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Be Like Water, Still Like a Mirror, Respond Like an Echo

bruce lee jeet kune do zen Nov 27, 2023

Today would be the late Bruce Lee's 83rd birthday. He was more than just a martial arts expert and actor, he was also a philosopher who left behind timeless teachings on the philosophy of life and martial arts. He was a prodigious reader and note-taker. Many of these quotes would end up published in the posthumous work, "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do." One of the most famous quotes from the book is, "If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo." This quote comes from the Daoist text, known as the Liezi, believed to have been written in he 3rd or 4th century AD. The text attributes it to the Buddhist bodhisattva, Guanyin. Today, on Bruce Lee's birthday, we will explore the meaning behind this quote and how it can be applied to your Jeet Kune Do practice and your life.

The first part of the quote, "If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves," tells us that we should be adaptable and flexible in all aspects of our lives. Whether it's our emotions, thoughts, or actions, rigidity creates resistance that blocks us from understanding things as they truly are. We must let go of our preconceptions and be open to change in order to discover new opportunities and experiences. In Jeet Kune Do, this means being open to learning from different martial arts styles and techniques, as well as being willing to adapt to different situations and opponents.

Moving, be like water.

The second part of the quote, "Moving, be like water," refers to the importance of fluidity and adaptability in our movements. Water is fluid and can take on any form or shape, it can be powerful like a wave or gentle like a stream. Similarly, in Jeet Kune Do, we should strive for fluidity in our movements, being able to switch from one technique to another seamlessly and effortlessly. This means being able to flow with the momentum of the fight, and use our opponent's energy against them.

Still, be like a mirror.

The third part of the quote, "Still, be like a mirror," refers to the importance of being aware and present in the moment. A mirror reflects everything around it without judgment or distortion, it simply reflects the truth. In Jeet Kune Do, being still and aware means being fully present in the moment, observing our opponent's movements and intentions without being distracted by our own thoughts or emotions. This enables us to respond to our opponent's attacks with clarity, precision, and efficiency.

Respond like an echo.

The final part of the quote, "Respond like an echo," suggests that we should be spontaneous and natural in our responses, echoing our opponent's movements with our own. Just as an echo is automatic and instant, our responses should be quick and intuitive, free from any hesitation or doubt. In Jeet Kune Do, this means training our reflexes to respond to various scenarios and movements without thinking too much about it. It also means being creative and spontaneous, using our own unique style to respond to our opponent's attacks in unexpected ways.

Guanyin's teaching, "If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo," contains important lessons for both our Jeet Kune Do practice and our lives. By embracing fluidity, adaptability, awareness, and spontaneity, we can become better martial artists and better human beings. So remember, next time you step on the mat or face a challenge in your life, be like water, still like a mirror, and respond like an echo.

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