“Empty Your Mind, Be Formless, Shapeless, Like Water. Put Water Into A Cup, It Becomes The Cup. Put Water Into A Bottle, It Becomes The Bottle. Put Water Into A Teapot, it Becomes The Teapot. Water Can Flow, Or It Can Crash. Be Water, My Friend.”– Bruce Lee
I usually take “famous” quotes with grain of salt. In these modern days of the internet and misinformation, you never know when someone may be misquoting. But the above quote from Bruce Lee is Pretty safe, considering I recently acquired his daughter’s book that basically focuses on Bruce Lee’s concepts behind being like water. It’s a pretty decent read, although i haven’t quite finished it yet. But it got me to thinking… One of the bigger obstacles one faces when practicing the martial arts, is the tension people hold in their bodies while training.
In some ways, many ways, one can’t be blamed for tensing up when training in a fighting art. Regardless of one’s experience level, knowing that someone is coming at you with a fist or a foot usually has that effect. But in order to learn properly and develop one’s technique, it’s important to remain flexible and relaxed as you learn. The dojo and/or class environment is a safe space where you can take advantage of developing that POSITIVE muscle memory in a controlled environment. This is hard to achieve when one is all tensed up and inhibiting one’s movements.
Lee’s quote is basically telling you that you need to maintain the flexibility to ensure adaptability in any situation. Issues you can face from this lack of flexibility can include a number of nasty results that you really don’t want to experience in a real-fight scenario. For example, tension may cause one to hesitate. You hesitate in a true fight, you get hit. Period. Tension will aggravate and worsen your “tells,” or your telegraphing. Lack of fluidity and flexibility will cause a hindrance to the free-flow of one’s movement. this isn’t just bad in the dojo; it can be dangerous on the street.
I guess there may be some styles that differ in this view but I haven’t encountered one yet that encourages being tight and tense when training or even fighting. Unlike the rattlesnake that tenses before striking, a karateka must remain fluid and relaxed, allowing muscle memory and skill to take control as opposed to getting into one’s own head. Food for thought… ☯️