Bruce Lee’s Take on Cardio Training

A while back, I wrote a blog where I argued that cardio training is more important than strength training to the average person that uses martial arts. This got quite a response arguing the contrary was true, and I don’t even mean in a respectful way. It was almost like people were insulted that I would even THINK such a thing, let alone say it.

Today I was reading THE ART OF EXPRESSING THE HUMAN BODY. I reached chapter 17, which is titled “Real-World Power: the Cardio Connection.” Let me quote the book directly here:

“I remember Bruce and Linda’s son Brandon once telling me that he considered aerobic or cardiovascular training to be ‘real-world power,’ because cardiovascular fitness comes in handy far more frequently in our day-to-day encounters than does lifting heavy objects.”

Obviously everyone has their personal beliefs on what kind of training one should stress…but hey, if Bruce Lee himself said cardio was more applicable to daily life than strength training, then I think that’s a good indicator I was on to something when I wrote that article.


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
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3 Responses to Bruce Lee’s Take on Cardio Training

  1. native88 says:

    Hey Steve,

    Interesting that people would really argue this point. But, if I had to, I would argue that the most important aspect of fitness for the martial arts is, in fact, all of them… All of the arts need decent strength, speed, flexibility and cardio. MA is really about functional fitness.

    That being said, depending on the particular style you practice, you may get more return on certain aspects. A karateka may benefit from more strength training, whereas a TKD guy may be better served to focus on speed and flexibility.

    Then there is body type and natural ability to consider. Everyone is built differently and may have to work on one of these more than others. For example, I’m not a big guy (5’11”, 170lbs) so speed has always come easy for me. I find I need to work on my strength training more to compete with my peers as I am already naturally faster than most.

    Just my $.02

    • wcman1976 says:


      Thanks for the reply.

      I guess when you are talking about martial artists versus other martial artists, you get into a different realm. However, the scenario I proposed to illustrate my point was this:

      Let’s say you are new at your martial art: good enough to handle yourself, but by no means a master. On your way home you are confronted by 5 guys who want to mug you.

      What would be more important? To me, it’s cardio because I know I am no Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. I’m NOT going to be able to fight all five of these guys. However, what I CAN do is take one of them out to clear an escape route and then…run like hell!!!! Yeah maybe your pride will sting for a few days, but at least you won’t be laid up in a hospital.

  2. native88 says:

    Ahh ok, Run-Fu! Well then that makes perfect sense. In my mind, cardio is really only of importance when it comes to training. A real encounter generally will not last long enough for cardio to come into play, Run-Fu aside.

    Then again, if you are training MA just to prepare for physical confrontation, that is a whole other discussion and none of this really matters.

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