At first glance, I thought the “Afghan Bruce Lee” was just another story about a person taking their celebrity obsession too far. But his story is much more profound than that — It’s about seeing a Light of hope in someone else and pursuing that Light to find your way out of the darkness.
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Image credit: Reuters
Growing up in war torn Afghanistan is synonymous with struggle. The country has a long history of conflict. It’s dangerous, unstable, and tomorrow is certainly not promised to anyone. So as you can imagine, many people feel trapped by their circumstances, and many of them dream of escaping.
Abbas Alizada — The Afghan Bruce Lee — is one of them.
Image credit: Reuters
Born into a large family, with 9 brothers and sisters, Alizada grew up in poverty. But martial arts helped take his mind off of his difficult situation.
Image credit: Caters News Agency
“When I was eight years old I saw the Bruce Lee movies, and I was hooked… I said I will be the Bruce Lee of Afghanistan one day. I know I cannot be Bruce Lee, but I follow in his path.”
Unsurprisingly, Bruce Lee, was his primary inspiration. And he used this inspiration to not only transform his perception of himself, but the circumstances in which he and his family lived.
By simply watching video footage of the real Bruce Lee, Alizada did something truly remarkable; he began to teach himself how to do martial arts.
His proficiency with the nun-chucks speaks volumes about his commitment. In fact, I would say he is masterful with them.
He created his own gym, in the rubble of Afghanistan, and even made himself makeshift dumbbells — out of paint cans, cement, and wires.
Image credit: Stories
Although he was not able to afford attending a martial arts school, a local teacher named Abbas Rezaie saw that he had talent and uncompromising commitment, and was thus inspired to take him under his wing. Eventually, through hard work (practicing 5 to 6 hours a day, 6 days a week), Alizada not only began to earn a living through martial arts, but he was able to take care of his impoverished family as well.
A picture of Alizada with his proud father before he passed away/Image credit: Stories
“I want to help my people and my country.”
Ironically, whether the young martial artist is aware of it or not, he finds himself in a similar situation to his role model Bruce Lee — in that he wants to change the perception of his country and people, which is exactly something Bruce aspired to do and ultimately accomplished.
What we can learn from the Afghan Bruce Lee
Although a cynic might label Abbas Alizada as nothing more than the common copycat, the practice of assuming a role model’s identity to give oneself a sense of strength when feeling lost or weak, is actually a useful practice to help build up confidence and rise above seemingly insurmountable circumstances. We can use the Light we see in others, to help guide us out of the darkness that surrounds and suffocates us. It is a practice not much different to identifying with any other religion or ideology. It serves as a source of strength when people are feeling weak.
Today, for example, Alizada is able to take care of his family, is a successful martial artist, has gotten involved in making movies, and is changing minds and perceptions about his home country Afghanistan, all over the world. I’m sure if you asked him, he will say he was able to do that by identifying himself with Bruce Lee.
But no one else can make us work hard, or dream big. Bruce Lee didn’t make Abbas Alizada train for 6 hours a day, or teach him to make free weights out of paint cans, cement and wire. Bruce Lee didn’t make Abbas Alizada dream of another life, or pursue his goal even whilst feeling trapped and overwhelmed by poverty. In other words, no one can change our lives but ourselves.
It should also be said that Alizada is still very young, in his early twenties. And as he follows the teachings of the legendary Bruce Lee, what he will invariably come to find is that the final stage of his journey is to actualize himself and bring fourth his own individual creativity — his own deeper purpose and message in this world.
I am a firm believer that this is a lesson we must all learn eventually in life — To become ourselves, and not who the world tells us to be. It is why I believe we are here. It undoubtedly the most difficult journey of all, but also the most important.
You can watch a short documentary on the Afghan Bruce Lee below;
You can follow the Alizada on Facebook HERE
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