My Dad Didn't Want me to Follow in His Footsteps
by Brandon Lee
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."
My dad and I used to talk about martial arts sometimes, and I remember thinking "I'll get a
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
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.
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
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
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 jett 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
or playing soccer, or baseball, or anything else.
Why is it the martial arts has generated this tremendous interest and excitement that these
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
can do that.