Absorb What is Useful…
Welcome to Part IV of our “Enter the Mind of Dragon” series in which we’re honoring the wisdom of Bruce Lee for his 75th birthday. This post is going to be about the quote shown below. This quote has certainly changed my life, and I hope that it will have a similar impact on you.
This idea, although not Bruce’s most famous, may be the one that has had the biggest impact on the world. This idea formed the foundation for Bruce’s philosophy. It led him to create Jeet Kun Do and ultimately, to become a pioneer of mixed martial arts.
The central tenant behind this idea is for people to not buy into only one style or way of thinking, to not join one team or group, but instead to be a freethinker. Bruce is telling us that we have to be able to think for ourselves, to be able to assess ideas and practices for their own merit, and then make a decision as to whether or not to incorporate them into our lives.
For a very long time, people have been told what to believe, how to behave, what to think, and essentially how to be. While there certainly is more freedom today, we still see this programming evident in advertising, culture, mainstream media, religion, and politics. From every direction we’re being bombarded with instructions on how to be. And the worst part is, it’s not singular ideas that are pushed on us, it’s entire ways of thinking. We are forced to pick a team and back everything about that team. Are we on team Democrat, or team Republican? Team Christianity or team Islam? Team Paleo or team Vegan? Team Apple or team Android? The list goes on and on.
All around us people and corporations are vying for our minds, pocketbooks, and behaviors, and many times we fall blindly into it.
Bruce Lee built this idea around that fact that each of us is a free human being and we don’t have to choose one style, or team, or dogma and stick to it. Instead, we can learn to think critically about something and decide whether it’s of use to us or not. We can learn to approach a dogma, philosophy, or training style with the idea that some of it may be beneficial and some of it may not be. We can pick and choose what parts we find helpful and adopt those while not feeling the need to also adopt the useless aspects.
This is especially important at the highest levels of performance and training. We can’t just do what everybody else is doing and expect to be the best. We have to create a personalized approach that strengthens our weaknesses and perfects our strengths.
And then, we need to “Add what is uniquely your own.” This requires that we take all of our skills and knowledge, our personality and perspective, and use them to add some sort of originality to our way of being. The only way to do this is through experimentation. Again, this means stepping outside of the box that we’ve been put into (or put ourselves into) and seeing greater possibilities.
Now let’s put this into real world perspective. Bruce Lee most famously used this idea for fighting. He pulled from many different styles of fighting, without trapping himself by buying fully into any of them. He took what was useful to him, discarded what wasn’t, and then he added his own unique touches to create a personalized, mixed martial arts style.
In our training, we don’t have to get tied to one style or way of moving. If we only run, or cycle, we’re losing out on huge benefits of other physical practices such as power lifting. Likewise, there’s always the morbidly obese guy in the gym only bench pressing. He’ll never be in great shape or physically fit with that approach.
Our approach should always be to be a great overall mover, to be able to move with strength and mobility, power and fluidity. This will only be achieved by engaging in a variety of physical practices. We need some sort of heavy weight training, whether it’s power lifting or Olympic lifting. We also need some sort of speed and agility training, some form of cardio training, and finally, some form of bodyweight or gymnastics training.
And not only do we need to engage in some form of each of these to be a great all-around athlete, but we need to find the right combination of each. If we have pain every time we squat because of have asymmetries in mobility, stability, alignment, or strength, then we need to stop squatting and work on fixing the root problem before returning to the squat. We need to consciously make decisions about what is useful to us now and what is not. And this will change over time as our practices evolve.
Once we have a base as a mover, we can start to add our own unique style or elements. The best way to do this is through play and open experimentation. Every day we should do some sort of flow practice in which we move and explore our own bodies without any rigid goal except for to move.
I’ve chosen to highlight movement practices to illustrate Bruce’s point, but really this idea should extend to every area of our lives. We should use it when developing our own philosophies and spiritual practices, our own diet, and our own daily routines and regimens. We should use it with our work as well, as we develop our skills and our game plan for success.
Not only is it about creating individualized programs and practices that will help us to be the best version of ourselves, but it’s really about gaining freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of behavior, and the ability to think critically and make conscious decisions about which direction our life will go. So I implore you to really get into this idea of Bruce’s and begin to apply it to every area of your life. It’s amazing the results that you can achieve by doing so!
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