Bruce Lee: My Favorite Teacher

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

“If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”

Bruce Lee

I had a very unique and life-changing experience two weeks ago. One that I was not expecting. 

It was the October half-term and I decided to to take a well-earned break from things for a few days. I and my wife traveled to Khao Yai National Park in Thailand to enjoy a few days in nature. We both certainly appreciated the fresh air and scenery. 

On the way to Khao Yai I noticed a road sign that said ‘Pak Chong’ which specified a number of kilometers to get there. It wasn’t far way, and as a massive Bruce Lee fan I knew that this was the place where The Big Boss was filmed. 

That’s quite a big deal for a lifelong martial artist and a big Bruce Lee fan. The Big Boss, filmed in 1971, was the movie that propelled Bruce to epic levels of fame in Asia. It was his ‘big break’, so to speak. 

I, like a lot of pre-millenial kids, had a rocky life growing up. I wasn’t without life’s necessities but a number of people at that time really tried to mess things up for me. I was bullied at school by a number of individuals who wouldn’t dare bully me now. My parents had also divorced when I was around 2-years-old and that created a domino effect which basically made things difficult. 

We’ve all had our fair share of challenge in life. Many people choose to give up when the going gets tough – they might turn to alcohol, drugs, gangs or things like that. Thankfully for me, however, my dad took me to learn Shotokan Karate at age 11, and soon after that I learned about Bruce Lee.

I read Bruce’s ‘Chinese Gung Fu‘ and ‘The Tao of Jeet Kune Do’ when I was only a teenager. Bruce’s message about handling combat seemed to resonate with me and began to influence many non-combat areas of my life:

  • Train every part of your body and work as hard as you can – that message helped me a lot. Physical training and hard study helped me to ‘escape’ from some of the problems I had at home. I believe that Bruce’s message helped me to develop this drive. 
  • Use the enemy’s strength against him: the idea of matching aggression with relaxation, allowing the opponent to complete his force, and then respond with aggression (the ‘Yin Yang’ dynamic) also had parallels in my life. When people got in my face and moaned, bullied or complained at me, I felt it necessary to listen, respond calmly and remain unfazed. I would then get on with my life and try harder than ever. I just couldn’t be provoked or pushed around anymore. The bullying just didn’t upset me anymore, and when one kid went too far and tried to push me around, I used my Shotokan skills to respond (and that’s the polite way of describing what happened). Needless to say, he stayed away from me after that.

Bruce Lee lived by example. He actually had high-level skills. He practiced what he preached. If Bruce told you to “train every part of your body”, you’d better believe that he was the ultimate epitome of that philosophy. 

I honestly believe that good teachers cannot be hypocrites. If you’re teaching your students about the dangers of smoking but you smoke, then you’re a fraud. If you’re teaching physical education but you’re morbidly obese, then you’re a fraud. 

Bruce wasn’t a fraud. If he told you to do it, then that meant he could do it like a pro. 

I went to the Big Boss’ house in Pak Chong and I was surprised to find that it had changed little since 1971. To stand at the location where Bruce Lee actually fought the bad guys, and the Big Boss himself, was like going on a sacred pilgrimage:

Bruce lee big boss Richard Rogers 1.jpg

Bruce Lee Big Boss Richard Rogers 2.jpg

The Big Boss’ house is actually an active temple called Wat Siri Samphan. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the head monk at the temple, who told me that soon the temple may be refurbished, and some of iconic structures that still stand may be knocked down:

Monk wat siri samphan with Richard .jpeg

I am now working with a number of individuals to preserve Bruce lee’s legacy in Pak Chong by securing the historic filming locations so that they can be enjoyed by many generations to come. 

Updates will follow.

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High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

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