Extend Yourself

While reading some blogs today, I was reminded of a great little story from the book Zen In The Martial Arts. The short story that I remembered in particular was centered around Joe Hyams, the author of the book, back when he was initially being taught by Ed Parker many years ago. At the time, Joe wasn’t that experienced or knowledgeable, so to make up for it he tried using “deceptive, tricky moves” but they were easily countered. After the match, Joe’s frustration was readily apparent and Ed picked up on it, asking him what was wrong.

“Why are you so upset?” he asked.

“Because I couldn’t score.”

Parker got up from behind the desk and with a piece of chalk drew a line on the floor about five feet long.

“How can you make this line shorter?” he asked.

I studied the line and gave him several answers, including cutting the line in many pieces.

He shook his head and drew a second line, longer than the first. “Now how does the first line look?”

“Shorter,” I said.

Parker nodded. “It is always better to improve and strengthen your own line or knowledge than to try and cut your opponent’s line.” He accompanied me to the door and added, “Think about what I have just said.”

And just one more quick thing to note in relation to this. Just because you may perceive yourself to be better than your opponent, never underestimate them. Respect them. Skillful opponents will usually use their disadvantages to their advantage (i.e. smaller means more agile), often circumventing their opponents instead of striking at them directly. Thus instead of dancing to your rhythm, they’ll dance to their own.