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Who Is? / Who Was?

Bruce Lee

Who Was Bruce Lee?


Bruce Lee was known as one of the most famous martial artists of all time, particularly for his 'Jeet Kune Do' style of Kung Fu which he perfected and with which nobody ever seemed able to defeat him. But the man was much more than a Kunf Fu star. As we will explore his life, you will discover that he was also a great philosopher who had a lot of wisdom to offer in his legacy amidst his more popular iconic action movies.


If you have the book, read it. If you don't, you can purchase a copy, or proceed with this lesson nonetheless; just follow the next STEPS. Enjoy!


Task #1: Create a Mind Map of Bruce Lee

Before we look at some more background information on Bruce Lee, download the following Mind Map to add what you already know about him. Once you've completed the mind map, you can proceed to the next section hereunder.


The Biography Channel has produced a superb video introduction to Bruce Lee. The video is less than 5 minutes, but it is packed with rich information about this iconic figure, this force of nature that is Bruce Lee.

  • First, watch the following video and immediately after viewing it,
  • then, add to the Mind Map you did in the previous step, not forgetting to add information about his family, what he studied in university, and what he did during his time in the California.

4. QUOTES from Bruce Lee...

As with many greats, Bruce had a lot of great advice to offer. Let's spend some time to explore and analyze five of his famous quotes.

a) Quote #1: "The more we value things, the less we value ourselves."

What does he mean by 'things'? What things? What does he mean by 'the less we value ourselves'? What is he trying to say with this statement?

b) Quote #2: "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water."

What does he mean by the first part 'Empty your mind'? What does he mean by 'be like water'? He seems to be using 'water' as a metaphor for what?

c) Quote #3: "Real living is living for others."

Who does he mean by 'others'? What does he mean by 'real'?

d) Quote #4: "Emotion can be the enemy, if you give into your emotion, you lose yourself. You must be at one with emotions, because the body always follows the mind."

How can emotions be your 'enemy'? In what situations might this occur? What does he mean by 'give into' (your emotion)? What is he implying when he says you must be 'at one' with your emotions?

e) Quote #5: "Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning."

Do you agree with this advice? If so, why? Give an example about an instance where 'life' was your teacher. What was the situation and what lesson did you learn?

5. The PHILOSOPHY of Bruce Lee

As was mentioned in the biographical video seen in section 3 above, Bruce Lee studied Philosophy at the University of Washington in Seattle as a young man.

Undoubtedly, he also learned a great deal about Asian philosophy from his Master, the Guangdong (province) Chinese native Ye Wen - better known in the West as IP Man - who was a a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun.

Before getting into Bruce's philosophical ideas, we must first as: What is philosophy? Simply put, it is:

  • a way of thinking about things
  • to think more deeply about things to become wiser.

The following short video entitled The Wisdom Of Bruce Lee really captures the essense of 'Bruce Lee Philosophy'. Pay particular attention to what Bruce says about being 'like water' and what his daughter says about why he influenced and inspired people.

Task #2: Deep-diving into Lee Philosophy

a) Honestly expressing yourself:

Bruce says: "Honestly expressing yourself; now it is very difficult to do."

i.) Why is it difficult for one to "honestly" express himself/herself? What factors may impede one to do so?

ii) What barriers or negative consequences could be encoutered if one decides to truly expresses oneself?

iii) Does it require courage to do so? What is the cost of not doing so?

b) Be like water:

To repeat and expand from an earlier quote: "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friend. See, the idea is running water never grows stale. So, you gotta just keep on flowing."

i.) Here, water can be a metaphor for life's difficult situations. Bruce says: "you gotta just keep on flowing". What does he mean by this?

ii.) Describe a situation when you had a difficult situation and you had to "adapt" (keep on flowing) to make the situation more manageable.

c) Heavenly Glory:

Bruce advises a young boy: "Don't think. Feel. It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory."

i.) What does he mean by "Don't think. Feel."?

ii) What do you think his message is when he says: "Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory." What is finger and what is heavenly glory?

d) The Art of Dying:

Bruce says: "Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never accept the way to lose. To accept defeat; to learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying."

i.) When he says: "learn the way to win, but never accept the way to lose", he might be trying to get you to think more deeply about DEFEAT. In life, we all have difficulty in accepting defeat. It is hard. We feel embarassed. Our pride takes a hit. We may "lose face" in front of our family, friends, and peers. So, what might Bruce be implying with the phrase "accept the way to lose"?

ii) "to learn to die is to be liberated from it" - that is a pretty bold statement! At first glance, it seems quite contradictory. But when we actually dig deeper, it seems a lot more lies beneath the surface. What do you think he is trying to convey here?

iii) It may also seem confusing when he says: "free your ambitious mind" If we are ambitious, shouln't we focus all of our mind's power on our target/goal? Why is he rather saying to "free" it? And what is "the art of dying?

I want to conclude this section on why I think Bruce Lee was a very underrated philosopher. You see, philosophy is really about questioning things very deeply. The ideas he raises above really forces us all to so if we really want to understand our deeper selves. And in doing so, we can perhaps attain what Bruce did; that is, to get closer to our own 'Self-Actualization', reach our full potential and be the best we can be.


Now it is your turn. What are some of your philosophies about life? Take some time to philosophize about the following:

  • Who created us and all living things on Earth?
  • Who are you?
  • What is the meaning of Life?
  • What is Love?
  • What is Happiness?
  • Why are people so driven (motivated) by Money?
  • What is your Study (or Work) philosophy?


Of course there's no doubt that Bruce Lee had incredible mental strength, but physically nobody could match his overall ability. He was extremely versatile in that he could accomplish so many different feats - whether it was in his films, in competitions, or just fooling around. He didn't limit his Kung Fu to a single style (though Jeet Kune Do would prove to be his baby) and experimented with many different physical challenges.

So, let's have a look at some of his most amazing "superhuman" abilities and feats:

a) The 1-inch & 6-inch Punch: Here is a video posted from Kiran Philip entitled Bruce Lee - One and Six Inch Punches Slowed Down

b) 2-Finger Push-up: Here is a video posted from Beerdy entitled Bruce Lee Performs The IMPOSSIBLE Two Finger Push-Up (NEW AMAZING FOOTAGE) which shows Bruce accomplishing this feat at different places and times.

c) Playing Ping Pong with Nunchucks (instead of a Ping Pong paddle): Here is a video with nearly 30 million views posted by Ted Bundo entitled Bruce Lee Ping Pong (Full Version) - it is mind-boggling how Bruce has the ability to continuously hit the Ping Pong ball in stride with lightning speed; this video also features some slick tricks with matches whereby Bruce ignites them using the nunchucks.

d) Various Feats at the 1967 Long Beach Tournament, including battling an opponent while blindfolded.

e) In this last video we can see, among other feats, Bruce's lightning fast speed in which he can punch and kick opponents - often with the camera not being able to properly frame all movements. This montage entitled Bruce Lee Speed Montage Compilation Inhuman - Tribute- by Stephen Lee - Bruce Lee Tribute Channel really packs a punch!


There are some extremely rich websites and additional videos when it comes to Bruce Lee; too many to choose from, in fact. But, here are some of my favorites beginning with a few more videos (which also include additional Lee philosophy & wisdom in addition to his personal charm and charisma):


You are free to use the above materials as you wish.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to share your experience in using them, feel free to contact us.

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