The Warrior and the Scholar. The Psychological link of Discipline between Cus D’Amato and Bruce Lee

When it comes to combat and combat sports, one should take in and understand everything that goes into such a discipline. The physical training one has to endure is one component and it is hard enough but there is a psychological piece of the puzzle that must be understood and mastered if one wants to be successful. Whether you’re competing in a sport like boxing or training in the martial arts there has to be a connection between the mind and the body. The mind has an enormous effect on the body and vice versa. Perhaps two people that understood the importance that the link between mind and body or the physical and the psychological aspects when facing another human being in battle were Cus D’Amato and Bruce Lee. Both men never met each other but have many things in common.

They both created their own styles or methods of combat and training. D’Amato created the “Peek a boo” style of boxing and Bruce had developed Jeet Kune Do. Although Cus’s style was developed for the sport of boxing and Bruce’s style was created for the street as self-defense, both styles have similar origins and foundations. Cus D’Amato’s peek a boo style was derived from elements of martial arts, fencing, boxing and wrestling as well as Neopolitan knife fighting. The nucleus of JKD are Wing Chun Gung Fu, Fencing and boxing. Wrestling and Wing Chun are similar in terms of body feel or “sensitivity” training because you are in contact with certain parts or limbs of the body. Wing Chun works by immobilizing the limb or obstruction to get in for the hit while wrestling deals with pinning or pulling the limbs to off balance, manipulate or takedown and pin for points. Both arts are responding to the stimulus that they feel from their opponents energy. Both Wing Chun and Wrestling are close quarters combat styles. The Peek a boo boxing style has the hands up and pulled in towards the side of the face. The style is designed to be aggressive, to move forward and put pressure on the opponent to make him uncomfortable and panic them into throwing punches. When the opponent throws punches the peek a boo stylist slips the punches or bob & weaves them with constant head movement to make it very difficult the anyone to track and land any dangerous punches to keep them safe. Each punch that is delivered as a counter attack is to be thrown with what Cus called “bad intentions” meaning every shot was meant to hurt or maim the opponent to break their will physically and psychologically.

When we talk about discipline it’s not just about “doing something”. It’s about being consistent and not only consistent with time and repetition but with purpose and energy. Doing it even when you don’t feel like doing it. Both Cus and Bruce were perfectionists. Cus would often tell his fighters during training “it’s good but you have to make it perfect.” Chris Kent a Jeet Kune Do practitioner/instructor who trained under the great Dan Inosanto and who is one of the leading authorities on JKD says that “Bruce was so committed and disciplined, he would train the sidekick for as long as an hour and a half and make little adjustments along the way to perfect just that one weapon”. Most people are not willing to put in that much work on one thing for that long but Bruce was different. Kent said “what made Bruce different was that he was so in tuned with himself.” Chris Kent has been trained in many different style of combat and continues to further his education in the art of combat and teaching as well. He has read books on Neuroscience to better understand the mind and how it works so that he could be a better teacher to convey the information more effectively. “Every thought that you have has a physical effect on the body” says Kent sounding a lot like the late Cus D’Amato and is something Cus would talk about to his fighters. There is no shortcut to success in anything and discipline is the most important tool you can possess. It is more important than motivation because that is fleeting and won’t always be present when you need it but discipline is something that is forged and developed over time. It is something that will never let you down and will teach you more about yourself than motivation ever will. If there is anything that we could learn from Cus and Bruce it is that discipline is everything when it comes to being the best and sets you apart from the rest of the pack that aren’t willing to put in that same amount of work. We should all strive to reach our maximum potential and that can only be done through unshakable discipline.

Nick Cavallino

Nick is a certified Jun Fan/ Jeet Kune Do and Filipino martial arts instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto. He also teaches French Boxing, Muay Thai, western boxing and Wing Chun along with weaponry. He owns Allied martial arts academy in Detroit Michigan.

Author: Nick Cavallino