The idea of True Flow comes directly from Bruce Lee’s physical study of martial arts and specifically from his art of Jeet Kune Do, which literally translated means "the Way of the Intercepting Fist."
One of the core tenets behind Jeet Kune Do is that there are no separate movements of offense and defense, they can happen simultaneously and flow quickly together. This is an idea that can be applied to our movements in life, bridging the gap between happenings so that you can flow easier from one thing to the next.
If we collapse the space between two separate movements, the result is flow--and when you’re in flow everything moves more quickly and smoothly without much effort.
Forward movement becomes quicker when you don’t force or strain--you adapt and adjust in real-time, all the time.
Gentleness and Firmness are also work together to bridge the gap. There is an interplay of movement between them, they are not separate motions or ideas.
To illustrate this concept, Bruce Lee used the analogy of someone riding a bicycle. You can’t pump on both of the pedals at the same time, in order to move forward you have to pump on one pedal while releasing the other. The movement of going forward requires the oneness of push and release.
When we continually effort and push without taking time to rest, we become exhausted. In our current culture, we are always pushed to be productive or busy and we feel guilty if we are not always “doing” something. If we aren’t aggressively moving forward, we feel like we’re not doing what we’re “supposed” to be doing.
Sometimes there is a lot of value and learning in doing nothing—being present in emptiness. You can learn how to just “be" with yourself. If you’re pumping both pedals of the bicycle at the same time, you’re not moving forward and you will stall and just fall over. However, if you get moving and build momentum, you can coast along.
Being immersed in the Chinese language and culture gave Bruce Lee a head start in grasping the oneness of seemingly opposite forces. This is because the Chinese language is a symbolic visual language that communicates wholeness through the collaboration of separate parts. Many Chinese characters combine two different meanings to create a whole new meaning. For example, when the characters for Good and Bad are combined, they create the word for “Quality." So the word “Quality” is a union of seemingly opposite ideas coming together to form a whole new idea.
The English language is more linear and straight forward. When we want to describe or impart something that is more conceptual in nature we often turn to poetry so we can communicate shades, connotation, nuance and emotions.
If we can accept the interplay of seemingly opposite forces, then we won’t separate opposites. “Opposites" isolate us and create false distance. What Bruce is pointing to with this idea, is that the distance is an illusion, that there is no distance—everything is connected like one fluid motion of a wave.
“Gentleness alone cannot forever dissolve away great force, nor can sheer brute force forever subdue one’s problems. In order to survive, the harmonious interfusion of gentleness and firmness as a whole is necessary, sometimes one dominating and sometimes the other, in wave like succession.”
If you observe the ocean you’ll see the waves coming in, and at the same time going out. The tide constantly is pushing and pulling at once.
“Instead of opposing force by force, one should complete an opposing movement by accepting the flow of energy from it and defeat it by borrowing from it. This is the law of adaption.”
If we can close the gap between our mistake and our learning, it can save us years of not growing. When we make a mistake and move quickly into acceptance saying “I was supposed to make this mistake so I could learn this lesson," then we bridge the gap between mistake and learning creating one motion.
But if we stay in the mistake by blame ourselves or others, we stay in the gap and don’t move forward. Sometimes we avoid looking closely at our mistakes and refuse to acknowledge them for fear of being overwhelmed. But it’s a stalling technique that will prevent our own growth.
The sooner you can close the gap between “mistake" and “learn,” then the less damage there is from the mistake. You get the lesson, you absorb it, you shift whatever you need to shift, and then you move forward. If you let that mistake fester, then when decide to finally make a shift, it’s a much harder task. When you realize that you can close the gap faster between mistakes and learning, it makes you less fearful of making mistakes.
“What we are aiming for is there to be no dislocation in the movements. They are done with flowing continuity like the movement of a river that is forever flowing without a moment of cessation or standing still.” “Theories of movement and the utilization of energy are brought about from the regularity of the tides and from the effect of the wind and the grass or the branches.”
Denying or distracting yourself from solving the problem is a way of stalling. You think you are making that problem go away, but you’re actually making it worse. You’re deepening the problem and making it bigger than it was originally.
Bruce likened this way of movement to a string of pearls: The pearls are the techniques that you use and the string links them together. Energy should flow continuously from one to another without interruption. If there is no flow, there is not string holding it all together—then all the beads will fall apart.
“In order to achieve oneness of movement and true flow, the gap between movements should be bridged.”
There should never be pure gentleness or pure firmness, but constant flow between the two. You can’t just do one thing all the time it just won’t work.
These extremes are what cause opposition. If the gap is not bridged, then the two ideas create isolation and disconnectedness. “One shouldn’t, therefore, favor too much on either side alone. Remember, gentleness versus firmness is not the situation, but rather gentleness, firmness as a oneness is the way.”
Look and see, where are you being too extreme? Is there a way to bridge the gap between these extremes? Notice if you're doing something over and over in one way that is not working for you anymore. What is happening for you right now that’s worked for you in the past but isn’t working for you anymore? (Ex. Diet, exercise, how you do you job, etc.) Is there something in your life that you know is a problem but you don’t want to look at it? See if you can shorten the distance between “mistake” and “learn."
If you’d like to share how you’re doing with this action item you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Awesome Asians and Hapas)
This week our #AAHA is a listener nomination from Jen L. who nominated her best friend Nick Maccarone:
“I wanted to reach out and recommend my best friend, Nick Maccarone, as someone who would be perfect for a feature. Nick is an Oakland native, half Korean/half Italian - an actor, filmmaker, published author and motivational speaker. Outside of his acting career (on shows like Scandal, Law & Order, etc), Nick has done incredible volunteer work in Haiti, South Africa and Nepal which inspired him to create his own passion project here at home: OaklandGood.com.
I believe his latest, most recent work is truly something of value, not just for creatives, but for anyone in pursuit of a dream. After years as a frustrated Asian-American actor in NYC, and with his mission of diversifying Hollywood and Broadway, Nick wrote a book To the Prospective Artist: Lessons from an Unknown Actor which was published earlier this year, along with the launch of his spin-off podcast. A few weeks ago, he was asked to give his inspiring TEDxTalk entitled, "6 Ways Actors & Artists Can Empower Themselves." His message is one of perseverance, gratitude and service for a fulfilled life outside of a career - something Nick himself embodies in his everyday life.”
In his TEDxTalk Nick talks about the 6 Ways Actors & Artists Can Empower themselves, and the things he talks about are similar to Bruce Lee’s way of approaching life:
1) Lifelong learning
3) Service to others
4) Define success on your own terms
5) Create your own opportunities
6) Dreams Change
Nick has been pursuing his dream for a long time, he experienced a lot of frustration as an Asian American actor in New York and had the mission to diversify Hollywood and Broadway. Nick is someone out there creating a space for himself, telling his story, and expressing himself in the world, and being of service. Thank you Jen for nominating Nick, and Nick thank you for being awesome!
This week our #BruceLeeMoment comes from listener Benjamin:
“Dear Shanon and Sharon,
Thank you for the podcast. I am a big fan! I found your podcast a couple months after you started and caught up to real time in about January.
I had encountered Bruce Lee as a kid when we saw some of his movies on TV. I remember his way of screaming when he struck! It was like nothing else I had ever seen. In college I was casually learning Hapkido from a friend who had a black belt and also doing some recreational boxing. I looked for books at the library on martial arts and found one by Bruce Lee. I learned one of his quotes and still remember it today: “Mastery is not attained by accumulating knowledge but by stripping away to the essential.” I was impressed with the deeper side of this man, as I had only know him in films.
I have enjoyed learning more of his life, and I appreciate the principles and the practical advice very much. I also appreciate having the podcast to help pass the time while I work.
Thanks so much and keep it coming! Benjamin”