“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. If you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
November 27th is a holy day in the martial arts world. On this day in 1940, the man who spoke those words came into this world – the one and only Bruce Lee. In his all-too-brief thirty-two years, he had become a legend in his own time, and the legacy he left behind continues to inspire millions upon millions of people to this day. Whether one regards him as an enlightened philosopher, the Übermensch of martial arts perfection, a dynamic, all-powerful action star, a non-conformist who broke down both Eastern and Western cultural barriers, or all of the above, there is no denying the impact he left on the world.
Beginning as a humble student of the renown Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man, his passion and devotion to martial arts manifested itself in every aspect of his life. That passion proved far too great for him to devote himself exclusively to the teaching of a single style, and after much research, study, and experimentation, the art of Jeet Kune Do was born, which he was careful not to label a “style”, a term which he felt carried a restrictive connotation. Instead, Jeet Kune Do was his “fighting philosophy”, and his ultimate aim was to guide his disciples to the creation of their own.
Most of us discovered him through his cinematic career. His first big break in Hollywood came in the role of Kato on “The Green Hornet”. The show was re-titled “The Kato Show” in Hong Kong, and rightly so – despite ostensibly filling the role of the sidekick, Bruce was unquestionably the real star of the show. He would go on to make some of the most beloved martial arts films in history – “The Big Boss”, “Fist of Fury”, and his directorial debut “Way of the Dragon”. And though he would ultimately pass away before it came to pass, “Enter the Dragon” would popularize martial arts movies in Hollywood and serve as a powerful catalyst towards breaking down anti-Asian prejudices in the West.
Decades later, he continues to inspire and guide us whether through the pages of “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, the unforgettable dojo battle in “Fist of Fury”, or the influence of the followers who were closest to him. Decades hence, his legend will continue to be passed on from one generation to next, always carrying with it his immortal, undying words: