fantasize about righteous killings and fearless warriors. They do not exist in real life. (Every time Bruce Lee movie is in town, I have 100 people lining up at my dojo wanting to be the next Bruce Lee. I fear the same for special force.)

I am sure the special force is a superlative trained and well prepared fighting force that our country cannot do without. However, I know from life experience that the invasion of Pakistan and execution of Osama bin Laden did not happened like a Bruce Lee movie: a righteous kill by fearless warriors in a picture perfect engagement.

For example,

. there is little righteousness in invading another sovereign nation (Pakistan)
. there is little righteousness in killing an unarmed terrorist
. there is a lot more fear to go around if one of the two special force choppers went down and the elite Pakistan arm force training site is just around the corner

There is every indication - few weapons, slight resistance, no firefight - that the nation is fed a special force movies script that is not real. (As I write, the story line of the special force operation is still changing.) There is also plenty of evidence that the people want to see a special force reality show, as imagined, more so than wanting to know what really happened.


I write this commentary not because I want to belittle the special force. As a martial artist, I have great respect for them.

I write this commentary to make people know that special force operations are not like Bruce Lee movie with righteous and fearless warriors, fighting a picture perfect war – make for prime time.

The nation and public is put on notice – war is messy, operations are bloody, and killing people are never fun.

Lastly and most importantly, the Osama bin Laden execution is not a Bruce Lee movie certainly for entertainment and adoration!

If you do decide to join the special force, please leave the Bruce Lee movie at home. Otherwise, you will be disappointed…

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