Bruce Lee (AP Photo / Columbia Pictures)
It was 40 years ago today that Bruce Lee died. The martial arts master was only 32 and in seemingly good health until, while planning his next movie in Hong Kong, he died of a cerebral edema. He didn't have many years to make his mark – but the legacy he left is indelible. During his short life, he brought martial arts to Hollywood, ushering in a karate craze in the U.S. and helping to elevate the perception of Asian actors. He taught martial arts, invented Jeet Kune Do, and even wrote poetry.
How did Bruce Lee accomplish so much in such a short life? Perhaps it helped that he was born a Dragon. His birth Nov. 27, 1940, occurred both in the year and the hour of the Dragon, according to Chinese zodiac tradition – an incredibly fortuitous combination. Though Lee was born in San Francisco, his parents were Hong Kong natives and he grew up in Kowloon, China. In Chinese tradition, dragons are thought to be powerful, lucky and intelligent, capable of doing absolutely anything. Sounds a bit like the man who had time to develop a well-rounded personal philosophy when he wasn't busy revolutionizing the martial arts world. In fact, Lee's philosophical statements on life and fighting can be seen reflected in his classic films. Here are a few of our favorites.
Be formless ... shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You pour water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or creep or drip or crash! Be water, my friend…
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
Quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.
Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.
The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.
Born a Dragon, remembered for the life he lived – the immortal Bruce Lee.
Written by Linnea Crowther