Last Updated 03 Aug 2020

The phrase “be like water…”

Category Water
Essay type Research
Words 456 (1 page)
Views 228

"Be like water... " is a widely used but unfortunately usually misinterpreted expression. Many novices at single combat often use it trying to show that they are clued-up. And they can’t be accused of it as the phrase has an impressive sounding and in any case represents also impressive, though partial, understanding of Eastern way of thinking.

Many such beginners think that this way was formed by Bruce Lee. However, a great martial arts actor and instructor just quoted the Eastern philosophy created much earlier (Wishop 2). The wrong usage of the phrase

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I became interested in this expression having read the case about one man who said that he wanted to learn martial arts because he wanted to “be like water”. This phrase seems interesting but its sense is very doubtful and I guess that this man understood it very superficially (Loeb 18).

The question is if we can call the wish to “be like water” a feasible purpose. If to consider the strict sense of a phrase, every person who wants to ‘be like water’ should lay on the ground and try to flow like a stream, because we can’t be ‘like water” when we stand (Loeb 18).

The real meaning and the cause of misunderstanding So, what does it really mean to “be like water”? It must be related to the Taoist philosophy and its idea about five equal elements. They are wood, metal, earth, fire and water. Each of them is very important and strongly connected to others (Greene 5). Possibly, the main issue in that water is usually associated with something soft. We say “want to be like water” when we want to move easily, without any obstacles.

However, we forget that water has other qualities, which appear to be not so attractive. Bruce Lee stated: "water can flow, or it can crash" (Wishop 14). Unfortunately, people usually pay attention only to the first part of his statement, while it is necessary for everybody who wants to “be like water” to think about the fact that water can also be destructive (Loeb 20).

Many people die and suffer because of floods every year and one usually trembles thinking of huge, destructive sea waves. Conclusion

Many phrases are frequently misunderstood and misused because people are inclined to pick new words and utterances very quickly and do not ever try to find out more about their origin. That creates the misuse of the world and finally it can loose its primary meaning. It would be better if we were more scrupulous and curious about new words and phrases we use.

Works Cited Wishop, James. Bruce Lee: Dynamic Becoming. Dallas: Promethean Press, 2004 Greene, Neil. Taoist philosophy. London: Oxford UP, 1996 Loeb, Martha. The Ways to Avoid Misunderstanding. New York: Nerd Press, 2003

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The phrase “be like water…”. (2016, Jul 22). Retrieved from

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