How is Bruce Lee Relevant to Arts Training?
Who would doubt that Bruce Lee was a master of his craft?
What a specimen of humanity at its full potential.
Bruce Lee was a martial artist. Catch that second word. Artist. Martial means “military”. The military or combat arts.
The martial arts are very much an art form.
Watch this video of Bruce in great form and shape. It is a Nokia commercial, but watch both videos they present. The first is of Bruce Lee competing against what we presume are champion ping pong players, but he does so with nun chucks instead of a paddle.
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The second video, they have applied grip tape or sandpaper to the very ends of his nun chucks, but only the tips. Bruce stands some distance away and these men throw match sticks at Bruce and he proceeds to light them aflame.
The only way one can reach such a mastery of one’s craft is through a fierce discipline, an enormous will and a choice to work endless hours.
The techniques one learns in theatrical training are tools. If we use our tools all the time, taking care of them, they will remain sharp and will not rust. However, if we disregard our developed techniques for some length of time, they will rust and loose their edge.
Therefore, we must always be training. We must always be working. We must continue to develop and hone our unique chosen voice as artists.
To be at the top of your game, you must have a mind-body link.
Creativity is about making choices and taking action on those choices.
What kind of choices are we making? We are making choices based upon our creative impulses. We either say yes to the impulse or no.
But where do the impulses come from?
Many will say the brain, naturally. They are thoughts.
But the body can have its needs as well.
The heart generates an energy. So does the genital area and the stomach often seems to have a mind of its own. Every organ in our body plays a role. It has a function. It performs a task and it both uses and generates energy.
However, the mind consistently want to control the show. The mind likes to put things into patterns, into a logical sense. The mind seeks to understand.
But creativity is tied to the imagination or fantasy. The imagination straddles several layers of consciousness: the conscious mind (what we perceive), the subconscious mind (that which is operating below our conscious awareness) and the collective unconscious (an apparent consciousness that unites all people).
What comes up when the imagination draws from the lower levels of consciousness does not always make logical or linear sense. The subconscious speaks in symbol. What’s a symbol? A symbol is an object or form that holds meaning. Symbol often hits us on an emotional level or spiritual level, rather than logical.
To follow a full range of your impulses, it requires a leap of faith for many, for the subconscious holds both dark and light. We are each dualistic by nature. We have a light we can each identify with or a “sense of good” and we each have a shadow, a darker side. And that is the beauty of being an artist. You can can take whatever is inside of you, dark or light, beautiful or horrid and bring it outward, to exist in time and space, if only for a moment and share with others. If your are fortunate, in your life, you can explore and express a great range of what it is to be a human through creativity and artistry.
So how was Bruce like theatre training? The man got it. He had it all. He had such complete mastery of his form, that he could express at will. He could turn the conscious mind off and create or take action (make choices) from the unconscious. The Japanese have a term for this, which is “Mushin”. It means to create from unconscious thought or “no mind”. This is the mind-body link. They are working in accord with each other, the body playing a significant role.
To reach this level of mastery, you, as an artist, must take the plunge. You must jump into the pool, feet first and get all wet. There is no other way.
“Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration” Thomas Edison
Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway.