“You put water into a cup it becomes the cup, you put water into a tea pot it becomes the tea pot,” one of the many philosophies of Bruce Lee, speak to us of his personal journey through the Martial Arts. He was unique and an old soul. When he arrived along the shores of San Francisco in 1964, little would he know… he was to take the world by storm.
His movies are not just entertainment; they are a means to showcase his comprehension of the essence of Martial Arts, where “the way of no way,” acts as concept behind the fluidity of Jeet Kune Do — an ever-lasting pursuit of individuality through the expression of movement in combative form.
True genius comes in the exploration of your chosen medium, and to that Bruce Lee is an artist, overcoming his struggle and winning every battle in spades.
When first highlighted and considered for numerous roles on mainstream television, in his first screen test circa 1965, Bruce Lee uses the analogy of a glass of water to illustrate the difference between conventional American Martial Arts like Karate and Jujitsu, where his chosen form of fighting… Gung Fu, is pitted in contrast against the aforementioned. The reference to the glass of water is meant to distinguish, from mainstream Martial Arts, the core and fundamental differences between the two. Where Karate and Jujitsu is very rigid, Bruce Lee believes Gung fu and its continuity in movement is best represented by the flow of water.
There have been many implications as to the evolution of his thought process over these years, from his initial screen test to his guest appearance on Longstreet and finally the last interview, filmed just before the release of his final movie, “Enter the Dragon,” they all serve as bookmarks in the story of his life.
The Metaphor of the water and its representation of the Martial Arts and Chinese Gung Fu took different shapes over the course of his 7–8 year long movie career. So, it begins, an analogy used for the continuity in its movement becomes a means to guide his students, as is suggested in Longstreet, there is a relationship between Master and student, and very specifically not the other way round, it finally takes shape in his final address… the lost interview.
In his final interview dubbed, “The Lost Interview,” Bruce speaks of the philosophy of the water in a very different way than when first originated in 1965.
You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
Two things come to mind, he had finally come into his own as a Martial Arts actor and as well, I see a man made. A complete showman, he had finally found his own path through the Martial Arts and in his untimely death became the essence of Water himself. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do is a path through life by means of the Martial Arts. The concept, “The way of no way,” is a means to learn and to flow, where accepting what is useful and rejecting what is useless acts as the concept passed down from teacher to student.
The truth is that The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, or the head of the philosophy itself, is very classical in its incarnation of the roots and essence of the Martial Arts. Water is his element and in his death is awarded the element and in that a rite-of-passage that would see him through the netherworld and into Nirvana.
Bruce Lee is unique, for he had successfully popularized the medium, and in doing so, his life is a very holistic experience for us all. His films represent this very remark, “for they are making a Western, but really an Eastern,” sums it up nicely, as is a quote lifted from his autobiographical movie, “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” Lee and many of the Martial Arts films that are to follow, and especially movies with very real and direct historically based context, films such as the, “Once upon a time in China,” trilogy.
With Bruce Lee as their leading man, the calling of the time reflects the intent of the film-maker’s and their achievements.
With each of the five completed films finished during his time as a world-renowned movie-star and celebrity, it begs to question, was this all that he wanted and in fact worked toward and earned or was this something simply orchestrated to honor him and everything he represents?
My opinion… he knows all too well who he is, and from a spiritual stand-point, identity was afforded to him at every turn. The answers to the mystery surrounding his very short-life is vague, but the definitive is met by the essence of the water and the fluidity of the Martial Art, showcased to different degrees in his movies, and passed on from generation to generation — a medium used to express the calling of the time and to make wide-spread the roots of Chinese Martial Art.