Remembering Bruce Lee: Fighter, poet and philosopher

Bhavneet S Aurora
Bhavneet S AuroraNov 27, 2015 | 13:26

Remembering Bruce Lee: Fighter, poet and philosopher

It isn't every day that one is called upon to write about someone who died long, long ago, in fact much before this writer was even born. The person in question here is Bruce Lee. The original Dragon who revolutionised martial arts and gave the world something to look up to.

Born on November 27, 1940, in the hour and year of the Dragon, Lee died at the extremely young age of 32 on July 20, 1973, of cerebral edema or swelling of the brain. But in the 32 years that Bruce Lee walked this earth, he left his mark on not just America, where he was born, but also the rest of the world.


Martial arts was his world. By the time he died, Bruce Lee's signature moves: his powerful one-inch punch, debilitating six-inch punch and side-kicks had become so famous that later movies - remember Kill Bill - even revived some of them.

But beyond martial arts, Bruce Lee also had a personal, more philosophical life to himself. A self-proclaimed atheist and a student of philosophy, he was also a fantastic poet. So much so that his poetry has been compared to that of the brooding Robert Frost.

Here's an example of his poetry:

"The Frost"

  • Young man,
  • Seize every minute
  • Of your time.
  • The days fly by;
  • Ere long you too
  • Will grow old.
  • If you believe me not,
  • See there, in the courtyard,
  • How the frost
  • Glitters white and cold and cruel
  • On the grass that once was green.
  • Do you not see
  • That you and I
  • Are as the branches
  • Of one tree?
  • With your rejoicing,
  • Comes my laughter;
  • With your sadness
  • Start my tears.
  • Love,
  • Could life be otherwise
  • With you and me?

Lee would originally write his poetry on pieces of paper, 21 of which were later collected by John Little and published in the book Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, after they were released by Lee's wife, some of which you can find here. Little described Lee's poems as "rather dark - reflecting the deeper, less-exposed recesses of the human psyche. Many seem to express a returning sentiment of the fleeting nature of life, love and the passion of human longing".


Lee's poetry flowed as freely as his fists did when he was fighting. And much like in his fighting style, rooted deep within his poems are paradoxes. 

Take this line from the above poem:

  • "How the frost
  • Glitters white and cold and cruel
  • On the grass that once was green."

Lee's poetry and philosophy was never too far from his martial arts. His philosophy is evident in an interview he gave and in which he said, "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".

In that statement, Lee revealed his philosophy of life and how to get along despite hurdles.

But Bruce Lee didn't just want to be known for his martial arts. He had in a personal essay, "In My Own Process" written, "Basically, I have always been a martial artist by choice and actor by profession. But, above all, I am hoping to actualise myself to be an artist of life along the way."


Aren't we all?

Happy birthday, Bruce...

Last updated: November 27, 2015 | 13:31
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