Fri. Sep 29th, 2023

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee defeats one opponent using “The Art of Fighting Without Fighting”, and this is based on a real martial arts legend.

A famous scene in the Bruce Lee martial arts classic Enter the Dragon is based on a real-life Japanese legend. After building himself into a star in Hong Kong with movies like The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and The Way of the Dragon, Bruce Lee finally got his big break in Hollywood as the eponymous hero in 1973’s Enter the Dragon.

Lee would sadly pass away before the movie’s debut, but Enter the Dragon would become an international phenomenon and posthumously made Bruce Lee into a martial arts movie legend.

With Bruce Lee being the leading man in the Enter the Dragon cast, the movie is also a deeply philosophical movie about the nature and meaning of martial arts. One of many scenes to exemplify this is Lee’s encounter with the belligerent Parsons (Peter Archer), who challenges Lee to a fight while the two are on a boat traveling to the island tournament of Han (Shih Kien). Lee manages to defeat Parsons by employing “The art of fighting without fighting”, and this directly mirrors a Japanese legend of a swordsman doing using the exact same method to achieve victory.

“The Art of Fighting Without Fighting” Is Based On Tsukahara Bokuden

In the legend of 16th century Japanese swordsman Tsukahara Bokuden, he was once asked about his fighting style by a challenger, with Bokuden replying that his was “The Style of No Sword”. After the commoner challenged him to a fight, eager to see the extent of his skills, Bokuden agreed, but suggested they row to a nearby island in Lake Biwa to take their duel away from other people. However, upon arriving, Bokuden allowed the challenger to exit the boat first, then rowed away, leaving his opponent stuck on the island and having won the confrontation without hurting him.

Enter the Dragon uses this exact scenario when Parsons inquires about Lee’s fighting style, which he describes as “The art of fighting without fighting”. After Parsons demands a demonstration, Lee suggests they use a rowboat tied to the boat they’re riding to go to a nearby island, in order to have more room. After Parsons enters the boat, he realizes that Lee has tricked him by remaining aboard the sailboat, loosening the line, and towing Parson’s dinghy behind the sailboat. While Enter the Dragon’s martial arts fights are incredible, Lee teaches an importance lesson about when to fight, as Bokuden once did.

The Importance Of The Art Of Fighting Without Fighting In Enter The Dragon

In Enter the Dragon, Parsons is clearly shown to be a bully looking for a fight, and it would certainly be all too easy for Lee to deliver him a much deserved comeuppance in an actual fight. However, Lee is able to teach Parsons a lesson without actually hurting him by dragging his boat through the sea. Lee also demonstrates just what “The art of fighting without fighting” really means, having used his brain rather than his fists to defeat Parsons.

In the situations both Bokuden and Lee found themselves in, pride and self-righteousness could have led them to physically defeat their enemies, but both are thinking ahead. Without actually resorting to violence, both Tsukahara Boduken and Lee humble their opponents with a lesson about what martial arts is not about. Enter the Dragon is full of future martial arts stars, philosophical depth, quotable lines, and amazing fight scenes, but “The art of fighting without fighting” is one of its most memorable elements because of how it draws on an actual martial arts legend.

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