Subtitled “The True Teachings of Bruce Lee”, Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon, delves into his legacy including the meanings behind many of her famous father’s most popular quotations, thoughts and philosophies, and how they can apply to all of us in our everyday lives.
Title: Be Water, My Friend: The True Teachings of Bruce Lee
Author: Shannon Lee
Publisher: Rider / Penguin Random House
Bruce Lee‘s daughter Shannon illuminates her father’s most powerful life philosophies, demonstrating how martial arts are a perfect metaphor for personal growth, and how we can practice those teachings every day.
Bruce Lee is a cultural icon, renowned the world over for his martial arts and film legacy. But Lee was also a deeply philosophical thinker, learning at an early age that martial arts are more than just an exercise in physical discipline. They are an apt metaphor for living a fully realized life.
In “Be Water, My Friend“, Shannon Lee shares the concepts at the core of Bruce’s philosophies, showing how they can serve as tools of personal growth and self-actualization. Each chapter brings a lesson from Bruce Lee’s teachings, expanding on the foundation of his iconic “be water” philosophy. Over the course of the book, we discover how being like water allows us to embody fluidity and naturalness in life, bringing us closer to our essential flowing nature and our ability to be powerful, self-expressed, and free.
Through previously untold stories from her father’s life and from her own journey in embodying these lessons, Shannon presents these philosophies in tangible, accessible ways. With Bruce Lee’s words as a guide, she encourages readers to pursue their essential selves and apply these ideas and practices to their everyday lives – whether in learning new things, overcoming obstacles, or ultimately finding their true path.
“Be Water, My Friend” is an inspirational invitation to us all, a gentle call to action to consider our lives with new eyes. It is also a testament to how one man’s exploration and determination transcended time and place to ignite our imaginations, and to inspire countless many around the world to transform their lives.
Making Bruce Lee Accessible & Beneficial to All
“Be Water, My Friend” is broken down into ten chapters, with each one building on many of Bruce Lee’s most famous philosophical beliefs and quotations. Shannon introduces the book by explaining that this is not a scholarly exercise, but her way of making her father’s way of thinking accessible and beneficial to all, through her unique perspective on and exposure to his writings.
Master Ip Man: Planting Seeds in a Young Bruce Lee
Throughout, there are biographical references to Bruce Lee’s life. The first chapter discusses his training as a youngster with the famous Wing Chun Master Ip Man, who planted the seeds in Bruce of having a mental awareness and understanding as a person, if he were to succeed in achieving a physical one as a martial artist.
Bruce Lee’s Quest for Perfection
This is the first hint at a key to unlock these philosophies for non-martial artists. As Bruce Lee grew in his appetite for knowledge and training, he didn’t just try to sculpt the ultimate body, but was trying to sculpt the ultimate mind too. Not that he proclaimed that he would ever become “the ultimate”, it was the quest for perfection that was important to him.
The Eternal Student
This is explored with Bruce stating that he never wanted to be called “Master”. Indeed, he believed that if a person thought they had reached the top, the only way was down. He was therefore an “eternal student”, “always open to new ideas, new possibilities, new directions and new growth”. He also claimed to not be a teacher but a “signpost”, not a “giver of the truth” but a guide to point a person in a direction to help them find their “own truth”.
Shedding Light on the Contest with Wong Jack Man
Shannon’s reports on incidents such as the almost mythical contest with Wong Jack Man, or the famous “finger pointing to the moon” scene from the movie Enter the Dragon, are not only fascinating insights into Bruce’s life, but also illustrate his personal growth in recognising his youthful, braggart shortcomings, and becoming wiser for it.
Apply Bruce’s Philosophy for Growth & Practical Results
Indeed, with each chapter, it is Bruce’s story of increasing self-awareness and growth that helps the reader apply his philosophies in a practical way, so that they can confront their fears, adapt, be pliable, continually learn, simplify, and experience their own spiritual growth. This is not solely about mindfulness though. The link is made to how these philosophical applications link to the physical, and how, as demonstrated by Bruce’s incredible physique, they guide and aid exercise.
Bruce became Positively Driven & Wise – Will You?
Bruce ultimately grew into a bona fide martial arts and movie icon, even though it may have been posthumously. “Be Water, My Friend” charts and channels that growth from a brash and cocky young fighter, into a wise, driven, positive thinker, who broke down barriers of prejudice. If we can all follow just a little of that, maybe the world would be a better place.
Just as businessmen and team leaders have found insight in books such as Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”, Shannon Lee decodes Bruce Lee’s philosophies and personal thoughts for everyone to absorb and benefit from.
The chapters are broken down into nice, easily digestible chunks, delivering one or two pieces of information at a time.
Shannon writes in an easy-going style, sometimes even using slang and foul language. It is a very natural, casual, informal manner, almost as if she is having a conversation with the reader. It helps make the text that much more accessible, when really a book that covers so much of what could be described as “Zen” or “Buddhist” philosophy, could easily have become very bogged down and heavy-going.
Some of the biographical elements are familiar tales fans may have heard before. However, many are told from a totally fresh perspective based on Bruce’s own chronicles and witness testimonies from the time, something Shannon has had unique access to. Several were new accounts to me. It is fortunate for everyone that Bruce wrote down so many of his thoughts and that his family are magnanimous enough to share them with the world.
Normally any review of a Bruce Lee-related book would conclude that it is a “must have” for fans. However, this is much more than that, and anyone, martial artist or not, looking to expand their horizons, mindfulness or simply improve their daily well-being, would benefit from reading “Be Water, My Friend”. This November would have been Bruce’s Lee’s 80th birthday, and it is fitting that this guide to freedom of expression is published now. Shannon’s dad would be proud.
- “What do you remember about your father?’ It’s the question I’m most frequently asked and the one that used to deeply disturb me because I couldn’t answer it with clarity. My father died when I was just four years old, so I don’t have many of my own stories or dazzling pieces of wisdom he passed on to me directly the way his contemporaries do.”
- “Trust me when I say there is something in these pages for you whether you are an athlete, a stay-at-home mom, a student, a musician, an accountant, an entrepreneur, a cop, or whatever shape of human you take.”
- “Are you listening, asking questions, taking notes, engaging in the conversation? Or are you physically there but on your phone, half asleep, hoodie up, earbuds in? Being present is a key component of being like water.”
- “My father was not always successful at maintaining his awareness and his cool, but he understood the benefits.”
- “Every action should have it’s why and wherefore. I wish to infuse the spirit of philosophy into martial arts; therefore I insist on studying philosophy. Philosophy brings my Jeet Kune Do into a new realm in the sphere of martial arts!”
- “My father focused just as much energy on conditioning his mind as he did on training his body.”
- “The title of ‘Enter the Dragon’ had a power and specificity that ‘Han’s Island’ and ‘Blood and Steel’ did not. He wrote numerous letters to Warner Bros petitioning for this name change: ‘Do consider carefully the title ‘Enter the Dragon’. I really think this is a good title because Enter the Dragon suggests the emergence of someone that is quality”. That ‘quality someone’ he is referring to is, of course, himself!”
– Shannon Lee