“You must be shapeless, formless, like water… Water can drip and it can crash. Be water my friend.” This is one of the most famous Bruce Lee’s dialogue about his interpretation to martial arts. This interpretation is highly intelligent and romantic, being coherent to different philosophy, and at the same time, attitude and intelligence to life.

However, does that merely engage to philosophy and attitude to life? No, of course. Real intelligence is always general and wide, buckling up and penetrating every area, that’s why it is always convincing, but at the same time, easy to block the variation if people obey to it too much or in wrong ways. Anyway, the metaphor of “water” is a wide intelligence, being extremely flexible to fit in different area, for example, it reveals why the practical martial arts could be aesthetic.

Great martial artists can practice martial arts shapeless and formless liked water, liked nature. Water is beautiful, no matter it drops as rain, flows as river, or undulates as wave. The beauty of water comes from “being natural”. Lots of people think that “nature is beautiful”, Cezanne thought that as well. But, why? I’d like to interpret that by the “certainty” of nature.

“Rain drops downward, and it follows direction of wind if being blown.” We use present tense to describe it due to its certainty. Certainty means, we know it must happen; we have seen that happens for numerous times; and, we can sense that it is going to be. This certainty completely and perfectly links past, present and future together, when we are being within it, we sense it and have no way to doubt it, time and space are flowing through our body and mind. However, such certainty may not be realized to be beautiful if it is just carried by one conductor. For example, water’s beauty may not be sensed if there is only water, but it comes if sky is there or trees are there, certainty appears in all of them but has transformed into different forms. In the other words, it is more accurate to say that, “Beauty of nature comes from the unity between certainty and certainties.”

“Be water my friend”, martial arts is potential to be explored in aesthetic way, because certainty liked water appears within it. The high efficient body movement in martial arts greatly follows the rules of body structure: making a punch to be THE FASTEST, THE STRONGEST, and THE MOST FLUIDLY. Such “the most and …est” leads body movement to transform the certainty into certainties. When we see the great martial performance, we could sense that some movement shows the certainties: they are the must, we can sense that flow, just liked what we sense water in daily life. Time is closely linked and compressed by martial actions, this torrent of time always excites me, and I call this excitation to be, an aesthete.


Wai Kit CHAN (Hector)