When I was 18 years old, I read a book by one of my boyhood heroes, Master Chuck Norris. It was called Secret of Inner Strength. This book really changed how I viewed Master Norris, and how I developed as a martial artist.
I just realized something. I picked up a copy of Secret Power Within a few weeks ago, thinking it was the same book. As I read it a few days ago, I remember thinking, “this book must have been edited heavily!” It really talked a lot about Zen, and the book I read 20-something years ago did not. Now I know why. Well, I heavily recommend these two books to anyone who wants to improve himself as a martial artist and a teacher. Norris overcame great odds to become the man he is today, and I admire him greatly. I’ll leave it at that; get the books. Inner Strength is out of print, but you can find copies on the internet. I will have to buy a copy, because my copy is sitting on my bookshelf at my home in Rizal, Philippines! Both books have many valuable lessons.
Anyway, my best friend lost his vision last year, and I have been travelling to the East Coast to visit him and my elderly father every month. When I find good books, I get him the audio version so that he can hear them. When I’m not doing that, I read him what I can over the phone. I have been telling him about Inner Strength since we were boys, and I decided to read him this one (remember, I was reading Secret Power Within by mistake). So last night, I read pages 68 – 72 (it took a long time, I do better reading silently than I do audibly, lol! Chris was educated at Georgetown U. but not me!), where Norris is talking about training with Bruce Lee at his house.
I was sparring with Bruce one day and scored on him repeatedly. No matter how much he tried, he had problems blocking my kicks. When we were done, we picked some oranges, and sat under a tree to peel them. I noticed that the bark on one side of the tree was gone, and commented on that fact. Bruce laughed and said that he used the tree to train his kicks and punches (wow!). He then got down to perform one-handed push ups. After around 50 of them, he asked me, “No matter how I tried, I couldn’t stop your kicks. What did I do wrong?”
“You were moving too fast, and your timing was off. Sometimes, you have to slow down to be able to see what’s going on and then move faster.”
Bruce commented that it was a Zen saying, and that he liked it….
After I read this passage to Chris and my wife, we talked about it for a few minutes, then I had to get to the children (I’ve got 8 of them!) because they were fighting with each other and knocking on our door telling on each other… you know children. My wife and I talked about it for a few hours afterwards.
This was great advice.
See, sometimes we move so fast, we have no time to observe what’s going on, and to be able to see every move our opponent makes and every move WE make. This is where mistakes are made, and when mistakes can be capitalized upon by opponents. This is one of the main reasons emotions must be controlled while fighting: fear, anger, etc. When your emotions are out of control, you do not have all your senses, and your physical skills are now slowed. Remaining calm while in combat will allow you to fully observe your surroundings and understand what is happening. Of course, the drawback to controlling emotions is that you will feel pain–fighting while on an adrenaline rush can remove the feeling of pain and injury–but what you lose may be less important than what you will gain.
Back to the Bruce Lee example, the biggest thing was that Lee’s timing was off, and if what I have read about him is correct, he had little control over his anger. When I read his words “what did I do wrong?” what I heard underneath that question was “I know I’m better than you, how could I not stop you?” There’s nothing strange about that, we often lose to opponents we believe we are superior to. But understand this, that Bruce Lee was not a fighter in the sense that Chuck Norris was at that time (I believe this was in the 60s). Bruce Lee may have been in great shape, he may have had plenty of exposure to various styles and arts, he may train 8 hours a day. But Chuck Norris was a fighter who fought all the time (look at wikipedia’s entry on his fight record), and his timing was better suited for fighting. Lee’s knowledge was mostly in concept, and may have been tested on his students and friends, if tested at all. Norris tested all his theories on opponents. In my opinion, there isn’t much Lee could have done to stop a more experienced fighter.
By the way, this is where your definition of “experienced” may be different than mine. Experience is a word that is often misused and overused in the martial arts. People seem to think that time in grade and how many arts you learned makes one “experienced”. I consider a man “experienced” when he has been in front of many more opponents than the average martial artist. Chuck Norris, as a competitor, has fought far more men–and it can be verified–than Bruce Lee. This is why his timing, his eye-hand coordination, his knowledge about fighting and opponents is superior to most martial artists, even the great Bruce Lee.
But the advice he gave Master Lee would have helped him use his advantages more effectively, his speed and his tenacity. By treating Norris’ attacks individually, he might have been able to counter them easier. Instead, I am sure he was busy thinking about the next move, or his counter to Norris’ attacks, instead of dealing with the issues at hand–whatever kick was coming at him at that time. Many good martial artists have been done in by their failure to treat each opponent’s attacks, one at a time. Also, by doing so, he could have saved some frustration by having mini successes: successful blocks and counters. These mini successes help you grow confident in the match, and will improve your own timing because you are able to remain calm and in control of your emotions and thinking. Often, fighting can be a blur. You are nervous. You may be trying to focus on a specific strategy and the opponent simply isn’t complying with what you thought he’d do. There are many variables involved, and although you do not have control over the external things, you do have control over what you feel, think and do. Step back from the match, move around, send out a few “feeler” techniques and fake attacks. This will open your opponent up and show you what he may be planning to do. It may even throw off his concentration. Calm yourself down, plan a strategy, then act on it. This is much better than the chaos of just jumping at the opponent and licking your wounds while reflecting on what happened later.
Another thing. When learning a new technique, do you move at top speed while practicing, or do you practice slowly until you “get it” and speed it up later?
When trying to come up with a set of counters for a specific attack, do you have your feeder come at you full speed? Or do you have him come at you medium speed until you know what you want to work on?
If you have projects around the house for the wife, do you start cutting the grass, and stop after a minute, then move two items of furniture, and then take two or three boxes into the attic, and then back to the grass? Or do you finish one project, then move on to the next, and do the third when the second is complete?
When training for strength, do you lift the weights quickly, or do you lift them slowly?
Get the point?
Sometimes, it is better to move a little slower so that you can really do a good job. It’s even important when the opponent is moving at top speed. Mostly because you may be able to uncover mistakes and flaws in his technique that you would not have noticed had you rushed to counter what you thought was coming right away. The old people use to say “slower is faster”. There’s a lot of wisdom in that.
A young warrior tells the old warrior, “I see the enemy at the beach, let’s run over there and take out a couple!”
The old warrior said, “No, let’s creep over there, hide, and take them all out… one at at time.”
Thanks for reading my blog, I hope this post was helpful to you…. Look out for my new book, coming soon! Mustafa Gatdula’s Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months!