Everyone knows who Bruce Lee is.
Not only is he one of the world’s most iconic people (having a statue erected in his honour in his hometown Hong Kong), he is also a renowned martial artist who changed the way people viewed Asians in Hollywood movies.
As an individual, he was learned — and had a deep core philosophy that characterized his life, martial arts and his teachings.
In fact, his central philosophy would impact many of our hip hop pioneers (just listen to this song Masta Killa that layers Bruce Lee’s famous water quote.)
While we do not get the benefits of learning directly from the master himself (Bruce passed away in 1973), he has passed on a lot of his knowledge via his famous quotes.
Hidden within his quotes are lessons that we can all apply to our dance and our lives.
Let’s take a look at the lessons Bruce wanted to impart to us bboys and bgirls:
20 Gems Hidden In Bruce Lee’s Quotes That Will Transform How You Dance And Live
1. “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
We’re the YouTube generation.
We have the ability to watch ANY single battle, cypher or tutorial taking place in any part of the world…. At our own time, right at our fingertips.
You probably also have your own bboy heroes. You know every single move of theirs. You know what sets they are going to pull. You know how they transit from one move to another.
You even ask questions like this:
We all need our heroes to inspire us, to push us, to tell us whatever we’re doing is possible.
But… this is a gentle reminder from Bruce to you.
Breaking is about being YOU, doing YOU.
Your role as a bboy or bgirl is not to copy or imitate your heroes. Part of bboying or bgirling is stand out and differentiate yourself from everyone else, EVEN your heroes.
Be inspired by them.
But do not copy. I repeat, do not copy.
Do not duplicate their style, their flava or their moves.
Instead, find yourself and your own unique story through breaking.
After all, that’s how your heroes succeeded, didn’t they? How else would they have stood out and be remembered by you?
“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
For many years, experts repeatedly proclaimed that the human body was simply incapable of a 4-minute mile.
And for many years, NOBODY broke the 4-minute mile. The closest someone went was 4:01.
Many people began believing humans have finally reached its peak condition.
Then on May 6, 1954, Sir Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, clocking in at 3:59.4.
Soon after, someone else broke the 4-minute mile. Then another. Then another. Then more and more people did it.
Today? Anybody who has specifically trained for it happily breaks the four-minute mile.
About 10 years ago, everyone said it was impossible to become multi-planetary.
Well, not Elon Musk.
Single-handedly, he collected the world’s experts, invested his money and built the billion-dollar company known as SpaceX.
Fast forward 10 years into the present. SpaceX manufactures rockets from scratch and is now leading the charge to turn the human species multi-planetary.
There are no walls.
There are no barriers.
There is NOTHING stopping you from achieving what you want.
They are ALL in your mind.
Do not settle.
If you want something, GET IT.
Do not let mediocrity or false limits stop you from truly ever fulfilling your potential.
“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.”
Most of us bboys and bgirls make two HUGE mistakes in practice:
- We try a move for one time and we give up after not getting it.
- We practice our moves one time and think we’re all set and ready to go.
Do you see the mistake here?
How can we ever improve if we only practice something one time?
Part of mastery requires repetition.
And the person who is willing to endure the boring phase and consistently repeat something over and over again will be the one that succeeds.
Through repetition and tedious drills, your moves solidify. Even under immense battle pressure, or cypher anxiety… You will learn to pull off your moves without fail. You hit your moves (as I’ve said over and over) 10 out of 10 times.”
As a bboy/bgirl, you do not need infinite moves.
What you need are ENOUGH moves to make you stand out, make the judges remember you and beat your competition.
Look at the top bboys and bgirls in the world. They do the same moves and same sets over many years.
Because it took them time to polish them perfectly.
They don’t train a move one time and deem it a success.
So if you want to be good, practice one kick 10,000 times.
“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.”
Are you feeling stuck? Can’t seem to think of new moves?
One of the big mistakes we make when trying to be creative is that we think too hard. We replay scenarios or impossible moves over and over again in our head, without trying them.
Sometimes all you need to do is to slow down and just flow.
Wherever water is, it takes the shape of it. If it is in a cup, it takes the shape of a cup. If it is in a bottle, it takes the shape of the bottle.
And in this case, your bottle or cup is the music.
Let your body flow.
Whatever the music commands you to do, you follow.
Without inhibition. Without obstruction. Without stopping.
You might experience an entirely new feeling…. Or even come up with new moves.
Bonus Tip: Listen to different types of music to explore different movements.
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”
Your end goal in practice (and ultimately in competitions) is to make your moves, movements and sets look so effortless that people wonder how you did it.
It is to make your transitions so smooth that you can move around with the music — and hit the beats at the right time.
It is to tell you and them that you have mastered your moves so well that they are at the tip of your fingers (or toes), so that you actually take take less effort to do them.
When mastered, you can control how you want your moves to appear as. Powerful, light, fast, slow – the choice is yours here.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
We’ve been taught that goal setting is the keystone to all success.
That is true. In fact, it is logically necessary.
Because without a goal, how can you ever know when you’ve reached where you want to be?
Even when you travel overseas, you need a destination to know when you’ve arrived. Before a ship sets sail, it needs to chart its course and know its place of arrival.
While you need to set a goal to know where you want to go…
“The real goal is not in arriving at the destination, but living (and enjoying) the process. The true enjoyment is hidden within the process of improving yourself.”
You don’t always need to set a goal that is achievable.
Instead of treating the goal as the end-point (and ending up disappointing yourself because you think you’re done or you never reach it), treat it as a target board.
Treat it as a future vision you’re aiming towards.
Make your goal as outrageous as possible.
Break apart your limits.
Use that as a target board to inspire yourself to practice hard and attempt to reach it.
It is okay if you don’t achieve your goal in the end (after all, the pleasure is in the journey, not the end-point.)
But it serves as something you can continually work towards to improve yourself.
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
“You should do this.” “You should do that.” “I think this style fits you better.”
Have you heard that before?
And you know what?
They’re wrong not because their advice sucks.
After all, they have good intentions. They want the best for you.
They are wrong because they assumed that is what you wanted.
This is your dance and your journey.
You’re not here to live up to any one’s expectations of you.
You have the right to choose.
So… Choose your own path.
The opposite goes for you.
Nobody else in this world should live for your expectations.
What you don’t want others to do to you — don’t do it to them.
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
Remember Quote #7?
What I want to say is — not all advice sucks.
Most people have kind intentions when they offer advice. Most people think that whatever they’re suggesting is for your benefit.
You don’t have to take every single advice you hear.
(You would go crazy if you did, considering how easy unsolicited advice is dished out every day.)
All you have to do is to think critically and choose wisely.
Be smart about things.
Take the advice you like or makes most sense to you and then apply them. Or if you are lost, ask: what aspect of the advice stands out the most to you? What resonates with your deepest feelings about your own breaking?
Those that don’t apply to you right now?
Smile, say thanks and move along.
In the future, when you’ve applied sufficient advice on yourself and improved….
Then it’s your turn to add on your unique and creative spin.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.”
What if I will never be able to windmill? What if I get injured? What if I lose? What if I can’t dance to the music?
Stop the “What Ifs”. Stop overthinking.
The person that succeeds or improves is the person that takes action all the time.
So here’s what you can do:
- Have a goal
- Buy a huge calendar and a red marker.
- Define a habit that you can do every single day that will bring you closer to your goal.
- Do it everyday. Once you’re done with the habit for the day, mark a big fat red cross on the calendar.
That was how Jerry Seinfeld became one of the world’s most famous comedians.
If that works for him, it’ll work for you too.
“Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
Many a times, we set goals that are too small because we are afraid we won’t ever reach our goals.
We are afraid of failing.
So we set easy peasy goals that anyone can achieve. Or we refuse to try something new, something out of our comfort zone — because we know we will fail.
We want to love failure.
Because failure means we’ve tried.
Failure means we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone — all in the attempt of fulfilling our potential.
Failure means we continue to live without regrets.
Failure means we continue to beat fear into the ground every day — because we know we CAN do greater things.
And live life without regrets of not doing something because you were scared.
Note: Failure is not the end-point either. Embrace it as part of your identity, and part of the journey, but don’t get addicted to failing too.
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
We used to live in a world where information was scarce.
If you knew something other people didn’t know, you would have been way ahead of everyone else.
Information has been democratized.
We live in the world of abundant information.
In fact, we have too much information.
Everyday, we are bombarded by unlimited amounts of information from the Internet, social media, books, TVs, cars, billboards etc.
So our problem now is no longer finding information.
It is the lack of action after you find information.
You can now learn anything you want online.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do everything you want.
Because you MUST use that information. If not, it’ll be uselessly lodged in your brain.
You must apply what you know into your own life, and your own dance.
That’s how you can continually improve every single day.
“As you think, so shall you become.”
Whether you are able to do something solely depends on your thought patterns.
For example, I used to have a friend who thought he had absolutely no talent for powermoves. It took him SIX years to even manage to begin learning windmill.
It wasn’t because he didn’t have talent. It was because he was lazy, or he just kept telling himself he couldn’t do it — and thus didn’t practice for it.
You can achieve everything you want to — if you form the right thoughts, beliefs and mindset.
Break apart your limiting beliefs, challenge yourself to be out of your comfort zone, and build new behaviours.
13. “The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”
Have you had this experience before?
Right before your turn in the battle, you stand there, nervous.
Your heart is beating faster than usual and your mind is racing.
You’re mentally rehearsing the set you’re going to do, because you’re afraid that you would blank out.
You’re trying to maintain a look of confidence, but deep inside you’re shaking.
You’re trying to enjoy the hype of the jam, but all you can think of is your impending battle.
Don’t worry, I’ve experienced it before too.
Too many times before a battle, we start to overthink.
We overthink whether our set would be strong enough to beat the opponent. We worry whether we will crash. We wonder whether we will win. We wonder if we will get dope music played for our turn.
What’s the point?
Worrying can’t solve anything.
In fact, it only makes you feel worse. Not only is it a complete waste of time, it’s a self-sabotaging, backfiring, utterly defeatist activity.
You have prepared for this day. You have practiced hard for this day.
There is nothing else you can do anymore except to let your training take over.
Let nature take its path.
Let your body move to the music and let the music wash away your anxiety.
“Choose the positive. You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”
I’m just like you.
Every time I suffer a loss in a battle, I feel disappointed. Depressed that the results didn’t go my way. Angry at the fact that no matter how hard I practiced, I am still not good enough.
Let me whisper to you a truth:
You cannot change anything by being negative.
You cannot change anything by blaming the world. You cannot change anything by refusing to take up responsibility.
The only time you can DO something is when you take control.
Take personal responsibility.
Remain positive. Keep your optimism up high.
Maintain the belief that even when you feel like you keep practicing and get nowhere… It will all come to fruit one day.
Here’s a quick tip for you if you’re feeling negative:
Motivational speaker Hal Elrod has a Five-Minute Rule. Instead of denying his emotions and preventing himself from sulking, he gives himself 5 minutes to sulk, rant and rage at whatever that happened.
Once the Five Minutes are up, he must go back to being optimistic and solving problems.
If you’re struggling with facing your negativity, then this tip may help you overcome this huge weakness.
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one”
Life is going to be unfair.
You are going to join competitions where the judges are biased. You are going to join competitions where the judges hate you.
You are going to get flak for your style. You are going to be called a biter. You are going to hear someone hates your guts. You are going to hear someone thinks you’re wack.
You are going to lose competitions you thought you won. You are going to get laughed at. You are going to feel left out sometimes.
But, they are all part and parcel of the bboy journey.
In fact, they are all part and parcel of LIFE.
Does it suck?
Fuck yes it sucks.
Of course you want the world to be in your favour.
But that’s the unfortunate truth.
Not because of any of our faults…
But simply because the world cannot serve everyone.
You’ll have to recognize this truth and live with it.
You’ll have to work hard even if everyone hates you.
You’ll have to work hard even if nobody understands your style.
You’ll have to work hard even if someone says you can’t make it.
You have to be strong, and endure everything.
And then one day…
Your haters will be fanning your ass, begging at your feet and asking you to teach them.
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”
Everyone starts unequally.
Some are born in better circumstances than others. Some are born with more talent for breaking than others. Some are born with a better sense of balance than the others.
Ultimately, there is one thing that is fair amongst all of us.
We all have the potential to become the best version of ourselves.
We all have the potential to push ourselves to push past our limits.
We all have the potential to develop, grow and mold ourselves into someone better than before.
And it would be a waste if you decide today that you’re someone that cannot be changed…
And waste all of the potential that is ahead of you
Cultivate your love for the journey and focus on developing yourself.
“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”
The great industrialist and inventor of the car Henry Ford once said:
“Whether you think you can or you cannot, you are both right.”
The stronger man wins… for now.
The faster man wins… for now.
But if you think you can, and you KNOW you can…
Then you will put in the work to keep on fighting, training and pushing to becoming better at your dance. At your craft. At your art.
Never stop in your belief that you can achieve something greater.
The man who thinks he can will be the one that eventually wins.
“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”
I used to think that in order to become dope, I had to make my moves as complicated as possible.
I had to do them in complex sequences that no one could understand.
I had to create combinations that packed as many moves as possible.
Now some of you might probably have thought like this before.
Is that wrong?
No, it’s not.
If complicated and complex is your thing, great!
But understand that at its core, you don’t have to do complicated to be good.
The true foundation of the dance is style.
It is not the moves that matter, but the WAY you do the moves that matter.
You can do simple foundational footwork and make them look really super dope, clean and fresh. Just watch bboys like Puzzles, Focus, Shinobi, Neepy and AlienNess.
That’s what we call simplicity.
Focus on mastering your style and the way you present your moves.
And then no matter what you do…
No matter how simple the moves are…
It’ll be dope.
“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
When we face a problem, the society thinks that doing more will solve it.
We think that we need to add more complexity into our solutions to make things work.
That’s not true.
Sometimes, doing more makes things worse.
You need to do less.
You need to subtract.
You need to stop doing certain things to improve.
To make this clearer, a friend of mine once analogized:
As a bboy… You want to be the sniper, not the machine gunner. Make the bullet count. One targeted hit is better than 99 sprayed misses that don’t count for shit.
Here are some ideas:
- Instead of aiming to hit 100 flares in a day, why not aim to hit 50 but analyze every flare that you do?
- Instead of aiming to pack every single thing you wanna practice in one session, why not simply aim to master 1 move or 1 set?
- Instead of focusing of doing more moves, why not focus on crashing less?
- Instead of aiming for more intense practice sessions, why not focus on missing less sessions?
- Instead of eating more meals, why not avoid less unhealthy foods?
- Instead of training your stamina by running more, why not smoke less?
“It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
Being too focused on yourself, on your showmanship, on thinking about your art rather than actually feeling it..
When you look at your own finger pointing at moon, you will make you miss out on what the world, the dance, the art has to offer.
By being less “self-absorbed in your thinking” or what you think will make things seem good, you are more attuned, honest about how you feel.
Don’t Just Feel Good…. Take Action Now
Quotes can sometimes be abit of a masturbatory tool.
They make you feel hyped and motivated to become good – even more so than you usually are – and then you go back to doing the same old shit that you were doing.
But I don’t want that to happen to you.
Bruce Lee is a philosopher, and within the 20 quotes he has professed a very deep core philosophy that you can take as a core principle to live your life and to rock your dance. And it is impossible to summarize all his art, his philosophy into one post, let alone one sentence.
Yet, I wish to highlight 3 central themes of Bruce’s, after those 20 quotes above. After today, bring these themes into your own practice, your own life:
- Believe in yourself and your potential,
- Enjoy the journey of improvement
- Let the outcome determine itself.
If you can take just ONE year to apply any of the 3 themes… You’ll see your breaking standards taking off. You’ll see breaking as more than just a side hobby. Who knows, you’ll see breaking as a reflection of yourself.
I believe that’s how you should view breaking.