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"If your imitating, your not bringing anything new to the world"

My father died when I was 8 years old. People tell me that we look a little alike. They say we both have a drive to us, an intensity. 

My dad and I were close. He hadn't gotten down to talking to me in any man-to-man way yet. It was all just "Take me to the ice cream store" and stuff like that. We used to goof around a lot together. We worked out, and he would show me things. He was alw ays training, and he would have people over at the house. Whenever they were over, I would come out and goof around with them. (Basketball Hall of Famer) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be there, and he would pick me up and put me on the roof and stuff. 

Dad would show me things once in awhile, and I'd go "Yeah, this is neat." He would show me kicks and punches. Sometimes I would show my friends my martial arts moves. But most of my friends were afraid to come over to my house. They'd come over and dad w ould be going "Ki-Yah!" in the backyard all the time, and they'd say "Oh my God, I'm leaving." Seriously. 

My dad and I used to talk about martial arts sometimes, and I remember thinking "I'll get a little older and dad will stop working quite so much, and he'll have more time. Adn then we'll get serious about training." I always assumed there would be time when we would begin training more formally. Unfortunately, we never got to do that. 

Once we were at a tournament and we were both up on stage. I was standing next to him, holding his hand. He was talking to the crowd and saying something about the principle that it doesn't matter how big or strong you are, at which point I got him in a wrist lock and threw him onto the ground. It was all play-acting, but it was pretty funny. 

I'll tell you something about my dad. He made his contribution to the world, without a doubt. And so much has been said and written - positively, negatively, knowledgeably, and by people who don't know their heads from their asses - in the years since hi s death. About all I would say about him is that he died when he was 32 years old, and not many people realize this. It's like James Dean. When you see a James Dean film, you say "Oh, he must have been acting for years and years." But he only made four fi lms. Enter the Dragon is the only film my dad did that had any United States production values, was in English, or had any United States actors. And people see that film and say "Oh, look at that. That's the crowning peak of his career. That's incr edible, etc." That was just the beginning. If he were alive, I think he would have gone on to many other things as well. He was not planning on making martial arts films like that his entire life. 
My father said that if you are imitating, you are not bringing anything new into the world, and you're not helping anything new into the world, and you're not helping anybody in any way, because they already had this. Why do they need you to do it again? And so, I know that he wouldn't want me to follow in his footsteps. And I don't want to follow in his footsteps. And one of the reasons I'm not following in his footsteps is because we already had him. Even if we could have him again, we don't need him a gain. Even if I could follow in his footsteps, it would be stupid. It would be a bad thing to do. 

Jeet kune do was my father's art, and a lot of people misunderstand this and say "Gee, where can I go to learn this?" You can't. All you can learn is someone else's interpretation of jeet kune do, or your own interpretation of jeet kune do. Because jeet kune do is taking what is useful and disregarding what isn't useful. 

My father was a martial artist first and an actor second. The martial arts was his consuming love, and he did the martial arts day in and day out. I'm sure you have read and heard of his fanaticism for the martial arts. That's how I am with acting. At th e same time, I train in the martial arts. For me, the martial arts is a search for something inside. It's not just a physical discipline. Because if it was just a physical discipline, you may as well take up weightlifting, or playing soccer, or baseball, or anything else. 

Why is it the martial arts has generated this tremendous interest and excitement that these other things haven't? Because these other things are just surface. There's got to be an inner, spiritual aspect. That's what the martial arts is to me. The physic al stuff comes along with it, and is an expression of it. And each move should be an expression of the serenity that's inside. Because if the move is just a move, then it's just waving your arms and shouting. And anybody can do that. 

Reference : Black Belt Magazine, May 1996, pg. 18.