Be Water, My Friend

Be Water, My Friend

The Teachings of Bruce Lee



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About Be Water, My Friend

Bruce Lee's daughter 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.

"Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless like water."

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.

Now, in Be Water, My Friend, Lee's daughter Shannon shares the concepts at the core of his 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 many around the world to transform their lives.


Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup; it becomes the cup. You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. You put it into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. Now water can flow, or it can crash! Be water, my friend.

Bruce Lee himself was not good at a lot of things. He could barely change a light bulb or cook an egg. I’d like to see him try to put together some IKEA furniture. (In my imagination, it ends up smashed to splinters, with the Allen wrench sticking unceremoniously out of the drywall where it has been hurled in abject frustration.)

My father began studying wing chun gung fu in Hong Kong at the age of thirteen. His sifu (or teacher) was a man by the name of Yip Man (also Ip Man). Yip Man was a very skillful teacher who not only drilled physical techniques but also wove in Taoist philosophy and the principles of yin and yang into his lessons. He often illustrated his teachings through parables on nature, such as using the difference between an oak tree and bamboo to make a point (the oak tree will eventually snap under a strong wind while the bamboo survives because it can move with the wind).

My father was a dedicated student and a quick learner. He practiced outside of class whenever he could and became a star pupil. But he was also a teenager—a teenager whose childhood nickname had been Mou Si Ting, which translates to "Never Sits Still"—and whose later nickname and stage name was Siu Loong, or "Little Dragon." Born in the hour of the dragon and the year of the dragon, young Bruce Lee was all fire, all “yang.” And Yip Man was forever trying to teach this fiery teen the importance of gentleness, fluidity, and pliability, not just strength and cunning.

About Shannon Lee

Shannon Lee is the CEO and Owner of the Bruce Lee Family Companies and President of the Bruce Lee Foundation, as well as the daughter of the legendary martial artist and cultural icon, Bruce Lee. Shannon's mission is to provide access to her father's philosophy and life through education and entertainment. She is the creator of Camp Bruce Lee through the Bruce Lee Foundation, and has spoken at TED, TEDx, and Creative Mornings, to name a few. Shannon lives in California with her daughter, Wren, where she co-hosts the Bruce Lee Podcast and executive produces Cinemax's Warrior.

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