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“I Don’t Know What I’m Going To Do” vs. “I Don’t Know What To Do”

One of Bruce Lee’s oft-repeated quotes relating to JKD is, “I have no technique; my opponent decides my technique. I have no design; opportunity is my design.” This statement has been echoed by numerous other elite-level martial artists such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie, who says that he doesn’t go into a fight looking to use a specific technique or expecting certain things from an opponent. Rather, he adapts himself to whatever situation he finds himself in and what the opponent gives him, and takes advantage of his opponent’s mistakes.  


However, there is a big difference between “I don’t know what I am going to do” and “I don’t know what to do.” If you don’t know what to do your mind will be scrambling and struggling to figure out things. If I fall off a boat while sailing on the ocean and I know how to swim, I can relate to the ocean (whether it is calm and smooth or rough and choppy, how far it is to land, etc.). But if I have little or no idea of how to swim, I will be struggling desperately (and probably unsuccessfully) not to drown. In the same way, how can you possibly concentrate on dealing with the opponent facing you if you have no idea of what you are doing?


So you have to know what to do. This entails developing your understanding of and proficiency in fundamental techniques and principles of each combative element. When I say you have to know what you can do, I’m not simply talking what technique or techniques you can use. I mean what your body can do, what it is capable of. You have to be prepared physically, technically, mentally, and strategically.


Then you have to develop the ability to enter the mindest of “no-mindedness” or “wu-hsin,” where you don’t have any set thoughts or a set method, but rather your mind is free to respond reflexively to the situation as it unfolds. You are connected to the opponent and aware; aware of yourself and aware of your opponent, giving the situation you full attention and focus. This level is referred to as the “stage of artlessness,” and the only way you can reach such a state of being is through consistent and dedicated training -- developing technique until they become reflex action -- working out with all different types of opponents, etc. In other words you must do the work.  But the rewards are well worth it. When you attain such a level, then you too can state with confidence, “I have no technique; my opponent decides my technique. I have no design; opportunity is my design.”

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