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Life is Combat...

Bruce Lee wrote, “Life is combat, and as such should be dealt with accordingly. If you understand combat you understand life.”


“Wait a minute!..." I can already hear many of you saying “That’s a pretty pessimistic way of looking at life!” I thought the same thing myself when I first I began training in Jeet Kune Do. And without a proper understanding of the quote that would indeed seem to be very true. But if we take a moment to examine it more closely, we can see how true Bruce’s analogy between life and combat really is.

First, we need to define what Lee meant by “combat”.  In the context of the above-mentioned quote, it refers to some form of physical conflict between two individuals. In order to understand combat, one must approach it in a very simple and direct manner.


Combat is simple and total. It has no rules or boundaries and is alive, fluid, unpredictable and constantly changing. It’s not something limited to nationality, individual perspective, conditioning, or type of martial art or style of fighting. In any combat situation there are numerous variables over which a martial artist has no control, including such things as the opponent’s physical size, their relative speed, power and agility, their mental or emotional state, what type of fighting style they might have or what techniques they might attempt to use against you, etc. While they might be able to influence them in some way, they cannot dictate or control them.  


Combat is a series of choices: choosing the correct weapon or technique to use, establishing the proper distance in relation to the opponent, choosing the correct moment to use an offensive, counter-offensive, or defensive action.

Life, like combat, is alive, fluid, unpredictable and constantly changing. And as in combat, there may be variables which arise in our lives over which we have little or no control. Life is also a matter of choices.Choosing a career, a spouse or partner, where we want to live and how we want to live. For each of us, our lives are filled with personal choices and professional choices.


In combat, sometimes when you’re dealing with an opponent everything is easy and things just seem to go the way you want them to. You can move in and out of range, out-time the opponent, and score against them at will. You’re in complete control of the situation. Other times, the opponent is tougher, and things aren’t so easy. You have to work hard in order to defeat them. And there may be times when an opponent suddenly overwhelms you, or lands an unexpected shot, and you momentarily lose command of the situation and have to cover up and rely on your defensive skills to “weather the storm”.


The same goes for life. Sometimes life's easy, and things go just the way we want them to. Things seem to come to us without any problem and we feel in complete control. At other times, things don’t go the way we want or plan, and we have to struggle and work hard to do what we want to do or get where we would like to be. And there are times when life hits us with an unexpected blow or tries to “kick the stuffing” out of us, and our ability to hang in there, protect ourselves, and then come back fighting will determine whether we ultimately achieve victory or suffer defeat.  


Combat is definitely not something to be taken lightly or frivolously. In combat, a warrior knows that a mistake may cost them their life, or the lives of others. Similarly, in life a mistake may end up costing us our job, our career, or even our family.


Finally, life, like combat, may combine different elements which can and do change from moment to moment.It may stress speed one moment, strength the next, then resilience and endurance. Life has always demanded the ability to “take it”, and this is true today more than ever.


Am I saying that everyday life is tough and mean and that we have to constantly fight in order not to be crushed or destroyed? Absolutely not. Living life as if we were in a constant and never-ending battle is not wise, but rather it's paranoid. What I’m saying is that for each of us, everyday life is the arena that we must step into. And the battles each of us must engage in are against such adversaries as fear, doubt, anxiety, anger, self-imposed mental and emotional limitations, conformity, resignation, etc. - all the powers that would attempt to crush us, restrict or limit us, and prevent us from actualizing ourselves and our potential.

(The above material was excerpted from "Liberate Yourself - How to Think Like Bruce Lee" by Chris Kent which is available through Amazon)

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