A Lesson From Bruce Lee

Given today's Bully Pulpit topic for the Mortification of Spin podcast, I thought it would be as good of time as any to share a fighting metaphor. Mixed Martial Arts seems to have a reputation for bludgeoning opponents. Sure, this is the mentality of some promoters in the entertainment industry, but the practice of many in the field is quite different. Here is an article I wrote for Housewife Theologian a while back that demonstrates a very different mindset:

My brother, Luke, has a Mixed Martial Arts academy. He wrote an interesting article that I wanted to interact with called "The Art of Fighting Without Fighting," opening with a scene from a Bruce Lee movie:

While on a boat on his way to Han's Tournament as an undercover agent, "The Dragon" Bruce Lee is gathered together with other men who also plan on competing in this tournament of elite fighters. One of the fighters on the boat happens to be a bully and is bullying some of the other fighters. At some point he looks at Bruce and asks, "Do I scare you?" Bruce just stares. He then asks, "What's your style?" Bruce replies, "I call it the art of fighting without fighting." The bully asks Bruce to show him some and Bruce said that there was not enough room. Bruce then suggests that they take the little safety boat that was attached to the big boat to an Island close by where they could practice. The bully agreed and Bruce began to help him down into the safety boat. Once the bully was in the boat, Bruce untied it and made sure the bully knew he had lost the battle. This was a classic scene from "Enter The Dragon."

Classic Bruce Lee wisdom.

Luke talks about how this principle can be applied in Jiu-Jitsu:

I see Jiu-Jitsu as an art where this principle of fighting without fighting can be displayed very well. You can take the techniques of Jiu-Jitsu and use them in a very rough and aggressive manner or you can take them and use them in a very gentle, patient, methodical manner. To apply the art of fighting without fighting in your every day Jiu-Jitsu training you must learn to be gentle, patient and methodical.

The best way to practice this concept is to literally go into a rolling session with the mind-set of not fighting. The idea is to NOT USE FORCE. That's right. Don't use the force Luke. You simply let it happen. You are not going to create your own opportunities or situations to attack; you are going to focus only on what's given. Even when you do attack, you are not going to use much energy at all. You are just going to relax and go with the flow or as Rickson Gracie once said, flow with the go.

As I was reading, I began thinking how this principle can really be applied to the Christian life. Christians are fighters. We have to fight the good fight to persevere to the end. But, as Paul says, "...we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). We fight temptation, sin, evil, and even a few bullies. But sometimes I think we use up a crazy amount of energy fighting the wrong things. I don't know about you, but I often find myself exerting all kinds of unnecessary energy fighting God's providence. Luke said something that made me think of this:

An arm bar, for instance, can either be given by your opponent posting on your chest or you may have to work to set it up and trap the arm in order to get that opportunity. The art of fighting without fighting relies on you learning to focus on identifying what is given. So often when we roll we are trying to force situations and end up wasting a lot of energy when in fact a different situation or opportunity is already given. Be aware and willing to go where your partner leads you.

We could be striving for an opportunity, trying to set everything up just right. And this opportunity may be a very good thing. It may be just what we think the Lord wants us to do. But what if that isn't what he wants to give us? What if God would have us to serve him differently than our limited minds can see at the moment? Are we exerting all of our efforts trying to force a situation that God hasn't ordained for us? We may be so focused on attaining the arm bar that we are blind to the opportunity for a rear scissor choke.

Sure, there are times when God is calling us to fight hard for something, exerting much energy, and we just can't see how the Lord is going to help us accomplish what he is calling us to do. Other times he calls us to suffer, and we really do not see what good our efforts to hold on are serving. And yet he always calls us to fight. If our focus is too narrow, we can be using all our resources to fight an obstacle or a temptation, when he has a way out for us. Maybe sometimes the fight is to open our eyes to what we are really fighting for. Sometimes this calls for the art of fighting without fighting. The Christian life requires much prayer and much discernment. But all too often we are on a big boat thinking he wants us to slug it out with someone when there is a safety boat attached.

And while we're on the topic, Should Christians Even Learn Martial Arts?