“Then die.”

“Then die.”

This is my favorite Bruce Lee story. It tells of an exchange between Bruce and his senior student Taky Kimura. At the time Bruce was a young man in his early twenties and Taky was in his forties like I am now. I used to tell my students this story years ago when I felt they weren’t giving it their all. I’d like to thank Tom L. for bringing it to my attention once more. Hope you like it…
Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile. (Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a-half minutes per mile). So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.” He said, “When we get to three we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.” I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.” So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce, if I run any more,”-and we’re still running- “if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.” He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?” He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

2 Responses to ““Then die.””

  1. Arno December 28, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Awesome!

  2. Will September 4, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    incredibly motivating, to push and better myself.

    lee in his early 20s had the mind set of an elder warrior.

    i think that the story will stick with me for the rest of my life.

    thank you

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