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Be Like Water: The Philosophy and Origin of Bruce Lee’s Famous Metaphor for Resilience

Be Water

Be Water

Nothing is weaker than water, and in that weakness, there is immense strength. Water is fine and impossible to grasp. It does not suffer any hurt, and cannot be stabbed, or cut. It has no shape of its own but molds according to where it is placed. It can be hard as a rock and also invisible as vapor.

Being like water, humble, adaptive, resilient and ever-changing, we become masters of our surroundings.

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Bruce Lee: The Symbol
Bruce Lee: The Symbol

In the 32 years he inhabited this planet, Bruce Lee created a legacy that is unparalleled in modern times.

His work, philosophy and lifestyle have influenced everything from video games to...

Be Water

While trying to diffuse his anger, Bruce Lee once started punching in the sea and had a profound realization.

Water, he understood, is of a neutral nature, having no form or shape of its own. He realized that to be invincible, he had to be as formless as water.

Giving Form To the Formless

The continued fascination with Bruce Lee and the never-ending need to capitalize on the man and the myth is the opposite of what he really intended.

His insights of being like water showcase his philosophy of having no philosophy at all. The formless structure that has to be assumed to live one’s life is destroyed the very moment anyone is influenced or tries to emulate Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee as a philosopher

He studied poetry and philosophy in school. He focused his studies on Asian and Western philosophy, incorporating elements of Jiddu, Buddhism, Taoism, and Krishnamurti. 

This helped h...

Bruce Lee's impressive life
  • He wasn't a master of any standard form of martial arts. He was closest in mastering Wing Chun.
  • He invented his own style of martial arts. He based his style on the teaching of Man and what he learned of Wing Chun. He called his style Jeet Kune Do "the style of no style"
  • He starred in 20 films in Hong Kong before the age of 18.
  • He popularized the "1 Inch Punch" as seen in Kill Bill Vol. 2
  • He was a prolific poet and philosopher. He studied poetry and philosophy in school and was even published several times.
  • He was so fast, his moves were often too fast for a camera to catch.
  • He only made 5 feature films in the US, his last released posthumously.