“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m am currently immersed in a collection Bruce Lee’s writing called Artist of Life, and came across something that I’ve tried to express many times, but could never quite get a good handle on. Lee puts it this way, in an essay titled How to Chose a Martial Art Instructor:

…What if the “master” does not wish to show you his style?  What if he is “too humble” and firmly guards his “deadly” secret?  One thing I hope readers should realize regarding Oriental humility and secrecy is that although it is true that highly qualified teachers do not boast and sometimes do not teach gung fu to just anybody, the fact remains that they are only human beings, and certainly have not spent ten, twenty, or thirty years on an art in order to say nothing about it.  Even Lao-tzu, author of the Tao Teh Ching, and the man who wrote “He who knows does not speak.  He who speaks does not know”, wrote five-thousand words to explain his doctrine…

and

…The unknown is always wonderful and the “fifteenth-degree red belt holders”, the “experts from super advanced schools”, and the “honorable masters” know how to draw around them a mysterious veil of secrecy.  There is a Chinese saying that applies to these people: “Silence is the ornament and safeguard of the ignorant.”

So how does one determine a genuine attempt at teaching — the sincere wisdom conveyance of a master —  versus some form of self-aggrandizement from an also-ran?  I think the simplest “litmus” is the detection of the teacher’s ego bleeding through, or being confused with, that which is being taught.

I’ve had the great privilege of crossing paths with a few true “masters of their craft” in my time — in sports, in the arts, in business — and one thing that always seems to separate these folks from the “near-miss master” is their sense of utter humility.  The idea that it is not “of them” but “through them” that their expertise flows.  They don’t dismiss their hard work and dedication to the craft (and in fact, embrace it), but it is seen by them as more of a duty to the craft than anything they “endured” or “suffered”.

And by the way, this post’s title is from a quote generally attributed to HL Mencken — though we can’t be too sure about that.  Maybe it was a tongue-in-cheek comment, or maybe taken out of context, who knows.  If it’s true then I lost some respect for Mencken, who I’d otherwise say is one of the greatest political thinkers and writers of our time.  Teaching, coaching  — any conveyance of “truth” — is truly an art.  To dismiss it as a second rate endeavor is a true indicator of a shallow mind.  

But to add a little levity back to the post, it was Woody Allen who famously said “those who can’t do, teach — and those who can’t teach, teach gym” 😉

A little Sunday GPP –

I’ve been asked to please include a workout or two in my posts.  Sure thing.  I’ll kick it off with a Sunday GPP bout.  All done in the 100 degree plus, south Texas heat.  Yee-haw –

150 yard sprint

45 feet of parallel bar “hand hops”

5 pull-up bar muscle-ups

20 rung monkey bar “sprint”

5 pull-up bar muscle-ups

10-foot vertical wall up-and-over

10 450 lb tire flips

3 rounds

That’ll take the starch outta your britches 😉

Didn’t track the time this go ’round.  I think I like it enough to keep it in the rotation, though, and so next time I’ll put a clock (sun dial?) on it.

 

In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –

Keith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Keith – it always amazes me when I see articles quoting Bruce Lee attributing thoughts and words to him as well as martial arts techniques. He was an incredible talent and I was fortunate enough to have trained with him for close to a year in 1962/63 when he had a school in Berkeley, Ca. To address your point Bruce often spoke in zen parables but told me flat out that I could never penetrate the essence of Wing Chun (what he later made into Jeet Kune Do) since I was not Chinese. At that point I had spent an intensive 4 years studying Shotokan Karate under many of the leading senseis of the day and readily accepted Bruce as my Sifu after meeting him at a school I was teaching at in Oakland, Ca. I have no doubt he would have followed the Paleo way as well but contrary to the legend surrounding him he was as human as the rest of us.

    • Wow, thanks for the fantastic insight, Bill! I am as amazed as anyone regarding his athletic prowess, and I awed (the more I study about him), by his philosophical depth. He was truly an amazing human being.

  2. Thanks for the amazing article. Bruce Lee was my idol, it is such a pity he died so young. He could have done much more to promote martial arts around the world.

  3. Thanks for digging up Bruce Lee’s essay. It’s really inspiring and also true in every aspect of life. From my experience to find a mentor, you (as a student) must show your worth physically, mentally, and spiritually before a mentor passes his skills and knowledge to you.

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