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Do You Know YOU?

(Note – Some of the material in this blog has been excerpted and adapted from my book “Liberate Yourself – How to Think Like Bruce Lee” and the companion workbook).

Besides being a combative martial art, Jeet Kune Do is also meant to be a vehicle for developing greater self-knowledge. In his television interview with Canadian author/broadcaster, Pierre Berton, Bruce Lee commented, “…as an actor, as a martial artist, as a human being, all these I have learned from martial art.” Lee used martial art as a tool to develop greater knowledge about himself. Through it he learned lessons about his physicality, his mental and emotional fortitude, and it even gave him a sense of spirituality.

Self-knowledge is a vital element in quest for personal growth and development, not only in martial arts, but all facets of our life. If we wish to realize our true potential, it’s important that we know and understand who we are in all our capacities; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Not just casually and on the surface, but solidly and inside-out. We need to know what makes us tick and how we tick.

How well do you know yourself physically?

Are you aware of your levels of physical qualities and attributes such as strength, power, flexibility, agility, coordination, etc.? Are they where you want or need them to be, or do they need development or improvement?

What about your technical skills? For example, do you possess fast, fluid, smooth footwork you can use it to get in and out against an opponent, avoiding getting hit by opening the distance or moving off-line. Or is your footwork less than adequate, forcing you to have to rely more on body displacement and evasion such as slipping, ducking, weaving, as well as parrying, or blocking? Are your striking skills strong and effective, but your grappling skills at a low level?

What kind of learner are you? Are you a visual learner who learns primarily by watching and observing someone perform a technique or action over and over, then attempts to mimic the motion you’ve observed?Are you an auditory learner who responds best to detailed verbal instruction concerning how, why, and when something is to be done? Or are you a kinesthetic learner who learns by repeating actions or motions over and over and using body feel as you work on grooving the body mechanics of it into your body? Perhaps you’re combination of two of them.

How well do you know yourself mentally? –

Do you know how you’re wired, so to speak? What is your psychological nature? What kind of temperament do you have? Are you assertive, aggressive, a person who likes to engage and constantly press an opponent and force things. Or are you an individual who is not aggressive by nature and perhaps more passive, and prefer to work more as a counter-fighter?

Do you possess the ability to maintain high levels of concentration of focus, or does your mind tend to frequently wander and your thoughts change direction? Is it easy for you to stay motivated and direct your energies where you want them?

How well do you know yourself emotionally?

What are your reactions and behaviors in combative or stress situations? Do you “freeze” like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car? Go into “fight” mode and immediately attempt to retaliate or strike back? Use “flight” to get away in order to avoid having to deal with the situation? Do you fall prey to knee-jerk reactions and fly off the handle, or respond in a calm, controlled manner?

How do you handle or deal with negative feelings and emotions that arise at various times such as anger, fear, doubt, frustration, etc.?

Asking yourself and answering questions such as those listed above is not about judging yourself, but rather, cultivating awareness of yourself.

As I said, self-knowledge is an essential element in our quest for personal growth and development. How do we increase our self-knowledge? The answer is through a process of daily self-inquiry and self-examination and self-discovery; by studying ourselves in action and in relationship with other people. By doing this you can learn about yourself, you can get in touch with your real feelings, discover what your strong points are and what your weak points may be, find out what you like and what you dislike, and learn how you react in different situations and under various conditions.

If you, like Bruce Lee, use martial art training as a vehicle to help you develop self-knowledge, the self- knowledge you attain will allow you to train better and more effectively. Each serves the other.

Knowing yourself requires time and energy because each of us is a multi-dimensional being. Furthermore, we need to keep in mind that nothing about us is written in stone. While genetics may play a role regarding some things about us, with others we have a capacity to change them if we choose to. However, we cannot change what we are unaware of. As the saying goes, “to know one’s self can take a lifetime.” Take the time and put forth the energy to truly know YOU.