Be Adaptive, Be Water

Bruce LeeI’ve been practicing martial arts in some form or another for over 20-years. I enjoy the camaraderie, the physicality, and there’s always some much to learn and ways to improve. Having three kids definitely makes it a challenge to train nowadays, but I still squeeze it in when I can.
Even before I started formal training in martial arts, Bruce Lee was an inspiration to me, as he has been to so many others. I’ve watched all of his movies, seen several documentaries, and read many books about him as well. The man lived life to the fullest and had such a palpable passion for martial arts in particular but life in general. It still saddens me that he died before his time…as did his son, Brandon.
An iconoclast, Bruce upset many traditional martial artists by calling these rigid styles a “classical mess.” He believed that, if one had to defend him- or herself, one must be prepared for anything because a fight doesn’t adhere to rules or structure – anything can happen. Thus, his style was no style…or taught that martial artists should use “no way as way.”
Bruce’s Advice
Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless. Like water. Now, if you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend. 
Although this lesson applies to martial arts, as Bruce studied philosophy, I’m certain that he was also trying to convey the deeper meaning as well. That is, in life we need to be like water. Water can be delicate and supple, but it can also be powerful. The key here is that we need to be dynamic and adaptive. Sometimes life calls for us to be steadfast, determined, and resolute, but sometimes we need to just “go with the flow.” Or maybe we should be the flow.
Thus, we must be mindful of the situations in which we find ourselves – at work, in our relationships, with our family. If we are either too chaotic or too rigid in our approach to life, then we are likely to experience a lot of problems (or cause them!). In fact, the problems we experience (and the strong emotions that usually accompany them), can be signs for us to reflect on our approach and make a change. Are we being too inflexible? Or do we lack consistency and resolve? As Bruce taught, be water, my friend!

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