“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is…It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.” ~Bruce Lee.
This is one of my favorite quotes. “Hack away the unessential.” I think this can be meaningful in all aspects of life, not just the martial arts. We all have clutter and junk in our lives–useless physical objects lying around the house, unfinished projects, and even relationships that are no longer working. When I feel like I need to de-clutter in my life, I go to the physical things—the excess junk. Often what I really need is to cut away activities in my life that are no longer useful or to finish projects that have been hanging over my head for a long time (sometimes years).
On the Aikido mat, though, simplicity is especially meaningful.
Aikido is difficult and complicated. I’ve been training for almost 9 years, and I still feel like a beginner. I feel like I could practice for the rest of my life and not even come close to understanding what it’s all about. What can make it even more difficult is my unconscious insistence on making it even harder than it needs to be!
“The easy way is the right way.” Always, always, always. There are days when I insist on trying to fight my way through a technique. Aikido is all about NOT fighting. In Aikido you are supposed to use your opponent’s strength against him. If done properly the person attacking you should essentially throw himself. If done properly. When I’m making my life more difficult for myself I try to use strength (ha!) and muscle my partner into the position I want him. I pull and push and maneuver him.
This is not the easy way. Nor is it the right way.
I often work with men twice my weight and sometimes a foot taller than me. The right way is to allow all of that height and weight to come to me, get unbalanced by me getting out of the way or turning, and then me watching as he goes flying through the air or falls to the ground. That is also the easy way. It certainly sounds easy. It IS easy when I get out of my own way and allow for it to just happen…when I don’t try to complicate things by FORCING it to happen.
When I try to force things to happen, I am being wasteful (“wastage of expression”). I’m wasting my energy and I’m wasting my natural strengths by not using them to their full potential. My smallness is an advantage sometimes. A big guy has to strike down at me and it’s to my advantage, because he could be off balance by trying to lower himself to my height. A big guy also has the disadvantage of momentum—once he gets going all I have to do is get out of the way, maybe do a little something to him to break his balance, and then his size will do all the work keeping him going forward and down. It’s hard for him to stop his momentum and regroup to try something else.
I know when my Aikido is working, because it is easy and simple. Sometimes, afterward, I even marvel at how easy it was! There are times when I finish a technique, throw the person, and think “that was easy.”
Easy, simple…right. The “daily decrease” is truly the way of the martial artist.
How about you? Do you feel like life is better when you rid yourself of the unessential and simplify? If you are a martial artist, do you agree that the right way is the “daily decrease?”