Bruce Lee’s Philosophy of Water

busiek waterfall

Buseik State Park: Photo by Theron Sturgess

What does the philosophy of Water as popularized by Bruce Lee  have to do with martial arts?

By devoting ourselves to the practice of rigorous training we will absorb the lessons of the ancients and find a spiritual path? Perhaps. One thing martial arts does is help us to think in metaphors. Our whole practice is a metaphor for facing conflict, within and without.  The water metaphor helps students of martial arts to guide their movements and in so doing guide their thinking. The qualities of water remind us to flow, adapt, to fill space, to crash and to change state.  Martial arts teaches us how to face challenges and when we engage in the study of the combat science of motion, a study of crime and violence, and understand the physics of motion we experience our minds and bodies in a unity rarely demanded of us in today’s world.  When you are practicing dangerous and precise movements there is a level trust and focus beyond most people’s daily experience.

When engaged in combat sport and someone is trying to hit you or submit you, you aren’t thinkingabout the mortgage, and if you are, you’re probably bleeding or tapping out. That’s on the competition, confrontation, and resistance side, but on the cooperative side of martial arts another type of Zen crouches in the shadows, when you are practicing kata with hundreds of memorized movements, shadow boxing, practicing that kickboxing combo/focus mitt drill for the 1000th time, when you are learning to parry weapons, control and counter, or doing breakfall after fall after fall, you are hammering steel into a sword. By using our training to confront imagined enemies we are learning to confront the internal enemies that distract us from a more fulfilling life. We test ourselves and strengthen our will through the fire and determination of our practice. The meaning of the training evolves into a life practice.

For many, their interest in martial arts begins with fear.  It could be about personal health, fear of violence, a sense of being out of control in an out of control world. They are looking for something a sense of confidence, vitality, health, control.  In studying the realities of self-defense we transcend self-protection as we realize that physical confrontation and violence are rarely called for or necessary in today’s world. It’s the study and preparation for violence, emergency and fighting that the value emerges.  We study violence and eliminate the need to be in constant fear of it. We learn to use fear as a guardian. We study the discipline of mastering human motion for self-defense so that we move through all life’s challenges the way a master martial artist fights, like water.  We flow, cascade, and adapt, we are still like a pond and crash like a wave. Bruce Lee’s be like water remix


One thought on “Bruce Lee’s Philosophy of Water

  1. Pingback: Good advice from Bruce Lee | Karavansara

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