USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘martial arts’
Folk Dance
Folk speech

Breaking Eggs Proverb with attached Capoeira Legend

My informant explained that Mestre Bimba would often use the proverb, “if you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.”

Informant: “He would let, he would ask his students to throw rocks at him, so he could defend with Capoeira defenses. He also used to train defenses with, by tying a straight edge to a string and then tying that to a tree limb, and throwing it in a way that it would swing in all kinds of directions and he would have his students use Capoeira defenses to evade the razor blade. Hence, “if you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.” You’ve gotta have a little risk to really get out of the way.”

My informant is a Capoeira Instructor of Brazilian descent, raised in California. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that came to be due to the cultural exchange that occurred in Brazil during the slave trade. He has spent about one year of his life in Brazil over the course of many trips, and is immersed in Brazilian culture within the U.S. Many stories within the Capoeira community float around from one region to the next. Many stories revolve around one man in particular – Mestre Bimba. He was a pivotal man of Capoeira who’s efforts led to the martial art’s legalization in Brazil in the early 20th century. Instructor Guatambu has equated Mestre Bimba to being the “Bruce Lee,” of Capoeira. Stories are sure to follow a reputation like that.


Story – Japan

“This is a story that is repeated in martial arts circles in the US and Japan. There are representations of this in Bruce Lee’s movie Enter the Dragon. The basic story goes; a martial arts master is on a boat in a harbor. As tends to happen in these stories, some guy is trying to make himself look cool and challenges the master. The master says alright, but not here on this crowded boat. He points to an island and says, let’s go on to the beach and fight there. When they arrive at the beach, he insists that they take a given amount of paces before they turn and fight each other. The challenger agrees, they turn back to back and start pacing. The challenger takes his ten steps and turns around. The master is back in the boat rowing back to where they came from.”

Andrew told me that he heard of this story at the end of 9th grade. He had decided that he wasn’t content with how he was as a person. He wanted to change and one way he did that was to train in martial arts; he now practices 7 different forms of martial arts. He also said that he is the kind of “doofus” that whenever he becomes interested in anything, he researches it as much as he can. He also said that the story is one of the most repeated stories besides the tea cup one, but he hasn’t really repeated the story much outside of the martial arts world. Andrew said that he heard this story from his master and many others in the martial arts world. He thinks that the meaning of the story is that brute strength and skill aren’t the most important, intelligence matters just as much if not more. I agree with Andrew about the meaning of the story. It seems to be a simple story about the importance and power of one’s intelligence. I think it also serves as a cautionary tale that you should not show off or boast of your skills because that could get you into trouble. I hadn’t ever heard the story before Andrew told it to me, but I agree with his analysis, and it definitely seems to serve as a lesson for those in martial arts and for others as well.

Annotation: This story is referred to in the Bruce Lee film, Enter the Dragon.

Enter the Dragon. Dir. Robert Clouse, Actors: Bruce Lee. Concord Productions Inc, 1973.