#109 Nothing Special


“Gung fu is so extraordinary because it is nothing at all special, it is simply the direct expression of one’s feeling with the minimum of lines and energy. Every movement is being so of itself without the artificiality with which we tend to complicate them. The closer to the true way, the less wastage of expression there is.”

When we are directly expressing ourselves in life without any overcomplicated motions, it is an easier, more pleasant way to move through life.

If you know yourself, then everything you do is entirely of yourself.

Living this way is harder than Bruce Lee makes it sound.

Most of us are so paralyzed by what others might think of us, that we spend most of our energy scanning others to see what they think of us. This puts us into an anxious agitated state of worry about what other people think of ourselves. Often we want to be thought well of, so we overcomplicate to try and please others.

When we learn something new, we learn all of the steps and practice them until we are proficient. Sometimes we realize that the steps could be simplified, but we continue to do them all because that is what we learned, that it is how it is supposed to be done. However, once the steps feel familiar, you can simplify and use what works best for you.

Aim to cultivate the high level station of Nothing Special. You want to be able to move through the world with self-possession and natural ease, feeling confident in your own skin, knowing what you like and don’t like, being open to new experiences, and being in Flow.

When someone does something and makes it look easy, it draws people to them. It is only after many years of training that someone can make it look easy.

“Gung fu is to be looked at without fancy suits and matching ties. It remains a secret while we anxiously look for sophistication and deadly techniques. If there are any secrets at all, they are missed by the striving of its practitioners. After all, how many ways are there to come in on an opponent without deviating too much from the natural course? Gung fu values the wonders of the ordinary and the idea is not daily increase, but daily decrease.”

There is a magical universe in ordinary things if we look and observe closely.

It was a revolutionary concept for Bruce to state that there are only so many ways to come in on an opponent. Despite all the fancy moves, at the core of it you still have to strike your opponent in the fight. This idea did not fit in with some martial arts because the resulting strike might be outside of that martial arts style. Bruce found that a simple solution would work, but the martial arts style would dictate that you had to complete these series of movements first. Bruce’s simple solutions were very revolutionary at the time.

There is a cultural expectation that fancier is better. Bigger houses, more features, more external validation. That the more you acquire the better off you are. There is a lot of maintenance in that kind of life.

“Being wise in gung fu, does not mean adding more, but being able to remove sophistication and ornamentation, and be simply simple, like a sculptor building a statue, not by adding, but by hacking away the unessentials so that the truth will be revealed unobstructed. Gung fu is satisfied with one’s bare hands without the fancy decoration of colorful gloves, which tend to hinder the natural function of the hands.”

It is good to express yourself and your style, but what does so much ornamentation do for your journey to self-actualization? Ornamentation creates more for you to guard and isolates you from others.

It may seem that due to Bruce Lee’s incredible skill at martial arts that he studied martial arts to the exclusion of everything else. This was not the case. He did focus on martial arts a lot, but he utilized his martial arts as a window into being a human being and how to live his life most effectively.

Take the great skill that you have and use it as a window into a more expansive world.

“Art is the expression of the self. The more complicated and restrictive a method is the less opportunity for expression of one’s original sense of freedom. The techniques, although they play an important role in the early stages, should not be too complex, restrictive, or mechanical, if we cling to them we will become bound by their limitations.”

Ask yourself what works for you. Try something and conduct your own research experiment. Try to put aside any outside pressure to do something a particular way.

“Remember, that man created method and method did not create man. Do not strain yourself in twisting into someone’s preconceived pattern, which unquestionably would be appropriate for him, but not necessarily for you. You yourself are expressing the technique and not doing the technique. In fact there is no doer, but the action itself. It is as though when I call, you answer me. When I throw something, you catch it. That’s all.”

Trust your own energy and the relationship of self-knowledge.

The methods, the practices, and the belief systems, all were created by humans. What are the methods that speak to you as an individual?

When something is not feeling easy, it can be an indication that you are focused too much on external influences. You might be trying too hard to follow the practices or methods that others have created.

“After all these years of practice in the different schools, I have found out this: that techniques are merely simple guidelines to tell the practitioner that he has done enough.”

The techniques are something that you can do, but the truth lies within you. When you are expressing instead of doing, you are expressing your soul. Pay homage to the ordinary day. The ordinary is extraordinary.

You’ve done enough, it’s ok, just be yourself.

We’d love to hear about your journey! Write to 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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