Bruce Lee Quotes


Bruce Lee Quotes: Wisdom from a Martial Arts Master

Bruce Lee, from Wing Chun student of Ip Man to martial arts innovator and movie icon, he left an indelible mark on the world in his short life of 32 years. His philosophy continues to resonate, offering guidance and inspiration in various aspects of life, especially in the realm of personal growth and martial arts. Below are some of his most impactful quotes, each a testament to his deep understanding of martial arts and life philosophy. (See also our Kung Fu Life Lessons)

“Be Water, My Friend”

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water,” Lee famously said. He elaborated on this, explaining, “Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; you put in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” This quote reflects his belief in the importance of adaptability and flexibility in life and martial arts.

The Art of Self-Expression

“Always be yourself and to express yourself, have faith in yourself,” Lee advised. He criticized the tendency to imitate others and emphasized the importance of finding one’s own path, saying, “Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate them.”

Knowledge and Self-Discovery

“All type of knowledge ultimately means self-knowledge,” Lee remarked, highlighting the importance of self-awareness in martial arts. He viewed martial arts not just as physical training, but as a medium for expressing oneself fully and completely.

Balance Between Instinct and Control

“It is the successful combination of both,” Lee said about balancing natural instinct and control. He coined the terms “unnatural naturalness” and “natural unnaturalness” to describe this harmonious balance.

Moving Beyond Styles

“I do not believe in styles anymore,” Lee declared, challenging the traditional approach to martial arts. He believed that styles are limiting and that true martial arts should be fluid and adaptable, just like water.

Embracing Simplicity

“Simplicity is the key to brilliance,” Lee often stated. He believed in the power of direct and straightforward actions, both in martial arts and in life.

Confidence and Facing Challenges

“When you are secure within yourself, you treat [challenges] very lightly,” Lee observed, emphasizing the importance of self-confidence in dealing with life’s challenges.

Honest Self-Expression in Martial Arts

“Honestly expressing yourself… is very difficult to do,” Lee admitted. He saw martial arts as a way to train the body and mind to react instinctively and honestly.

The Universal Human Being

“I think of myself as a human being,” said Lee, who believed in the underlying unity of all people, transcending race and nationality.

The Principle of Kung Fu

In explaining Kung Fu, Lee said, “Water is the softest substance in the world, but yet it can penetrate the hardest rock.” He used this metaphor to illustrate the strength and flexibility inherent in Kung Fu.

Bruce Lee’s quotes are more than just words; they are principles for living a balanced, authentic, and adaptable life. His wisdom transcends martial arts and offers universal insights into the human experience.

See also Bruce Lee Siu Nim Tao

More Bruce Lee Quotes

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

“Only the self-sufficient stand alone–most people follow the crowd and imitate.”

Bruce lee quotes

“For it is easy to criticize and break down the spirit of others, but to know yourself takes a lifetime.”

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

“Art calls for complete mastery of techniques, developed by reflection within the soul.”

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

“The moment is freedom. I couldn’t live by a rigid schedule. I try to live freely from moment to moment, letting things happen and adjusting to them.”

“The doubters said, ‘Man can not fly.’ The doers said, ‘Maybe, but we’ll try,’ and finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”

“Reality is apparent when one ceases to compare. There is ‘what is’ only when there is no comparison at all, and to live with what is, is to be peaceful.”

“The more we value things, the less we value ourselves.”

“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”

“All knowledge simply means self-knowledge.”

“Self-knowledge involves relationship. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. The relationship is a process of self-evaluation and self-revelation. The relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself–to be is to be related.”

“Choose the positive. You have a choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”

“Everything you do, if not in a relaxed state will be done at a lesser level than you are proficient. Thus the tensed expert marksman will aim at a level less than his/her student.”

“Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization is very important. Most people live only for their image.”

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.”

“You just wait. I’m going to be the biggest Chinese Star in the world.”

“The second-hand artist blindly following his sensei or sifu accepts his pattern. As a result, his action is and, more importantly, his thinking become mechanical. His responses become automatic, according to set patterns, making him narrow and limited.”

“Life is never stagnation. It is constant movement, un-rhythmic movement, as we as constant change. Things live by moving and gain strength as they go.”

“Forget about winning and losing; forget about pride and pain. Let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life! Do not be concerned with escaping safely–lay your life before him!”

“Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.”

“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.”

“Life is better lived than conceptualized. This writing can be less demanding should I allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I’ve come to understand that life is best to be lived—not to be conceptualized. If you have to think, you still do not understand.”

“The word ‘superstar’ is an illusion.”

“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”

“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

“I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”

“Art is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life. The aim of art is not the one-sided promotion of spirit, soul and senses, but the opening of all human capacities–thought, feeling, will–to the life rhythm of the world of nature. So will the voiceless voice be heard and the self be brought into harmony with it.”

“Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today.”

“The spirit of the individual is determined by his dominating thought habits.”

“Take no thought of who is right or wrong, or who is better than. Be not for or against.”

“To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to either spend or waste and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.”

“It is not a shame to be knocked down by other people. The important thing is to ask when you’re being knocked down, ‘Why am I being knocked down?’ If a person can reflect in this way, then there is hope for this person.”

“The athlete who is building muscles through weight training should be very sure to work adequately on speed and flexibility at the same time. In combat, without the prior attributes, a strong man will be like the bull with its colossal strength futilely pursuing the matador or like a low-geared truck chasing a rabbit.”

“Be happy, but never satisfied.”

“The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems.”

“The knowledge and skills you have achieved are meant to be forgotten so you can float comfortably in emptiness, without obstruction.”

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.”

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

“Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind for they are the weeds that strangle confidence.”

“The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement. You ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”

“In order to taste my cup of water, you must first empty your cup.”

“Be self-aware, rather than a repetitious robot.”

“The world is full of people who are determined to be somebody or to give trouble. They want to get ahead, to stand out. Such ambition has no use for a gung fu man, who rejects all forms of self-assertiveness and competition.”

“Endurance is lost rapidly if one ceases to work at its maximum.”

“Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.”

“Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light.”

“It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”

“Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”

“The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.”

“Boards don’t hit back.”

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”

“Do not be tense, just be ready, not thinking but not dreaming, not being set but being flexible. It is being ‘wholly’ and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.”

“But neither can you condemn nor justify and yet be extraordinarily alive as you walk on. You can never invite the wind but you must leave the window open.”

“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

“‎The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”

“Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.”

“I wish neither to possess nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise. More important, I no longer fear Hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, but I did not observe it, until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, consuming myself.”

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