Many have misunderstood Bruce’s teachings to a severe extent. Bruce spoke against the drawbacks of the traditional Martial Arts and expressed his own unique way in the Martial Arts. His own unique way was very hard to teach, because it was specifically tailored to himself, he did not place much energy nor focus on how to teach disciples to get to his own level of development or possibly further.
Teaching others to get to your level and expressing your own way in the Martial Arts are two different things. Teaching others requires patience & thorough explanations so that your disciple has a true understanding of your teachings. Bruce did not have the time to truly help any of his fans, supporters, students, or disciples truly understand his teachings.
Yes boards do not hit back, but even though the board does not hit back, you can still severely injure yourself while punching a board. You can easily bruise, swell, fracture, and even break the bones in your hand by hitting a board. Inanimate objects can still very much injure any human being that attempts to destroy the inanimate object. Just imagine trying to punch a brick wall as hard as you can, that will inevitably place you in the hospital.
Just imagine falling with your head on concrete while trying to perform a back flip and then becoming paralyzed. In these instances you are trying to fight against nature and no matter what, if you keep pushing beyond your limitations, nature will always overcome your physical body. You can try to fight against fire but eventually you will burn to death. You can be a great swimmer but eventually you will drown if you go beyond your limitations.
Testing your limitations against another human being who actually does “hit back” will not necessarily serve as a challenge to your development. A small child can attempt to “hit back” but that does not mean that destroying the child in combat will in anyway serve to better your development as a Martial Artist. A women or man who is noticeably weaker than yourself can “hit back” but that does not mean that you should destroy this individual in combat in order to “prove” your abilities.
In any instance where you destroy another individual who is noticeably weaker than yourself, you become the aggressor, you become the murderer, you become the bully, you become the tyrant, you become the oppressor. If you are strong, you are not supposed to take advantage of the weak; doing so shows the weakness within you.
Notice that Bruce made this statement while acting within a Hollywood film where everything is pre-planned and choreographed, nothing was spontaneous, it was all an act. If it is all an act, then all the “hitting back” is not even real hitting back. So in essence, the board may not “hit back” but neither is the actor of whom he was fighting with, the actor was not truly “hitting back” either.
Bruce was speaking philosophy to an audience that lacks understanding, this audience will then take this statement in which to promote combat sport. But Bruce was not promoting combat sport, he was not a combat sport athlete, he chose to become an actor in order to promote Martial Arts, not combat sport.
Basically, what I see is that yes, Martial Artists should not be breaking boards and destroying nature in order to show off and intimidate others, that is a very silly thing to do but it is even worse for “Martial Artists” to partake in combat sport and purposefully fight and destroy one another’s health in order to show off and intimidate others.
Both situations are ignorant but the combat sport is even more ignorant. Creating realistic choreographed fight scenes is very artistic and a safe expression of the Martial Arts and that is what Bruce did. But engaging in combat sport is violent behavior, breaking boards and bricks is just violent behavior to a lesser degree.
If you punch a wooden board as hard as you can, you will never go to jail, unless you break a wooden object that belongs to someone else, then you may go to jail for damage to property. Punching a wooden board may put you in the hospital. If you punch a human being, now you are potentially putting the other human being or yourself in the hospital and you are both in jeopardy of going to jail. Martial Artists are always seeking ways to test their limitations, fighting amongst other human beings or even animals is just not a safe, healthy, or peaceful way of demonstrating your abilities.
Our bodies can be tested in many different ways without having to result in destroying the health of another human being. We should not even seek to destroy the health of ourselves, that is just violent behavior turned within. We should simply train to better our health and the health of society as a whole. That is the true Way.