Bruce Lee’s 5 Epic Tips On Finding A Great Instructor

Bruce Lee


There is no doubt that when it comes to martial arts, Bruce Lee is the person almost all instructors and students would listen to.

His wisdom and skill are present in all of his writings.

One such essay was written by Bruce for the manuscript of The  Tao of Gung Fu, originally drafted in 1964 and reprinted in volume 2 of the Bruce Lee Library Series.

This article contained Bruce Lee’s tips on choosing a martial arts instructor, and to help you we have provided a bullet point list based on Lee’s advice.

1.Consider The Soundness of The System and Not The Instructor. After All, One Cannot Learn The Speed Or The Power Of An Instructor

Bruce Lee at avenue of star, Hong kong

Bruce Lee at avenue of star, Hong Kong

This makes perfect sense. I have seen many people attend a  club because the instructor was the ‘toughest man’ in the world. However, you cannot learn his toughness.

Just because he has incredible power and speed does not mean you can have his attributes. Therefore, you need to judge if the system is right for you as a person.

An example of this is Taekwondo; this is something that would never appeal to me as I am in my late 30’s. However, I am sure that my children would want to learn the high kicks that the art is known for. Just thinking about it makes me want to reach for the Ibuprofen.

Therefore, you need to judge the system they are teaching and not the instructors physical attributes.

2. The System Should Not Be Mechanical and Complicated, But Simply Simple, With No “Magical Power”.

This is again brilliant advice.

If you are looking for a good martial arts system, then you need to find one that is simple. Under the reality of real violence, your fine motor skills will reduce and as such you will find it tough to land fancy techniques.

One of the reasons that Muay Thai and wrestling are so devastating is that the techniques are gross motor skills. That is not to say that there is a lack of depth in these systems; you only have to look at boxing with its small amount of techniques to see a huge gap in skill between an amateur and a professional.

The absence of techniques should not be a sign that the martial art is inferior in quality. In fact it could be argued that a martial art with overly complex techniques or patterns should be avoided like the plague, that is of course before you get into the whole no touch knockout nonsense that is going around!

3. Do Not, However, Be Impressed By Instructors Who Have Brick Breaking Hands, Invincible Stomachs, Iron Forearms, Or Even Speed For That Matter. Remember You Cannot Learn His Ability, But You Can Learn His Skill.

Karate man in blue kimino

When I was 7, I went to a martial arts demonstration where lots and lots of bricks and boards were broken. I was amazed and spellbound.  I went home and told my Dda that I wanted to join this school of martial arts. He was a hardened ex-boxer and coach.

My Dad asked me what I had been so impressed about to which I told him about all the boards and bricks being broken. He turned to me and said, “boards don’t hit back son”!

Now, I do realise that he lifted that line from “Enter The Dragon”, but I didn’t know as I hadn’t watched it at that time. Either way, those words got me to think of the demonstration in a whole new light.

The art of board and brick breaking is exactly that, an art. I am not saying it is good or bad however what I am saying is do not take the ability of the instructor as a factor in your choice of martial arts system.

Just for giggles though check out this video of an epic brick breaking fail.

4. Before You Take Any Lessons  With  The Instructor, Find Out Clearly From Him What His Method Is And Politely Request That He Demonstrate To You How Some Techniques Operate

wc steve

This part is easy to request yet is essential.

I always tell people that sometimes the best way to try something is to ‘feel’ it. On the internet, we get keyboard warriors galore talking about how “that style won’t work” or “that wouldn’t hurt” yet they have never tried the art, the style or even experienced the technique.

If you go to a club, the instructor should be willing to show you how something feels in a  safe manner. That way you will experience the art directly, and if this resonates with you, then you have found a great place to train.

5. What If The Master Does Not Want To Show You His Style? “Silence Is The ornament And Safeguard Of The Ignorant”


While I admit I have spliced two sentences together here, I also think they work so well as a pair.

With this section, Bruce is actually talking about the secrecy in Chinese martial arts and with regards to martial arts as a whole back then. However, I think the same applies now to a degree.

The fact is, there are lot’s of martial artists out there who will tell you about their 100’s of street and competition victories yet they are never seen to train, fight or spar. It is a convenient way of building a hidden legacy.

I had a guy tiling my kitchen one day. A big fat guy who learned that I did martial arts,  never told him how much but said “I haven’t done much” to which he proceeded to tell me about how experienced he was in martial arts. He told me that he 7th Degree black belt master and he was awarded his belt after fighting ten people in a row, and his fights could only be watched by the grandmaster who was the last surviving member of a Ninja clan. He told me the style and guess what, I have never heard of it.

I asked him if he still did any to which he said he had to ‘pack in’ because his skill level got so high there was no one else left for him to fight!

What d’ya reckon? I know, I know………. I had to go into another room to stop myself from laughing, and he still had loads of tiles to put on.

The point is this, there is a difference between a person not wanting to boast, not wanting to train you and a person being a fraud!

Occasionally these frauds believe their own legend so much that they end up posting videos of themselves on-line, and we all get to see them in action.

Just be careful of the person that doesn’t go hands on in training with you.


Bruce Lee was an expert in martial arts, years ahead of his time in so many ways. Yet the same issues in martial arts clearly existed back then.

These are wise words, and to read them all go and check out Bruce Lee’s book “Artist of Life”.

And for even more Bruce Lee check out our great post on Bruce lee Quotes

Until next time.