Be Water, My Friend Book Summary - Be Water, My Friend Book explained in key points
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Be Water, My Friend summary

Shannon Lee

The True Teachings of Bruce Lee

4.6 (272 ratings)
18 mins
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    Be Water, My Friend
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    The wisdom of water

    Reflecting on his love for martial arts, Lee once mused that “everything” he knew he learned from them. For Lee, these practices were more than just physical. They mirrored and reflected life – they formed a remarkable microcosm. But it wasn’t always that way.… 

    Lee was 13 when he started learning wing chun under the skilled sifu (teacher) Yip Man. Yip Man wrapped his training in Taoist philosophy, the concepts of yin and yang, and imagery from the natural world. However, these threads didn’t come as naturally as the physical components to the hotheaded young Lee. He was far less interested in heeding the flow of nature than he was in asserting himself over it. 

    So how did this fiery teenager come to adopt “Be water” as his guiding philosophy? 

    The revelation came after he was sent home for a week to meditate on his sifu’s instructions. Frustrated and resentful, he rowed a small boat out into Hong Kong harbor and infamously punched at the South China Sea. In doing so, the water became his teacher, conveying the message his human sifu had tried to convey for so long: there is strength in softness, power in pliability. 

    You may not be a martial artist, but remember – Lee’s philosophy was primarily concerned with self-actualization and enlightened living, two aspirations we can all relate to. So how can we apply the way of water to these endeavors? 

    First, consider water’s unparalleled ability to respond deftly to its environment. Sometimes water flows; sometimes it crashes. Sometimes water runs around obstacles; sometimes it runs obstacles into the ground. The same applies to us amid the flux of life. Sometimes the wisest response is to yield; other times, to assert. We can follow water’s example and recognize that each response has its time and place. 

    In this way, water can also be described as “being whole,” as it embodies yin and yang. Yin and yang are often depicted as black and white, negative and positive, cold and hot – and therefore opposites. Yet this isn’t exactly right – “complementary” is a more accurate description. 

    And isn’t it true that we possess both yin and yang, and that life itself does, too? We each have strengths and weaknesses; life has joy and sorrow. Water can remind us that the healthiest way to move through life is to acknowledge both. That's what makes us, and life, ultimately complete and indivisible. 

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    What is Be Water, My Friend about?

    Be Water, My Friend (2020) is part inspirational guide, part intimate memoir, centered on Bruce Lee’s “Be water” philosophy. Drawing on Lee’s deep relationship with the element and his lifelong martial arts practice, it offers simple yet profound teachings on self-actualization. 

    Who should read Be Water, My Friend?

    • Die-hard Bruce Lee fans 
    • Those pursuing personal growth and self-actualization 
    • Anyone interested in Eastern philosophies

    About the Author

    Shannon Lee is the CEO of Bruce Lee Family Companies, president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, and host of the Bruce Lee Podcast. Lee is the daughter and only living child of the late kung fu master and Hollywood legend Bruce Lee. 

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