Bruce Lee: Be Like Water What he really meant when he said 'Be Water my friend'

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Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.

Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then I was absorbing myself with the lesson of the water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the birds flying over the water?




This was exactly what Professor Yip meant by being detached — not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself, I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.

Furthermore, completing his understanding of Wu Wei and the necessity of being like water, Lee writes a reflection of his thoughts on the great teachings of Lao Tzu.

“The natural phenomenon which the gung fu man sees as being the closest resemblance to wu wei [the principle of spontaneous action governed by the mind and not the senses] is water:

Nothing is weaker than water,
But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.”

The above passages from the Tao Te Ching illustrate to us the nature of water: Water is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded; sever it, yet it is not divided. It has no shape of its own but molds itself to the receptacle that contains it. When heated to the state of steam it is invisible but has enough power to split the earth itself. When frozen it crystallizes into a mighty rock.

First, it is turbulent like Niagara Falls and then calms like a still pond, fearful like a torrent, and refreshing like a spring on a hot summer’s day. So is the principle of wu wei:




The rivers and seas are lords of a hundred valleys. This is because their strength is in lowliness; they are kings of them all. So it is that the perfect master wishing to lead them, he follows. Thus, though he is above them, men do not feel him be an injury. And since he will not strive, none strive with him.” [Source]

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Written by Dylan Charles

This article (Bruce Lee’s Private Letters Explain What He Really Meant by ‘Be Like Water’) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to DylanCharles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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