Be Water my Friend

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a famous and beautiful Japanese painting depicting the power of water.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a famous and beautiful Japanese painting depicting the power of water.

"Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup and it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle, you put water into a teapot and it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash, be water my friend"
Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee... I don't know about you guys but whenever I hear his same it is like I'm saying the name of a legend, a mythical figure. Just the name "Bruce lee" makes me to think of many stories, many pictures, many videos and lastly how great he was. 

But, why? I truly believe that anyone who does not know much about martial arts, knows that he is a LEGEND and one of the pioneers of Mixed Martial Art (combining aspects, theories and principles of several martial arts).

Bruce lee was a remarkable man, we won't go into all the details of why but what we can say is that he was amazing not just because he did Wing Chun or because he created Jeet Kune Do but because of his theories, philosophies, way of life. One of his most memorable concepts was the video you just saw "Be water my friend", this is not a new concept but a concept which translates to all martial arts, specially jiu-jitsu and in great lengths to our whole lives.

Examples of water flowing and water crashing

Examples of water flowing and water crashing

Let's take a small journey and if you will try to imagine the following imagery. Think of a river, filled with rocks, full of ridges. In seasons when it rains the river overflows but when there is drought the river barely has water. The water still contained in the river still flows, ever so gently, the small stream made up of this water does not move the rocks or pebbles, does not change ridges or flows over the side of the beaten path, the stream flows downriver slowly but surely. if a rock is in its way it moves in such a way not to disturb the rock but to pass with it, to its side on top and if it continues to flow it will reach the end. Water flows not with strength but adapting to its path and while it adapts it moves and it reaches it's maximum flow.

Now imagine waves, a strong current, a season of much showers and rain. The path where the river flows is not big enough for such a huge current of water so it overflows. The overflown water gains momentum, gains strength, moves fast without something to contain it or to stop it. If nothing stops the flow it will just become stronger, faster and continue to be an unstoppable force. What would happen if this flow hits a wall? hits a canyon? hits a building? It will hit it with all it's force, strength and speed that it gathered while it flowed, whatever tries to stop it will receive a strong blow and it will not stop the flow it will only be an opportunity for this great force to crash.

Bruce Lee's concept is easy to grasp and easy to understand, sadly it is not an easy concept to apply, to live and to perform  in the best way. It is a great concept but one that you have to master, one that you must make your own and once to train it, do it daily, do it subconsciously you will in fact become water.

 It is a difficult concept because our minds are not trained to be in this way; we -- human being -- struggle with difficulties and changes we face in our lives; we are animals who live in a world of habits. And we let our habits define who we are and what we do. It is because of  that we do not flow, we force each move forward and because of this we are not able to change the habits. 

 However, in Jiu-Jitsu if we move our opponent instead of moving ourselves, we  spend more energy-- tiring out faster. We use so much energy which do not flow; we cannot just wait until our opponents make mistakes. If we just force strength, we only use partial energy (one way)-- trying to force submission, sweep, and pass. however, I am not saying we should not use strength; we should understand about both strength and how energy flows. Jiu-jitsu is about understanding the flow of multifaceted energy like how water flows-- no shape. For instance, If we get our opponent in a triangle but do not have the strength or energy to finish the submission probably they will escape. If they catch us in a submission and we are required to escape but have no strength then we cannot escape, we cannot crash or EXPLODE. We should use our strength when the time is right-- the time when our strength can be maximum-- using an opponent's energy and position.   

GM Rickson Gracie

GM Rickson Gracie

GM Rickson Gracie also speaks of the "flowing" concept (and if Rickson speaks well you better take his advice and listen right?)

"The most interesting aspect of jiu-jitsu is, of course the techniques are great, but the sensibility of the opponent, sense of touch, the weight, the momentum, the transition from one movement to another. That’s the amazing thing about it. You must allow yourself to go as on auto pilot. You don’t know exactly where you’re going until the movement happened because you can not anticipate what is going to happen. You must allow yourself to be in a zero point; a neutral point. Be relaxed and connected with the variations. Flow with the go."
Rickson Gracie

Rickson is a world renowned grappler and vale tudo champion, I highly doubt that he cannot crash when needed to or use his stregnth to overpower oponents but he speaks of flowing and being in the zone. Rickson speaks of the same principal that Bruce Lee does, how flowing makes an important aspect of BJJ.

Saulo Ribeiro also has a famous phrase:

“If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. And if you tire, you die.”
Saulo Ribeiro 

But does this refer to flowing? OF COURSE IT DOES! The only way you could be "late" is if you're trying to anticipate a mover by creating it, using strength and not flowing. If you do not flow with your opponent you will be out of time to respond, to act and to move. 

Posted on October 14, 2014 .