Be water, my friend“ is a famous quote by the late martial artist Bruce Lee, who often used it in films and teachings. The comparatively short phrase has a variety of profound meanings. Above all, this points to the adaptability of man to various circumstances. Furthermore, the quote calls for being able to take oneself back and live virtuously. Flexibility and adaptability are therefore of central importance on the path to success or happiness.
„Be water, my friend“ therefore achieved great fame even away from martial arts and is still followed, respectively used by many people today. The element water has always had a tremendous attraction for people. At the same time, general wisdom is often associated with the basic elements.
However, not everyone knows the exact meaning of „Be water, my friend“. Therefore, the quote and its meaning will be explained comprehensively in the following article. In addition, interesting facts about the use and today’s relevance of the quote will be shown.
What does „Be water, my friend“ mean? Quote, meaning, explanation
The quote „Be water, my friend“ originates from the English language and is composed of the words „be“, „water“, „my“ and „friend“. Combined, „Be water, my friend“ can therefore be translated roughly as „Be like water, my friend“.
What is meant by this is that in some situations in life, people should adopt the same attributes as the element water. Water is flexible, adaptable, flowing and of great importance for the survival of all living beings. In this context, extremely important characteristics are attributed to the element water, which man should symbolically adopt for himself. This includes a high degree of flexibility, agility and adaptability to the respective circumstances. At the same time, the human being should largely keep to himself and not push himself excessively into the foreground, as this would not be virtuous.
„Be water, my friend“ has therefore been adopted as general wisdom in everyday speech. However, it is still particularly popular in the martial arts scene. Especially there, a high degree of flexibility (both physical and mental) is of great importance to become a successful martial artist.
Origin of „Be water, my friend“
„Be water, my friend“ is a famous quote that comes from Chinese-American martial artist Bruce Lee, who first used it during an interview with journalist Pierre Berton in 1971. During the interview, Lee discussed his own philosophy and approach to martial arts and life. As a result, Lee placed special emphasis on adaptability and flexibility as central qualities for happiness and success. He compared this to the characteristics of the element water – humans should also be able to „let themselves flow“ from time to time.
The quote mentioned during the interview quickly gained great notoriety and from then on spread quasi virally in the world of martial arts as well as esotericism. It was used a little later in many Bruce Lee movies as well as in various media. In addition to the universal wisdom and harmony that the quote „Be water, my friend“ radiates, it also serves primarily as a lasting legacy of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who died very young.
Who was Bruce Lee?
The Chinese-American actor and martial artist was considered a very famous figure of the 1960s and 1970s, appearing in countless martial arts films. Born in 1940 in San Francisco and raised in Hong Kong, Lee learned the high art of martial arts as a young child and attended various martial arts schools for this purpose. His charismatic demeanor and groundbreaking skills as a martial artist and actor eventually made him a true celebrity of the era. In addition to his martial arts career, however, Lee was best known for his philosophy. Lee glorified efficiency, adaptability and self-expression and was therefore also considered an early teacher of personality development. Lee lived to be only 32 years old and died of cerebral edema in 1973.
Use of „Be water, my friend“
„Be water, my friend“ has become a powerful metaphor, or attitude towards life, for many martial artists over time. At the same time, the quote is also considered very popular among people outside the martial arts scene. Whether in the arts, in business or in terms of personal growth – the wisdom behind the quote helps in many different areas of life. Therefore, the quote is used today in the following areas, among others:
- In sports clubs
- In martial arts movies
- as a subject of philosophical reflections
- as a universally valid quote
- as a commemorative saying to Bruce Lee
Today’s relevance of the quote
The quote „Be water, my friend“ is used by a wide range of age groups. However, it is comparatively unknown among younger target groups (under 30). These are often not familiar with the well-known martial arts films by Bruce Lee, which were already filmed in the 1960s and 1970s. The quote is therefore much better known among martial arts enthusiasts or people of advanced age to older people.
Criticisms of „Be water, my friend“
Despite its comparatively positive message, the quote „Be water, my friend“ is often criticized. The main criticism is that the quote emphasizes flexibility and adaptability over other virtues, such as steadfastness or perseverance. In life, there are often situations in which it is simply necessary to remain strong and swim against the tide. Furthermore, „Be water, my friend“ is criticized because it glorifies the suppression of one’s own authenticity and calls for superficiality.
Conclusion on „Be water, my friend“
So, to sum up, „Be water, my friend“ is one of the most famous quotes of the late martial arts legend Bruce Lee, which he first used during an interview in 1971. It calls for physical and mental flexibility and is considered universal wisdom for many areas of life.
The quote „Be water, my friend“ is related to the quotes „If you must go fast, go slow“ and „Bend but don’t break,“ among others. While „If you have to go fast, go slow“ calls for more self-control and reason, or vigilance, „Bend, but don’t break“ means that life often holds challenges that challenge you strongly, but you should not fail at them.