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Me, Chi, and Bruce Lee: A Personal Odyssey through the Global Phenomenon of Martial Arts

January 7, 2009

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“In the ice-cold echo chamber of the arena I heard him call me a gutless pussy. Or maybe it was pansy. I made it to the bench, but found no comfort there, no words of kindness, no forgiving pat on the shoulder pads from my coach or teammates. For a few minutes I couldn’t look anyone in the eye…At the end of the season, I quit hockey”(6).

…only to pick up Kung-Fu as a middle-aged forty-year-old when, twenty-five years later, such distasteful, diminishing rebukes were apparently still reverberating in Brian Preston’s shaken skull. Yet, Preston acknowledges the fact that he’d never been the aggressive type. Instead, he describes himself as “…more cerebral, haphazard, pacifistic, unfailingly harmless” and, we believe him after he recounts one story after the other of the ruthless bullying of which he remained victim. Whether getting slammed in the hockey rink, chased by young, Scottish thugs (against whom he learned it’s better to yell ‘Fook off” to have them slink off rather than to run away, in which case they’ll follow you!), or being terrorized in middle school for laughing at a classmate’s mispronunciation, in Me, Chi, and Bruce Lee: Adventures in Martial Arts, Preston demonstrates his unyielding commitment to self-defense as the superior response to instigating violence.

And then it all makes sense as to why this wimpy, forty year old would decide to write a book on martial arts and get his rib broken by a sixty year old woman in the process: he commiserated with the cerebral monks for whom Zen was created in the first place; those cerebral monks who, having been bullied and mugged like him, had to learn self-protection and the superior principle his master ingratiated upon him: to “develop a mind that does not need to be protected, that does not view life from that perspective” (32).

Whatever the motivation, Preston’s personal odyssey through the global phenomenon of martial arts provides a comical journey for the fighter and the pensive pacifist alike. His adventures from the Shaolin Temple and Wudang Mountain in China to Canada for a seminar with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Las Vegas at the Ultimate Fighting Championship either remind the passionate martial arts practitioner what he/she loves about it or explain to the rest of us what this fascination is all about. Or, if nothing else, it serves as a witty travel narrative with musings on Asian landmarks and culture. One finishes the book full of that inner transformation martial arts, we learn, is really about!

CLICK HERE to learn more about Me, Chi, and Bruce Lee.

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