Bruce Lee – The Lost Interview


Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water.
Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow, or it can crash!

Be water, my friend.

Yesterday I found Bruce Lee’s “Lost Interview” on google video, and man, I loved it. (trivia: real-life Bruce Lee used a word, “man” a lot)

I had never really thought about Bruce Lee much. In fact, I used to have a bit dark image about him, not really sure where it was originated though. Maybe it’s about his mysterious death. And he always looked intense in the movie without talking that much… Not like his disciple, rather comical Jackie Chan.

The interview was held on December 9, 1971 in Hong Kong. Roughly 19 months before his unfortunate death.

He talked about his idea about martial arts, his life, and philosophy. He looks relaxed, sometimes smiling, and very talkative unlike my previous image on screen. Showing a bit of arrogance here and there, but in general, he seemed like a nice guy. I think most (if not all) of his movie I saw were dubbed, so I never really knew his real voice. The moment I heard his real voice, I liked him.

The Art of Expressing the Human Body

To me at least, the way I teach it, all types of knowledge ultimately means self-knowledge. Therefore, they (Bruce Lee’s students, some of whom were well-known actors) are coming in and asking me to teach them, not so much how to defend themselves, or how to do somebody in. Rather, they want to learn to express themselves through some movement, be it anger, be it determination or whatsoever. So, in other words, what I’m saying therefore, is that they’re paying me to show them, in combative form, the art of expressing the human body.

Earlier in this interview, he was talking about how “motion picture is a motion” and we need to “keep the dialogue down to the minimum.” Today I saw one of his movies, and yes, I noticed his character not speaking that much.

Maybe not.

Maybe it was just that he didn’t use dialogue to express the character, but instead, he used action and movement to express himself, like he used to teach his students.
In that sense, he was really talkative. I mean, you’ve seen him in the film. His body movement, facial expression clearly expressed the character’s anger, sorrow, and determination.

On Martial Arts and Style

Actually, I do not teach, you know, karate, because I do not believe in styles anymore. I mean I do not believe that there is such thing as, like a Chinese way of fighting, or a Japanese way of fighting, or whatever way of fighting, because unless a human being has three arms and four legs, we will have a different form of fighting. But, basically, we have only two hands and two feet. So, styles tend to, not only separate man, because they have their own doctrines and the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change! But, if you do not have styles, if you just say, “here I am as a human being. How can I express myself totally and completely?” Now, that way, you won’t create a style because style is a crystallization. That way is a process of continuing growth.

Interesting point. Take painting. There are several styles and schools depending on the regions and times. Impressionism, romancism, baroque.. you name it (now I am talking like Bruce Lee).
Much like paintings, martial arts also have styles and schools. Karate, Judo, Teakwondo. In fact, Japanese samurai also had several schools and styles (ryuha: 流派). Once you define yourself, or categorize yourself, you also create limitation. I start realizing why there are so many hardcore Bruce Lee fans. Obviously he is popular among martial arts fans, but what he taught was maybe something bigger, and that’s why he keeps attracting general public too.

(Asked the difference between Chinese boxing and western boxing)

Well, first we use the feet. And then, we use the elbow. (Pierre Berton: do you use the thumb too? ) You name it man, we use it! You have to, you see, because that is the expression of the human body. I mean, everything, not just the hand. When you are talking about combat, well, if it is a sport, now you’re talking about something else. With regulations, and rules… But if you’re talking about fighting, with no rules, well then, baby, you’d better train every part of your body.

I wonder what Bruce Lee would have thought about K-1 fight…

As Chinese Hero in America

(Asked about “problems” of American show having a Chinese hero)

Well, such a question has been raised. In fact, it is being discussed and that is why the warrior is not going to be on. You see? Because, unfortunately, such a thing does exist in this world, you see. Like, I don’t know, in a certain part of the country, right? Where they think that, business wise, it’s a risk. And I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them. I mean, in the same way, like in Hong Kong, if a foreigner came and became a star, if I were the man with the money, I probably would have my own worry of whether or not the acceptance would be there. But that’s all right because, if you honestly express yourself, it doesn’t matter, see? because you’re going to do it!

Times were different.. Before Jackie Chan or Jet Li, western movies depicted Asians in very old stereotypical way. Bruce Lee was like Jackie Robinson in entertainment world. With all the respect and attentions he receives now, maybe he is still under-appreciated. (a bit of self-regret…)

I just loved how he said the last part. He did acknowledge the difficulty of the problem, but he also said it was not such a big deal. The way he said it was kind of like he was telling himself there… In that last sentence, I saw why he succeeded. No excuse. He just did it, because he decided to do it. How great is that!

And then, I thought about my problem…  But you see? That’s all right, because… 🙂

There is but One Family

(Asked if he think of himself as Chinese or North American)

You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being. Because, I mean I don’t want to sound like, “As Confucius say,” but under the sky, under the heaven, man, there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different.

Just beautiful. And I think he really meant it, considering all the difficulties he must have had living in the US.

That’s why we should try to understand each other. Boundary is just illusion, something we defined.

You know, sometimes I wish aliens were here with us. Then, it shouldn’t be that hard to feel that we are all one family. (Of course, we should learn to be family with aliens next, but maybe we don’t need to worry that now.)


You can watch full interview here.