#107 Obstacles in the Way


“In the long history of martial art, the instinct to follow and imitate seems to be inherent in most martial artists – instructors and students alike. This is due partly to being human and partly due to patterns of styles. Ever since the establishment of institutes, academies, schools and their instructors, the need for a “pointer of the Way” is echoed.”

Bruce Lee often wrote about martial arts, but his writings can also be applied to life.

Here Bruce is pointing out that in order to mass-produce an education you have to create fixed learning’s and establishments. This can be limiting since learning does not always happen in a classroom, you can learn by doing and through experiences.

Bruce had three schools in Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles, and at some point he closed them all. He originally had the dream to have a chain of schools across the US to teach martial arts. Then he realized that if he mass-produced martial arts on that level, then he would have to put it into a set lesson plan, creating a pattern. Then martial arts could no longer be an alive experience, but becomes only about learning the material. It would become about imitating Bruce Lee. This was something that Bruce really struggled with in life.

In the beginning, imitating or mimicking is how we learn, but after learning something you have to drop the mimicking and explore your own style.

“Each man belongs to a style that claims to possess the truth to the exclusion of all other styles, and these styles become institutes with their explanations, dissecting and isolating the harmony, establishing forms as the encyclopedia of their particular techniques.”

Something to ask when learning: How is this learning in harmony with me?

Just because you become an expert in one way, does not mean that way is always the best way. Often when we become an expert in one way, we teach only that one way and only promote that one way because we are comfortable in our expertise.

These institutions and learning’s can become our obstacles. We should learn and then take our learning’s and move beyond them.

“All goals apart from the means are therefore an illusion. Becoming becomes a denial of being. By an error repeated throughout the ages, truth becomes law or faith and therefore places obstacles in the way of knowledge. Method, which is in its very substance ignorance, encloses truth in a vicious circle. We should break such circles not by seeking knowledge but by discovering the cause of our ignorance.”

Goal setting is a good practice, but the goal itself should not be all you want to achieve. Once you achieve one goal, you should have more goals instead of stopping. Having a goal is about being present for the process of getting to that goal, and then going beyond the goal.

"A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at."

Bruce also said that, “I am the means.” His whole process was about the process not about the achievement of the goal. There never is an attainment of the ultimate goal. Be the eternal student.

If you are only focused on the achievement if your goal, you will miss the lessons along the way. Method is something that you reach for as a tool, but it can become an institution that traps you.

These obstacles, the method and the focus on goals, are not seen as obstacles by most people. They are invisible obstacles and can get you stuck in a cycle of methods and goals, without any real growth or learning happening.

“We should break such circles not by seeking knowledge but by discovering the cause of our ignorance.”

Seeking knowledge is a good thing, but if we are only seeking knowledge to accumulate methods and goals, then we are not enhancing our harmony or wisdom.

Examine your learnings. You have acquired some learning, but what is it that you do not know? Where are your rigid about something? Where are you rejecting an idea or refusing to look at? Are you placing blame on someone or something else?

Ignorance is a lack of knowledge or awareness. What are you ignoring?

Search for where you feel unease in your life. Examine that unease. It is common to have this feeling, even when on paper you think you should not feel that way. Do not ignore that feeling.

Bruce Lee spoke about this feeling in terms of martial arts, as a literal punch in the face. While in life we are not necessarily being physically punched in the face, sometimes this feeling can feel like a punch.

Being unexpectedly let go from your job or unexpectedly being dumped can both feel like a hit in the face. If we choose to ignore our contribution in these situations, then we can repeat the cycle of hits.

There are things in our life that we are used to ignoring and sometimes it takes a large event to make us pay attention to what we are ignoring.

Don’t assume your experience as everyone’s experience. You may think other people know what you want or need, but they don’t. You have to ask for what you need and want, but without the expectation of getting it.

When excavating your own ignorance, be gentle with yourself because when you were ignorant you did not know better.

In this process of understanding what the obstacles are that are blocking the Way (the Flow), ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I ignoring?
  • Where am I rigid and fixed about something?
  • Where do I not want to look?
  • Where do I want to place blame outside myself?
  • Where do I feel uneasy and unfulfilled?

What obstacles are in your way? What have you decided to stop ignoring? We’d love to hear about your journey! Email us at hello@brucelee.com or tag us @brucelee on social media with #bruceleepodcast.

We get many emails requesting advice with “What would Bruce Lee do?” and would like to start a “What would Bruce Lee do?” section of the podcast where Shannon and Sharon respond to your emails for advice. If you need advice and are wondering, “What would Bruce Lee do?” write to us at hello@brucelee.com


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