Be like water, unless

Text quotes Bruce Lee as saying

"Be like water, my friend." - Bruce Lee
"Be like water…unless the enemy is like a grease fire. Then, be like baking soda." - Ian Sinclair

You cannot master a style.

The Master's Journey

a photograph of Master Shouyu Liang meditating. He sits in a half lotus position, illuminated by sunlight, framed by natural shadow.
Masters do not become great by practising a style, or by purchasing knowledge, or by self-promotion.
Instead, they practise an art, develop a pedagogy, and transcend their egos.

Many modern schools market "a style" to students who want paint-by-numbers instruction, simplistic knowledge, and self-validation.

The best teachers I know are those who seek to liberate their students from the restrictions of style, from the limits of knowledge, and from delusions of self.

- Ian Sinclair

Fishing for a righteous cause.

- by Ian Sinclair

Legend tells us how Jiang, the Fisherman, became a hero of Ancient China.

The last king of the Shang Dynasty, King Di Xin, was an arrogant, decadent, narcissistic psychopath who did not listen to advisors, and who turned the people against each other.

So, the wise old Jiang Ziya resigned from the Shang court in protest. He went into exile in the land of Zhou, where he spent much of his time fishing. Some of the people who knew him thought it was a shame that such a wise and talented man would fritter away his time in such a trivial pursuit. But they realized he could not seek a position in a rival kingdom due to his employment history. He might be suspected as a spy or punished for the actions of the Shang court. Other people thought that it was just as well that Jiang should retire, since he was over 70-years-old, and too old for the rigours of office.

One day, the wise and benevolent King Wen of Zhou, was travelling along the river and noticed a distinctively peaceful old man sitting with a fishing rod in his hands. It was the old man's aspect that caught King Wen's attention. For neither in real life nor even in a painting had the king seen anything that exuded the mysterious calm of this lone fisherman. The king approached the old man as if drawn irresistibly by a force of nature. After a long and peaceful silence, the king addressed the fisherman, exchanging the usual pleasantries.

The king then asked the old man how the fishing was going.

"The fishing is going particularly well today," answered Jiang.

"What sort of bait are you using?" asked King Wen.

Jiang reeled in his line so Wen could see. To the king's surprise, there was no bait, and the hook was both straightened and un-barbed.

"How can you say that the fishing is going well when your tackle is clearly incapable of catching a fish?" asked the king.

"Well, I did catch your attention, Your Majesty."

So it was that Jiang Ziya found a worthy employer, who was in the habit of searching for wise and talented people.

More than a decade later, while well into his 80's, Jiang Ziya oversaw the defeat of King Di Xin, bringing about the ignoble end of the Shang Dynasty, and the rise of the great Zhou Dynasty.

Dai Jin-Dropping a Fishing Line on the Bank of the Wei River
Dai Jin Dropping a Fishing Line on the Bank of the Wei River

#metoo is Not a Threat to Men. But it is a lesson for martial artists.

It is one of the greatest challenges for martial artists. Can we discern the difference between the real threats and the imagined dangers? Are we still being deluded by our own internal conflict? Can we tell the difference between emotional defensiveness and practical engagement?

Because when we try to assert power by claiming victimhood, then we abuse ourselves as well as others. We create more conflict when we let our emotions obscure the truth. We must learn to free ourselves from our own fear and selfishness and to avoid the negative consequences of that pesky flinch response.

As men, we may feel threatened by 
#metoo. But we are not - not really. The movement is good for all of us if it enables honest communication, self reflection, compassion, and better behaviour all around. If it helps us to be more aware, and more kind and more respectful, then that is a good thing. If it helps actual victims to feel less guilt, and enables their abusers to recognize their responsibility, that is a good thing.

Of course, there are 6 sides to every story, and 64 degrees of nuance. But it starts with letting go of fear, and opening ourselves to the possibility that for a martial artist, one of the best things we can do to defend ourselves is to become more compassionate.

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