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How to win a fight (part IV)

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"When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas, and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow-you are not understanding yourself."
-Bruce Lee

Learning how to fight is not the same as promoting belligerent, anti-social behavior. We live in an exceedingly violent society. Our films, books, TV shows, and video games glorify mayhem and carnage. Our leaders (sic) solve most of their problems through aggression...or the threat thereof. While talk of non-violence is understandable and the struggle for peace has never been more essential, let's face it: The odds are that sooner or later you're going to end up in a confrontation that may escalate into physical violence. So, why not be prepared?

There is purity in the street fighter. He or she reacts without the "benefit" of organized training. Every punch, every duck, every kick, every block, every action-for better or for worse-is an expression of self, uncluttered by memorized forms and moves. This is precisely why so many seasoned martial artists would not stand a chance against a confident bar brawler. This is much more to life than the tried and true lessons our teachers attempt to pass on.

Bruce Lee sez: "All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns."

Enroll that same street fighter at your local karate school and you will witness a dramatic change. What was once automatic becomes robotic. Too much time and effort is now dedicated to remembering what one is "supposed to do" instead of just "doing." Ask a room full of 50 humans to write a story about love and you will get 50 unique tales. Walk into a typical karate school and you will watch 50 students being taught the identical techniques. No two people write (or draw or sing) the exact same way, why should any two people fight the exact same way?

Toss an object at someone and they will reflexively, instinctively block it or duck. No energy is wasted on figuring out the right tactic to employ. It must be this way...for how can we expect to defeat a fearsome, ruthless enemy if we are unable to adapt to changing, fluid situations?

Bruce Lee sez: "Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it."

Fighting skill comes full circle when someone who is able to maintain the beginner's mind of a street fighter combines that freedom with the conditioning and skills learned in a more formal setting. Zen writer, Suzuki sez: "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few." The enlightened fighter, the one that instills fear and respect in the heart of his or her opponent is the fighter not troubled with labels, titles, credits, or rankings. The primary concern is results.

To emerge victorious when facing down the challenges our violent society will inevitably present to us, we must heed these words of Bruce Lee: "Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system."

Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at
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