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The Philosophy of Bruce Lee – How Medical Students can Benefit

Submitted by on August 5, 2012 – 6:27 PM One Comment

We’ve all been there: Watching a consultant drive off at 5 O’ clock in his brand new jag as he starts his long weekend playing golf never ceases to be an enticing idea, but along the way what personality traits have these superhuman beings developed to attain their position?

The nerve to dream, the daringness to desire and the determination to achieve are the foundation blocks for most successful careers and these are individuals at the top of their game. As such reaching a consultant post is an aspiration for many medical students, and it may seem logical that in imitating their actions you are simply taking on board in several sessions what it has taken them years to accumulate.


But is it in the best interest of a medical student to re-enact actions of a consultant. From what I have seen: not always. Here are some things that I have either seen or heard of happening that are probably not in the best interest of an up-and-coming medical student in the UK.


  • Never walk in half an hour late and then shout at the nurse for having a trolley full of notes in the room you will be sat
  • Never poke a patient in the abdomen and ask ‘ are you pregnant?’ or something to that effect to an obese 50 year old man
  • Never shout at a patient telling them that they ‘were wrong to send the medical student out of the room and that they are our future’
  • Never shout at a patient
  • Never tell a person from another speciality that they are the definition of ‘shifting dullness’


It may appear that the picture I am painting is that all consultants are obnoxious and obviously I know this is not the case. Far from it in fact; nearly all consultants have mastered their profession through sheer hard work, professionalism and with good patient rapport alongside. In addition some of the above has have been taken out of context as the patient and doctor develop their rapport through friendly ‘banter’.


However it does make me wonder when did some consultants decide it would be ok to introduce these questionable facets into their practice? And when, if ever will it be ok for us to do the same? Was it always instilled in them? Were they blunt and rude the moment they entered the doors of medical school? Or was this something acquired on achieving the consultant post? Did they feel they needed to assert their authority? Or is it in fact the bluntness that creates the most efficiency for them?


So how do we as medical students choose a role model? A person who we think is the perfect doctor and whose actions and philosophy would make us the perfect doctor. Is it wise to choose a role model in this way and try to copy their personality traits at the expense of your own individuality? How can one pick up the attitudes, philosophy and character, that attributes to be a good doctor whilst still being true to yourself?



For me the answer to that question comes from a very unusual place. A Chinese American martial artist called Lee Jun-fan the man better known by the name Bruce Lee. Bruce lee is regarded to be the most influential martial artist and a cultural icon. As well as being a martial arts instructor, film actor, director and producer Lee was also a philosopher. His martial arts books are well known for their philosophical assertions both inside and outside martial arts circles.




The philosophy which made lee the most influential martial artist was simple yet profound. After a match with Wong Jack Man in 1964, Lee felt that although he attained a decisive victory, the fight lasted too long and the Wing Chun fighting system didn’t allow him to reach his full potential.  It was then that he abandoned traditional martial arts systems due to their restrictive nature and decided that they were too formalistic and rigid to be practical in a street fight situation.




He then focused instead on training by using the best aspects of the numerous martial arts and even fencing and boxing. In essence Lee studied a variety of fighting styles and picked the best elements of each which he felt suited and enhanced his own personal fighting style the most. Lee emphasised what he called “the style of no style” and formed his own system which he called Jun Fan Gung Fu (Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu) which he eventually evolved into a philosophy and martial art which is now known is Jeet Kune Do (the Way of the Intercepting Fist).



Lee summed up this philosophy which turned him into a cultural icon in the quote: “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it”. This philosophy when applied to medical role models means that instead of picking one single doctor as a role model students should take from all their seniors only the attributes, actions and philosophies which they think reflect best practice and makes for a ‘perfect doctor’ and incorporate all of them together to make their own system which works best for them and consists of the best qualities of a number of ‘medical role models’.

“I always learn something, and that is: to always be yourself. And to express yourself, to have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate him” – Bruce Lee


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  • Billy

    A very interesting read. I hae always thought Lee’s philosophy could be applied to other areas of life to achieve excellence. The author has demonstrated how this could be applied to medical students to make them better doctors. However the examples given are at the extremes of behaviour and I would be interested if the author could elaborate on how students, new in the field of medicine, choose what behaviours to emulate and which to avoid. For the Bruce Lee method to succeed one has to know what makes a good a doctor and what doesn’t.