Bruce Lee: Longstreet & ‘The Art of Dying’
One of my favorite video clips on YouTube is of Bruce Lee playing Li Tsung in the 1971-1972 television series, Longstreet. Bruce Lee plays opposite James Franciscus (Mike Longstreet) and trains him in the art of Jeet Kune Do. (clip below)
In the four episodes that Lee’s character appeared in, the Jeet Kune Do master was able to give some extraordinary advice. What is so refreshing about these scenes is that the viewers, for once, can see first-hand how Bruce Lee instructs another person; a person with common doubts about his/her readiness, uneasiness moving in his/her body and frustrations regarding the whole process.
The character and attitude of Longstreet is highly believable. Being ‘ready’ (or capable) to properly defend oneself and having the emotional follow-through are often separate entities within the human being. Lee explains “Are we not animals?… A cat or a bird would peck out your eyes without hesitating.” Longstreet’s character is not yet ready to accept what is needed to ‘survive.’ It is at this moment when Li Tsung says,
Like everyone else, you want to learn ‘The way to win.’ But never to accept ‘The way to lose.’ To accept defeat, to learn to die, is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your ambitious mind and learn ‘The Art of Dying.’
WHAT DOES BRUCE MEAN BY THIS?
At this point, Longstreet is not far enough in his training. He has not yet learned to make mind and action ONE. ‘The Art of Dying’ as Bruce Lee puts it, is understanding your own mortality… understanding that some situations, we cannot/may not walk away from. When you have options, when you have opportunity, we may be able to capitalize. But when we accept our own mortality, if we are willing to die, we become a much more dangerous animal. In order to preserve our Life the one who understands the ‘Art of Dying’ is more likely (and capable) of taking risks and making sacrifices his opponent might not be willing to make himself. The survival edge now swings your way. An interesting concept, is it not?
Does anyone else care to elaborate?
Does it mean something different to you?
– MICHAEL JOYCE