If we cling to (techniques) we will become bound by their limitations

balancing on a rail in the sun

Expressive Exercise

Art is the expression of the self; the more complicated and restrictive a method is, the less opportunity there is for expression of one’s original sense of freedom. The techniques, although they play an important role in the earlier stage, should not be too complex, restrictive or mechanical. If we cling to them we will become bound by their limitations.

Remember that man created method, and method did not create man, and do not strain yourself in twisting into someone’s preconceived pattern, which unquestionably would be appropriate for him, but not necessarily for you. You yourself are “expressing” the technique and not “doing” the technique; in fact, there is no doer but the action itself. When someone attacks you, it is not technique number one (or is it “technique number two?”) that you use, but the moment you’re aware of his attack you simply move in like sound, an echo without any deliberation. It is as though when I call, you answer me, or when I throw something, you catch it. That’s all.

by Bruce Lee (27 November 1940 – 20 July 1973)
from Artist of Life (2001)
Reflections on Gung Fu
image – Nhan Khuong

An Echo without any Deliberation

Anyone who has spent much time around the martial arts knows there are certain ways things are done. Competition may at times be fierce and physical, but it is moderated by rules, wrapped in polite rituals of respect. Potentially destructive skills are encapsulated in choreographed moves that emphasize coordination, strength training and energy awareness, balance… everything from how to channel brute force to moving like water. Everything is practiced until correct, and then, eventually, spontaneously correct – fluent, expressive… making friends with psychological conditioning and putting the bod to work.

Here, Bruce Lee is encouraging bringing in an “expression of one’s original sense of freedom.” Be aware. Don’t focus on learning intricate technique to the detriment of self awareness.

I like that his ideas can be applied to life outside of martial arts. Can that work for any arena with an integrated philosophical discipline?

Same Concepts, different Physics

In writing we have the advantage of being able to finesse technique after the fact, which brings in its own questions of balance between creative abandon and technical expertise.

To get rolling, we need enough keyboarding and vocabulary and creative awareness to let words tumble (or creep) onto paper, again and again and again. Being too precious about a draft is a kiss of death. Especially when writing a big ass draft like a NaNoWriMo project, leaving the polishing for later is essential: there simply is no time to overthink.

An excerpt about not clinging to limitations seemed like a good thing to feed you on the second day of NaNoWriMo. Besides, I was in the mood for a little down-to-earth, larger-than-life thoughtful-person and this is one of the nicer books of Bruce Lee’s writings.

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