Bruce Lee, editing theorist?

Bruce Lee Editing Theorist


Bruce Lee achieved astounding things in the martial arts world. Not surprisingly, anyone who achieves uncommon levels of mastery tends to have things to say about it.

Here’s one of Lee’s quotes:

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

You might be surprised by what those words could mean for you and your creative editing.

I first discovered that quote during my years editing Countdown to UFC – the Countdown show is an hour-long documentary/promo hybrid that serves as the UFC’s primary marketing tool for its monthly tentpole pay per view events.

The whole point of the show is to say “Here are the fighters on the upcoming fight card, here’s why you should care about them, now pull out your wallet and buy the pay per view show to watch them fight.”

The show is formulaic in structure, and so are most of the stories themselves.

If you look up my credits on IMDB, you’ll see I cut over 62 episodes… of Dudes Hitting Dudes. Occasionally towards the end there were some Chicks Hitting Chicks too, but they were rare.

The question became, “How do you make Dudes Hitting Dudes interesting… YET AGAIN?”

And that’s when I began to identify ever more strongly with Bruce Lee’s idea of practicing one kick 10,000 times.

I realized I was just like the fighters we featured. Every day they stand in front of a heavy bag or a trainer with pads, snapping off kicks and punches over and over and over… until the actions become engrained as muscle memory, recalled with deadly accuracy at an instant’s notice.

Of course, I wasn’t hitting pads. I was running through the mental sequences of shaping very similar stories and looking for ways to feature visuals or story sequences in unique ways.

Over and over and over, for the five years I cut on that show.

If you wanted to be bored, it was easy to get there. But armed with Lee’s idea of dogged repetition, I realized that each story in each episode was an opportunity to dig into the creative process in ways I never would have expected.

Because creativity flourishes within limitations.

Just when you think you can’t stand to do one more of whatever it is that you’re doing over and over, you find a new solution.

And that’s ONLY because you’ve exhausted all your other ideas.

You’re the fighter practicing the same kick over and over and over.

So instead of dreading the sameness, lean into it. And enjoy the revelations when you discover creative solutions that you never would have discovered otherwise.

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Jeff BartschJeff Bartsch is the founder of The Power Edit and teaches and edits television in Los Angeles. His editing clients include ABC, NBC, Universal, Disney, ESPN, MTV, and many others. His book Edit Better: Hollywood-Tested Strategies for Powerful Video Editing is available worldwide on Amazon, Audible, Kindle, and iTunes. His commentary has been featured in TIME Magazine, USA Today, and the Associated Press.


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