Bruce Lee: What Indie Artists Can Learn


Written by Jon Skinner

23 December 2019

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Indie Music is a philosophy of making and producing music in a way that does not follow the old traditions. For those who don’t know, independent music is produced by artists, either by themselves or through independent record labels, normally on joint 50 / 50 terms.  

In many ways, indie music is similar to the philosophy of a Martial Arts master, actor, and filmmaker Bruce Lee and we will explain why and how. 

His style of fighting, known as Jeet Kune Do, was founded on his belief in simplicity and personal freedom. Indie artists can learn a lot from his philosophies on life and being successful and I can’t wait for you to learn from his legacy.

Why Bruce Lee?

Bruce-Lee-Strength-quote

You might be wondering how does Bruce Lee tie in with indie artists and success in the music industry

Well, Bruce Lee had an approach to life that was completely unique and insanely focused. It did not follow the normal tradition of Asian Americans working in the film industry. 

As a young actor Bruce struggling to get movie roles in Hollywood having moved to Settle in the 60s, he realized that there weren’t many acting roles for Asian actors and if he was going to make it in the film industry he would have to make his own films – sound familiar already musicians? 

This is where his philosophy, work ethic, and determination kicked in fully, leading him to become the biggest actor in Hong Kong and an internationally recognised martial artist, director, and lead in “Enter the Dragon (1973),” a Warner Bros film that many consider to be the greatest martial arts film of all time.

About Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts

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Bruce Lee was born in the U.S, but at just 3 months old moved to Hong Kong until he was 18 years old. He was a Chinese American actor who started studied the art of Wing Chun Gung Fu when he was 13 years old. 

At 18, he moved back to the States and settled in Seattle. He enrolled in the University of Washington to pursue a degree in philosophy and waited tables and taught Gung Fu classes to support himself with income. 

He opened his own martial arts school and developed his own fighting style he named Jeet Kune Do, meaning the way of the intercepting fist.  

His Struggles

He faced many obstacles in his quest to become an actor in the U.S. 

When he first arrived in Hollywood, he found his lack of perfect English and the institutional prejudice from within the studios was going to make it extremely tough to get film roles. The studios were paranoid that American audiences wouldn’t connect with an Asian actor. 

Although he had been a child actor in Hong Kong appearing in 20 films, he fought hard, struggling to get parts in American television shows. 

He appeared as Kato, alongside Van Williams in the Green Hornet, a TV series that only lasted for one series. He also had some bit parts in films Longstreet, Ironside & Marlowe.

Bruce was frustrated, but rather than give up his dream, he returned to Hong Kong and signed a single film deal with Raymond Chow, who has recently set up his own production company Concord.

The Big Boss, released in 1971 broke all Hong Kong box office records, leading to two more films with Chow, Fist of Fury & The Way of the Dragon, which Bruce starred, directed and co-produced himself.

The Way of the Dragon featured nonother than four times World karate champion, Chuck Norris. Filmed on location in Rome saw Bruce & Norris battle it out to the death in one of the most iconic martial arts fights of all time. 

Hollywood was getting word of the huge success Bruce had achieved in Asia in such a short space of time, Bruce and Chow had started filming Game of Death when filming stopped with Warner Bros offering a deal Bruce couldn’t turn down.

In 1973, he co-produced and starred in a film collaboration between American and Chinese filmmakers. The iconic “Enter the Dragon,” was born and made him an international film star. 

Released two weeks after his untimely death, Enter The Dragon was a smash hit movie overnight.

His Philosophy

Bruce Lee was a master of several styles of martial arts.  He had a passion for learning and read tons of books on philosophy and different fighting styles including western boxing. 

His philosophy on life was pretty simple. He believed that he could achieve anything if he worked hard and was determined to do it. 

Examples of His Determination

– He overcame discrimination in Hollywood

– He surrounded himself with others who inspired him

– He dedicated himself to learning and improving his art

– He learned how to choreograph fight scenes, be a director and filmmaker

– He used his popularity in Hong Kong to break into the film industry in America

Enter the Dragon Soundtrack

The music for the film was written by Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin and highlights some of the best scenes in the movie. 

The songs perfectly fit the big fight scenes, especially when facing down the big boss. 

The soundtrack has finally been released in CD format and includes several tracks that were previously unavailable – do check it out here, it’s wonderful.

What Indie artists can take away from his teachings:

1. Never Give Up On Your Dreams

He overcame being bullied as a child because his parents were mixed race, he didn’t speak much English and had less than $100 in his pocket when he came to America. 

A lot of people tried to discourage him, saying he’d never be accepted in the U.S, but he didn’t let that bring him down.  He had a plan and he was determined to make it happen. He started learning English and was cast in 1966 as Kato in the television show “The Green Hornet.” 

His never-give-up attitude kept him going. 

No matter what type of obstacles you may face have the courage and determination to believe in yourself and never give up.

2. Learn from the Masters

Bruce Lee’s personal library of over 2,500 volumes is on display in the Wing Luke Museum. Besides reading books on philosophy and martial arts, he started writing some of his own books, sharing his ideas to help people achieve their own goals.  

He studied other contact sports like boxing, wrestling, and fencing and incorporated parts of them into his own martial arts practice. 

If you want to gain knowledge and skills, study the masters. Learn the skills you need from the experts in your field. Learn how to make your own videos, write your own songs, and record music. 

You also need to know how the music business works, so you can make informed decisions. Knowledge is all empowering! 

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3. Use Your Time Wisely

Although martial arts is a physical sport, he understood that besides training his body, he also had to train his mind. One of his famous quotes is 

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until it has been accepted as a reality.”  – Bruce Lee

He worked hard to train his mind and sharpen his focus. He kept a journal of his daily activities as proof that he was making good use of his time. 

He trained every day and was an avid reader with an extensive library of books. He spent time doing things he loved.

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

Time is a precious thing, and you never know what will happen so don’t waste a moment on self-doubt or fear of failure. You only have one life so make the most of it every single day.

4. Be Determined When Facing Opposition

Bruce lived his life consciously and with purpose.  He fought against the stereotypes in Hollywood concerning Asian actors.  

The films he auditioned for where casting white men in roles playing an Asian character. He realized that if this was going to change he would have to start his own film company and make movies the way he thought they should be made.

Rather than conforming to what others thought about how to make martial arts films, Bruce wanted to make movies that accurately portrayed the Asian culture and his style of martial arts.

Don’t listen to people who would keep you from doing what you know to do. Don’t let doubt hold you back and don’t worry about what other people will think. 

A true artist plays music for the enjoyment of it, not for the applause. Get rid of notions and ideas that keep you from achieving greatness. 

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5. Don’t Overthink Things

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee

When faced with new challenges we tend to want to take our time and think about it. This is a wise decision, but don’t think about it to the point of putting off acting on it. 

We tend to make things more complicated than they need to be and if you begin questioning “what if…..” you’ll never do anything. You’ll talk yourself out of any chance you had to make something happen.

6. You Need A Support System

While Bruce lived an incredible, but short life he had relationships with others that he took the time to build. 

He had close friends including a young Jackie Chan who played a minor role in his movie, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and his wife Linda Lee, their two children Brandon Lee and Sharon Lee that kept him working and striving to obtain his heart’s desires.

Don’t think you have to do it all on your own. You need people who encourage and inspire you to learn, grow, and make your dreams come true.

7. The Key to Success is to be Focused

Keeping a laser-sharp focus on your goal is required to make it happen. 

In martial arts, you are taught to block out distractions in order to focus your mind on the techniques being taught. It is the same way with art. When you work or practice, remove all distractions like cellphones and tablets. 

Disconnect yourself from outside influences for a period of time so you can focus on the task at hand.

Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris

8. Be Like Water

“Empty your mind, be formless, like water. Put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, put water into a teapot it becomes the teapot, water flows, be shapeless like water, be water my friend” – Bruce Lee  

Our Round-Up

We hope you enjoyed this article, we truly believe that the biggest barriers for anyone is their own self-doubt. If you believe you shall achieve

How did Bruce Lee die?

Bruce Lee

Unfortunately, Bruce Lee was not able to finish his final movie Game of Death, at the age of only 32 Bruce complained of a headache and lay down to sleep, having taken some medication.

He suffered from a rare allergic reaction to this medication, causing a swelling of the brain, cerebral edema.

He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead on July 20 1973, two weeks before his masterpiece Enter the Dragon was released in the United States of America. 

He was undoubtedly a great man, a talented martial artist, and one of the most influential people of the 20th century fox, according to Time Magazine

He inspired millions of people to set goals and not let anything hold them back. 

You don’t have to be the best at everything, have a lot of money, or come from a wealthy family. Having talent is a start, but to achieve what you want in life takes the willingness to work hard to achieve success. 

And the biggest obstacle in your path is often the mental barriers we create ourselves.

Rest in peace, Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee Foundation

The Lee Family


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