Bruce Lee: Longstreet & ‘The Art of Dying’

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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.’


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?



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7 Responses to “Bruce Lee: Longstreet & ‘The Art of Dying’”

  1. Michael Says:

    it was incredible how Bruce understood the Art of Dieing Less than a Yr, before he did, ..I have never ever heard read or seen anthing of the art of dieing this is a Amazing way of thinking and very realistic than I ever heard in my Life ..Bruce was Beyond all of us way ahead of us in a way we can,t even imagine!. there was so much more to Bruce than a human being – people called him unworldly and I agree he didn,t seem Like anyone else I,ve ever know on Earth. I sure do Miss Bruce Lee.

  2. Joe Reminc Says:

    Fresh site… I truly appreciate your perspective on Bruce Lee, and the various levels of impact that he has left behind. Frankly as a power house marketer I think Bruce Lee is the classic example of kitchen table branding.

  3. Hi, I recently wrote an article on Bruce Lee’s philosophy. While writing it, I was thinking about the meaning of the “art of dying” as well. I have a different interpretation. Bruce Lee told us that we should not make a plan of fighting, he told us to to empty our mind, and to be formless like water. The “art of dying” is the “art of being non-fixed” – the art of being a different person tomorrow than we are today by letting go our past attachments. I believe it is very much in line with the Nietzschean ideal of self-creation: continuously subjecting our current values to our personal judgements, breaking down ‘lower values’ and creating ‘higher values’. The art of dying is hence a metaphor for continuously breaking down our past selves, values, attachments, pride, desires (dying) and creating our new selves (being reborn) so that we can continuously improve.

  4. […] When I heard this last quote,  I immediately thought of Bruce Lee.  Then I remember thinking, did this just come from a 27-year old fighter?  Because it sounded like it came from a physicist, or movement coach trying to boil things down to a simple understanding.  But the more I thought about this, the more I loved this quote because of its truth and relevance to the 13-second fight I just witnessed.  In Conor’s training, he played snuffed out the flame of candles, set about the room, with his punches.  Anyone who has ever tried this knows that it requires expert precision and tremendous quickness in order to pull this off.  In fighting, timing/rhythm will greatly disrupt, or stop an opponent’s effectiveness in attack or halt the opponent’s ability to start an attack.  If your timing is refined to the point that it enables you to move (and in this case, move and counter) at the very beginning of your opponent’s attack, the quickness of your attacker becomes of little concern.  It brings me back to Bruce Lee’s clip on Longstreet in which he says, “This time I intercepted your emotional tenseness.  From your brain to your fist, how much time was lost.” {CC article} […]

  5. Christopher Crittenden Says:

    I die everyday

  6. […] is an “art to dying”, according to Bruce Lee. “Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose – […]

  7. Hello Michael

    Personally I would agree with your interpretation, others have said it relates to rebirth, and renewal, I don’t agree , not in the context of this particular characters journey and the subsequent challenge he has to overcome. These words are in relation to encouraging the Franciscus character to free himself of doubt , to free himself of the fear of loss and to dismiss any preconceived notions of his own ability and to allow him to make the ultimate commitment. So rather than filling his own mind( Franciscus) with self doubt and the fear of losing, Lee is trying to push Franciscus towards more of a sense of Moment and Reaction, without any deep thoughts or worry. As Lee said himself ” if you try to think, you will lose”.

    Just my opinion. Then again what the hell do I know! lol. peace & love to all.

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