In the scene above from the 1973 classic Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon, the main character, Mr Lee, encounters a bully while travelling on a boat. When ask of his style, Lee replies;
“You can call it the art of fighting without fighting”.
He agrees to show the bully his art but instead of violence, he uses his intelligence and traps the bully on a smaller boat. This segment of the film was adapted from a similar incident that is said to have happened to a 16th century samurai warrior by the name of Tsukahara Bokuden (1490 – 1571).
In his younger days, he was widely considered the best swordsman in the country who earned his reputation by fighting and defeating the best warriors Japan had to offer. However in later life, Bokuden grew tired of fighting and feeling he had nothing to prove, he came to believe in the merits of finding non-violent answers to any situation.
One day like the character Mr Lee, he was confronted by a bully while travelling on a boat who after boasting about his fighting skills, challenged the old master to a duel. Bokuden told him;
“My art is different from yours. It consists not so much in defeating others but in not being defeated.”
He stated that his school was called the Mutekatsu Ryu meaning ‘to defeat an enemy without hands,’ however the young samurai was still determined to fight and told the boats-man to stop at a nearby island so they could battle it out there.
Much to the bully’s bemusement, when he jumped into the shallow waters to make his way to the island, Bokuden got hold of the boats-man’s pole and pushed the boat back to deeper waters. As he did so, the wise old master laughed and shouted to his would be challenger;