THE MAN BEHIND, BRUCE LEES THE TAO of JEET KUNE DO
THE MAN BEHIND, BRUCE LEES THE TAO of JEET KUNE DOOn the eve of the new rendition of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, public awareness will be awakened again to the legendary man known that this book was by-- Bruce Lee. I smile, thinking back to when I was a child and I called this special human being "Uncle Bruce". But, there was another special human being that I regarded warmly in that same family spirit. And, when looking closely at the Tao of JKD, this other person was behind the scenes as well--a devotee who used his time and energy to building the most prolific and modern book in martial arts history. This unsung hero deserves to be remembered within the chronicles of the JKD world. His name is Gilbert Johnson.
But who is Gilbert Johnson? Why is he of major significance? Let"s begin with the facticity that Gilbert was specifically chosen by Linda Lee to carefully and delicately tend to the sea of papers reflecting her now, late husband"s thoughts, words, and insights to share with the world. The monumental task of organizing and preserving these writings by my Honorary Uncle would become a sacred endeavor for Gilbert-- he was co-editor to the Tao of Jeet Kune Do (and later the book, The Filipino Martial Arts by my father, Dan Inosanto). As an accomplished martial artist on his own terms, he was an inquisitive human being, and connected very much with the teachings and principles of Jeet Kune Do.
But before this mission of anthology with the Tao of JKD, Gilbert was a gifted writer and independent journalist who frequently wrote for Black Belt magazine and other publications during the 1960"s-1970"s. According to his family member, Gilbert experienced several life threatening events in his lifetime, but he managed to survive those. As a freelance journalist, Gil also threw himself smack into the middle of the 1979 protests in Isfahan, Iran and survived to write of his account of the Iranian Revolution. Perhaps having served in the military, Gilbert was prepared to boldly and resiliently come face-to-face with the world. Still, Gilbert managed to have a big heart. He wanted to help people. Gilbert tried to share his enthusiasm and friendship with others no matter how old --or young. I adored this man as a child growing up. He inspired me through the pure essence of his kindness.
But, by the time the 1980"s rolled around, the AIDS epidemic started to ground itself in the states. In those days in US history, AIDS was labeled the gay disease despite that in other countries it was a heterosexual disease. Sadly, Gilbert was one of the first people I knew to contract the disease via a blood transfusion he needed after being involved in a car accident and because of this, he quickly understood the discrimination and prejudice encountered by people who have contracted AIDS or the HIV virus. As a result he became an activist to make people aware that AIDS is not a gay disease and can affect anyone, that compassion is needed, not hate. In my film, The Sensei, this historical attitude has been reflected within the martial arts world, with school owners dealing with a gay student in the dojo. As a writer, director & producer he would challenge me-- mind, body and spirit--to address the prejudice that has touched the martial arts community in this way.
As a close family friend to my father and the rest of the original JKD family, Gilbert was a brilliant choice by Linda to meet the challenges of putting together the most soul searching and significant writings of my godfather. He tirelessly worked and employed the work habits of a researcher and detective studying and training with my father and the other JKD students at our family academy, humbling tucked away at that time, at our home"s backyard in Carson, California.
He wanted to understand and explore through all his senses what my uncle was saying through these precious and profound documents that were left behind. And when he was done categorizing and carefully arranging the chapters of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, I liken it to a doctor helping to deliver a child into the world. It has been 35 years since the Tao of Jeet Kune Do was born into the public eye--I am glad that such writings will be exposed to a new generation--and that Gilbert has a place in martial arts anthology of such ground breaking and spiritual knowledge for the world to see.
---Diana Lee Inosanto