What do Cobra Kai, The Matrix, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have in common? These movies and series have some of the most groundbreaking scenes. It is due to the perfect execution of the smoothest martial arts choreography. These action type of movies would not have existed if it wasn’t for one man.
That’s right, you’ve guessed it! A name that is synonymous with martial arts is none other than Bruce Lee. Even after his death in July 1973, he continues to inspire today’s generation and the future.
Born Lee Jun Fan, he was a Chinese American martial artist that inspired the entire world. He was an actor, instructor, filmmaker, and philosopher. He is known for his movies such as Enter the Dragon, Game of Death, and many others. He did something that his predecessors failed to do. He used ancient philosophy as his framework. He didn’t stick to it 100%. Instead, he brought out innovative and fresh ideas that were more suitable at the time. Even if this meant clashing among traditionalists along the way. Lee combined the best of existing disciplines. He conceptualized Jeet Kune Do meaning “The Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It carved the path to what is now MMA or Mixed Martial Arts. It’s a sport that combines all sorts of disciplines for a fighter’s advantage. This hybrid philosophy was based on personal experiences and philosophies. His movies are reflections of what he was experiencing or had gone through before.
In this world today, we can be entrepreneurs if we aspire to. We can start our startups if we wanted to. That’s why we’re looking into Bruce Lee, his life and works, and his philosophies. There are a few things that we can get from him, for us to become better learners.
“Absorb what is useful,
Discard what is not,
Add what is uniquely your own.”
Before his death at the age of 32 years old, Bruce spent his entire time making the most out of his life. He did not let it go to waste. He was a voracious reader and had an appetite for martial arts, philosophy, and self-help books. He owned thousands of books, which he kept himself occupied. The great thing about Bruce Lee is that he never limited himself to one study. To the world, he was recognized as a fierce martial artist. He embodied a different persona behind closed doors. He even enjoyed dance and poetry which reflects his philosophies. He never tied himself to a set of beliefs and stayed there. What’s interesting is that he took all his favorite ones, blended them, and lived them out there.
The road to becoming an entrepreneur is not an easy one. That’s why we need to make the most of whatever comes along our way. We can take courses that pique our interest. They will sharpen our skill set. We can choose to make meaningful connections with people in our network. We can take in experiences that make us richer as a person. Like a sponge, we can absorb everything. Rather, anything that will broaden our perspective. Discard anything that’s useless.
“Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”
Each martial art has its own set of traditions and instructions. Bruce Lee defied that by breaking all the rules. He wanted his style to be simple and efficient. Thus, he created Jeet Kune Do. This way, it addresses the issue directly and solves it right away. This is very evident in his movies. Even though he is surrounded by his opponents, he takes them down as soon as they attack. His lightning reflexes take care of the rest. He is the last man standing. When you build your startup from scratch, it’s normal to encounter problems. It’s best to address them right away. It’s better to do so than prolong the agony by sweeping them under a rug. It will be tougher to get things done if you keep avoiding them. One day, you’ll have to face them.
He insisted on living a simple life that will lead to a life of happiness. Cut unnecessary distractions and extraneous noise. You will be surprised you can achieve much more. Start putting this into perspective. You will realize how valuable your purpose is and how important your vision is. Living in these modern times can be both a blessing and a curse. We have the technology right at our fingertips to assist us. But, if we tend to waste time through social apps meaninglessly, we will lose focus on what needs to be achieved.
To avoid this, make a list of simple goals to do today. Remember to focus and set your eyes on the ultimate priority. Crossing something off that list will leave you feeling wonderful.
“Be a practical dreamer backed by action.”
You would think Bruce Lee is the kind of person who would pick fights with anyone who gave him the eye. Wrong. Quite the opposite. He got into a series of street fights. At the age of 14, he started learning martial arts for self-defense. He gained his parents’ approval. Originally, he was declined by a school that taught Wing Chun Kung Fu due to his German ancestry (yes, he is one-fourth!). Chinese Martial Arts frowned upon teaching foreigners. They would rather keep the arts to themselves. Yet, Yip Man became Lee’s master. He was trained privately as he showed interested and showed progression.
Bruce Lee encountered many obstacles during his time. He never allowed them to overpower him. Instead, they shaped him into a better person. A well-loved person that gained popularity even after his death. Like him, we can overcome all the challenges that are thrown at us. As we continue to move forward, our adaptability and resilience will increase as well.
As they say, one’s experience is the best teacher. Bruce Lee never remained in his comfort zone. Whatever he picked up from poetry, philosophy, or martial arts, he embedded them and made them his own. He was someone who stuck to his philosophies and was a man of his word. Rather, he was a man of action. He insisted on living out his beliefs instead of allowing them to be ideas. He may seem to embody a cocky persona onscreen but in reality, it was a form of self-expression.
“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.
Lee was born for stardom. His father was a popular Cantonese opera actor, which made it easier for him to enter the movie industry. As a child actor, he appeared in 20 films in Hong Kong. You’d think it was a smooth transition for the actor, right? Wrong. It was a different case for a Chinese American. Being part of the minority in the US, he experienced a lot of racial discrimination. During that time, Asians were cast as stereotypes. They were given their slanted eyes, yellow skin, and exaggerated buck teeth.
If that wasn’t difficult to overcome, whitewashing was a common practice. Asian roles were given to white actors. Industry experts believed that a white actor’s name determines a movie’s popularity. This didn’t stop Bruce Lee from making a name for himself. He honed his skills as a martial artist and an actor. His popularity soared when he starred as Kato in The Green Hornet. He became the main character’s sidekick in the television series. It was his first breakthrough role on the American screen. It was also the first time that the American audience was exposed to Asian martial arts.
The director wanted Lee to adopt the American style of fighting. This included brute strength coupled with punches. But, Bruce Lee put his foot as he could not limit himself to this kind of fighting. The director agreed. Thanks to whitewashing, this is exactly what happened. It took place when he was to star in a television series called Kung Fu. Lee was to take on the main role as a Buddhist monk. No other role would best display his strongest abilities as a martial artist. Everything seemed like it was falling into a place until he was replaced by David Carradine. At that time, the American actor did not even have any martial arts skills.
It was hard to change racial stereotypes that were cast in movies. In frustration, he decided to move back to Hong Kong with his growing family in 1971. After all, there were better opportunities for him there. Little did he know, The Green Hornet won many fans. They considered his character Kato to be the ultimate star of the show. It was a blessing in disguise because that was where he finally got that long due break he was waiting for. He starred in The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and Way of the Dragon. These were the movies that made him iconic because they showcased his skills in martial arts.
Bruce Lee radically changed the way Asians were portrayed in western movies. He was the little guy who stood up for himself or what was right especially towards his enemies. He paved the way for future martial artists such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and many more. If he had turned his back on acting forever, someone else would’ve done it and Bruce Lee wouldn’t be as popular.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
Onscreen, Bruce Lee seemed like an arrogant guy that always had a smirk on his face. Not to mention that signature move when he thumbs his nose before he fights off his opponent. At the same time, he was the kind of person you would not mess around with. The reason why he took up martial arts was a form of self-expression.
Believe it or not, he took up a liking to dance, won a cha-cha competition as well as a boxing tournament. This could be explained in his graceful moves when it comes to footwork. Not a lot of martial artists can attest to this. He read a lot of books that inspired him and his philosophical works. He was also moved by poetry and took a liking to that as well. These activities helped him keep focused and evolved into a person that we know of.
What Bruce Lee is trying to tell us is to be ourselves and let our personalities shine. Each person is original and unique. It’s a simple reminder to live out our life the way we want it to be. We should stop trying to be someone who we’re not. If we want to, we can carve our path, not somebody else’s.
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
There is a Bruce Lee in us. A fierce warrior is dying to be unleashed. He taught us to ask the right questions that come to mind. Let us adapt to whatever circumstances may be thrown unto us. The only limit we have is the ones that we put unto ourselves. That is the reason why we are restricted. What may seem impossible to others, is possible for you. If we don’t go after what we want, we might spend an entire lifetime full of regrets.
Once you realize this, you should break free from this kind of mentality that has been instigated upon us. It could come from our familial structure or the social norms. It could be these traditions that are limiting us from what we can become. Change the way you think. It will lead you to more opportunities.
Bruce Lee has taught us plenty of things. It’s to be ourselves, never stop learning, and never put limits on ourselves, let alone, our dreams. After all, it is our dream that is the driving force in life. Our dreams are the ones that put our plans and goals into motion. If we face obstacles, we can’t let them defeat us. Always charge it to experience and move on for the best. Once you change the way you think, it will be easy to get started on things. You can get started on your business idea, startup, or pretty much anything you put your mind to.
We only get to live once so we might as well make the most out of it. Every day is an opportunity for us to work closer to our goals. Otherwise, it could be gone in a split second. It would be a waste to live a life of regret. We have to make the most of what we have right now. Any medium that can be used to help achieve our goals right now is a step closer to your dreams. With new confidence, we must be adaptable to whatever circumstances we are faced with. Like what Bruce Lee said, “Be water, my friend.” and you’ll go far in life.