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Bruce almighty: Motivational lessons from a legend

CC Claire Coakley

Photography courtesy of Penguin ,

Bruce Lee, the martial-arts star, would have turned 80 this November. His daughter, Shannon, was four when her father died, aged 32, and her new book shares inspirational lessons from his notes and real-life chapters. She reveals that he couldn't boil an egg or change a lightbulb. However, he became a pop-culture icon. Bruce's films inspired the 1970s martial-arts craze and he's the world's first Asian-American superstar. He also made a two-fingered push-up look effortless.
 

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The book, Be Water, My Friend, translates the philosopher-fighter's lessons to our everyday and gives an insight into untold stories from the magnetic movie-star's life. “Martial arts are a metaphor for life,” writes Shannon, and offers practical advice such as using meditation as “a potential tool in our tool-belt for practising being like water”. Essentially, the sum total of each chapter's teachings are that her father “wants you to be the best you can be”.

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, 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. [Bruce Lee]

Here, Shannon Lee tells W Edit about the key points of Be Water, My Friend...

What does 'Be Water, My Friend' mean to you?

Being like water is a multi-layered and deeply meaningful notion, which I delve deeply into in my book. I would tell people it means, in the most simple of terms, to notice the properties of water. When water is healthy it flows and moves. Even deep pools are fed by life giving springs. Water is pliable and flexible – it can move around or even through obstacles. It is unrelenting – it doesn’t stop or give up – and it is innately ready to flow forward when given the opportunity. And water is essential It is a building block of life and therefore reminds us to be our most essential selves.

How have martial arts enriched you?

Well, naturally the practice of martial arts made my body stronger – more flexible, quick, agile and more tough. As the mind and the spirit are also part of the physical body, I cannot leave out that martial arts also helped me to be more confident, more determined and more confident. It developed my inner strength as much as my body and that inner strength I take with me, whether I’m working out or not.

Which of your father's philosophy personally resonates?

My favourite is this quote: 

“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 I will never find the light unless like the candle I am my own fuel.” 

This piece of wisdom came to me when I was suffering greatly from the death of my brother. [Brandon Bruce Lee.] It opened me up and bid me to find my own cure; to actively seek my own wellness.

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Shannon Lee

Which is relevant for you in these pandemic times?

My father said to keep your mind on the things you want and off those you don’t

I am practising radical presence and flow everyday. I am trying to stay with the present moment and not get lost in past troubles or future anxieties. I actively attempt to “empty my mind” of any judgments towards self and others, and understand that we are all coping the best we can with the coping skills that we have. And where my current skills aren’t enough, I work to develop new and better ones as needed. 

I try to keep my spirits high and utilise my energy for myself and towards positivity and solutions rather than worry, fear and negativity. And when I need to grieve, I grieve. I let it all come out so that when I am able, I can say: “And now what? How can I start to feel better?”

My father said to keep your mind on the things you want and off those you don’t. Because we cannot control outside circumstances, we must learn to know ourselves and work on ourselves so that maybe we can find some light within that keeps the darkness at bay until we can find a moment in the sun.

Everything he learned about life he learned through the practice of martial arts

I would say that martial arts teaches you so much: How to have a strong foundation that is capable of movement in any direction. How to get knocked down and get back, and how to take action even if you are fearful or uncertain. And how to heighten your senses and become hyper-observant, in order to protect yourself or diffuse a situation. All of this is applicable to life and helps you navigate everything from social situations and everyday concerns to the most difficult of challenges and fears. 

More info

W Edit's martial-arts stars on Bruce Lee:

David Cheung

“Bruce was a childhood hero, who influenced my life in many ways and was someone to look up to for me. My grandfather taught Wing Chun so martial arts was a big part of our family life. I was always inspired by Bruce’s philosophy and mindset. Martial arts then led me to begin a career in the film industry, and I am now an actor and registered stuntman. 

“I think Bruce Lee will always be relevant. He has shaped so many people’s lives and has been a huge positive influence on the world by sharing his treasured wisdom and ideas. Both a master and a student, he taught the values of always learning, always growing and always expressing oneself.” 

More info

Yolanda Lynes

“This picture (below) was taken when I was in Hong Kong with David. We went to visit the Bruce Lee statue to pay homage to the great legend, and I was wearing a yellow jumpsuit inspired by his film Game of Death. This was posted on the official Bruce Lee Instagram story, which is managed by Shannon. It was such a surprise!

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Yolanda Lynes

“My stepfather was a martial artist and introduced me to Bruce's movies when I was six. I had the whole collection on VHS and was so inspired by Bruce. My favourite film was The Big Boss and his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do. I was inspired by his philosophical outlook on life and read his work again and again. I enjoyed learning Wing Chun from various teachers, and this path led me to eventually meet my fiancé, David Cheung. So Bruce has positively influenced me in both my career and personal life. I'm a massive fan.”

More info

Be Water, My Friend by Shannon Lee, out now, published by Rider, RRP £14.99, www.penguin.co.uk

All Content © Copyright Wellness Edit 2020. All rights reserved

Bruce almighty: Motivational lessons from a legend

CC Claire Coakley

Photography courtesy of Penguin ,

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