One point Ymar makes is that we should minimize all habits. This reminded me of an Introduction to Jeet Kune Do Workshop I hosted recently.
|Dr. Zee Lo and me.|
Our guest instructor for the day was the amiable Dr. Zee Lo. Unfortunately we had some time constrains so the workshop was quite short, but the good thing about this is that it forced Dr. Zee to really get down to the essence of Jeet Kune Do. For him Jeet Kune Do is all about simplification. One example he gave, for instance, was that there is only one stance in Jeet Kune Do. The beauty of simplicity, particularly for self-defence purposes, is undeniable.
For one thing, under stress, simple proves to be much more practical. When adrenaline dump causes you to lose fine motor function and some cognitive ability, it is the simple techniques that will work best.
|My friend Leo Snel (right) and another attendee practising|
trapping drills at the Jeet Kune Do workshop.
Few people realize exactly how radical Bruce Lee's teaching was. Bruce Lee broke away with centuries of Chinese martial art tradition, yet he did not really produce anything new. The martial art principles he based his teaching on were taught in one form or another by many other well established martial arts. What he did was break through the clutter of tradition, and bring to light the fundamental principles; as Dr. Zee said, “Jeet Kune Do is all about simplification.”
Bruce Lee wrote (and I think Ymar will agree): “A martial artist who drills exclusively to a set pattern of combat is losing his freedom. He is actually becoming a slave to a choice pattern and feels that the pattern is the real thing. It leads to stagnation because the way of combat is never based on personal choice and fancies, but constantly changes from moment to moment, and the disappointed combatant will soon find out that his 'choice routine' lacks pliability. There must be a 'being' instead of a 'doing' in training. One must be free. Instead of complexity of form, there should be simplicity of expression.”
I agree. How can I not?
So do I think that simplicity means no drilling, no creation of habits? For me the answer lies not in drilling habits, but gaining certain skills. I think I address the issue in my post on the purpose and value of pre-arranged sparring.
To move reflexively, we have to train our bodies, we have to drill and condition. As Bruce Lee also said: “The hands and feet must be sharpened and improved daily to be efficient.”
But there is an important point I also made in my post on pre-arranged sparring: “While there is value in prearranged sparring, an over emphasis can actually become counter productive because practitioners may become too used to the reduction in variables that their preparation is not reflective of the huge number of variables in a real fight. A systematic progression from prearranged abstraction to "reality based" reflection of real combat is crucial.” This concurs with Bruce Lee's opinion: “The techniques, though they play an important role in the early stage, should not be too restrictive, complex or mechanical. If we cling to them, we will become bound by their limitation.”
We cannot forget that the expectations for a beginner are different than for an experienced martial artist. There exists a development from moosool, to mooye, to moodo. And as one moves up this continuum you find that things actually do become simpler. Paradoxically, what the beginner find tremendously complex, is simple to the experienced martial artist. The advanced martial artist is not confined to complexities, yet to have arrived at such simplicity in motion, such grace and ease of technique, required years of (complex) study. That is the paradox of simplicity.
A first degree black belt asked me a while back that we drill in some specific techniques more regularly because it seems like every night I teach I teach something different. I was quite surprised at this because in my mind I'm teaching only a small handful of things—a small ensemble of the same basic principles. It may seem that I'm teaching hordes of techniques, but that is because I'm not confined to any single technique. I'm working from the same principles. Yet it is also true that I can do this because I have, over the years, drilled in many techniques until they have become comfortable. Only because I don't have to think about them do they flow. For me simplicity comes from moving from principles. For beginners, however, it is often difficult to do this. They first need to build up a repertoire of conditioned techniques, and only then can they start to express themselves freely. Like a maestro musician that makes her free expression of the music she plays look so simple and unfettered, this is only possible because she had put in the thousands of hours of drilling scales and other difficult training that now shows the fruit of her labours.
Simplicity doesn't come easy.