Dagdha's Blog

“Be like water”

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on May 11, 2010

Perhaps the most famous words of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, this deeply philosophical admonition continually takes on greater meaning and importance for me.

I never had much interest in Bruce Lee until I started studying Jeet Kune Do as a way to stay in shape when climbing became less available.  The more I studied JKD philosophy, the more interested I became in Eastern philosophy, which is based on experience unlike the formulaic foundation of Western philosophy.  I’ve read many books by Lao Tzu, Jiddu Krishnamurti, the Dalai Lama, and a great deal on Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Out of everything that I have read, however, Bruce Lee’s admonition, “Be like water,” is the most memorable.

From a martial arts perspective, it is the perfect analogy of how one should move and react when fighting.  Flow with the movement of your opponent and crash like a powerful wave when you strike, but all the while remaining fluid and adapting to the situation like water adapts to its surroundings.  The core philosophy of Jeet Kune Do adheres to this idea, using the least amount of energy for the most powerful and efficient movements while continuously adapting and reacting.

For me personally though, these words are far more important as a way of life.  Much of Taoist philosophy alludes to rivers and streams because of how they flow – always moving forward, finding the path of least resistance to reach their destination.  Life ebbs and flows like water, and I have found the most rewarding experiences in life come from going with the flow and persevering through the ebbs.  It may sound cliché and superficial, but I think most people would agree.

The more I adhere to Sigung Lee’s exhortation, the less futile everyday stress seems, and it becomes just another ebb.  Although this might seem like the vacuous ramblings of a would-be philosopher,  it is true for me. And to summarize Thoreau, who was no martial artist but one of my great heroes, “rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth.” (I realize this quote is shamelessly tacked on, but I like it and everything sounds more official and sophisticated when you reference influential literary icons.)

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