Sunday, September 26, 2010


One more about staff and I promise I'll write about something else in the next post.

This one isn't really about staff, actually, it's about water. It just poured rain on us, here in Helotes and I thought, "Wow, this would be a really cool time to practice staff". I couldn't resist. We don't get a lot of rain and usually my staff practice sessions are hot and sticky, so the cool rain was a nice reprieve from the usual humid mugginess.

It was a good workout. The rain seemed to give me more energy than I normally have while practicing. I could feel the power of the storm and it gave me power, somehow, to watch the streets fill with running water and hear the thunder off in the distance. There's just something about water. I couldn't put my finger on it. At first I thought it was the steady consistency of the storm that made it powerful, but then I remembered that rain can also be very sporadic and unpredictable. Then I thought, "Well, it's pouring, so maybe it's the hard way in which rain asserts itself that makes it so powerful", and then I remembered that it can rain lightly, too.

Then I realized that it's really the changeability of rain that makes it powerful.

I've noticed that in many martial arts movies (and I guess martial arts culture, in general) there tends to be a lot of allusion to water. You've seen the movies where the masters meditate beneath waterfalls and if you're somewhat well-versed, you've probably read or heard someone talk about Bruce Lee's "be like water" quote.

If not, here's the quote:
"Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless- like water. Now you put your water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put your water into a bottle, 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."
 -Bruce Lee
 Water is strong. It can take any shape. It can be powerful and gentle. It can be both calming and frightening. It can be unforgiving and destructive, but it can also be healing and cleansing. If you touch it, it moves around your hand, adapting to the change. And when you take your hand away, it moves back into position so that no trace of your hand is left there.

Bruce Lee was onto something, here. Martial arts is like water. It is strong. It can take any shape. The techniques are powerful but the spirit is gentle. It is calming on the inside but can be frightening on the outside. Martial arts techniques can be dangerous and destructive if the need arises for them to be used, but the process by which we train and learn is healing and cleansing of the spirit.

Martial arts students can be like water, too. Adaptability is what makes you strong; the willingness to learn new things and to flow, perhaps even in a direction that you weren't expecting. Life is full of those. Standing rigid will knock you down; resisting a throw can injure you. Flow with the situation, adapt, and decide where to go from there.

Be like water.

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