Let It Go, Let It Flow
By Alec Rains
The end of 2016 brought discussion to the overwhelming ambivalence of a year gone by. There’s no disputing the compounding clusterof loss, hardships, and frustrations that begged the question: “2017 can only be better, right?”. Of course the answer is never as black and white as we would like. There’s no way to tell what the future holds for us; the year is literally just starting. Whether you had a good 2016 or not, it makes no sense to dwell on the past. Easier said than done, right? Of course it is. Since we can’t stop the clock from turning consider taking solace in the fact that a New Year marks a new beginning. This new beginning might end up being better than you realize.
I’m no astrologist. Well, I did take an astrology class in college once and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently so… I’m still no astrologist. That said, I am a big believer in universal coincidences. One of the unique coincidences that keeps popping up in my life is found in the study of Numerology. Numerology studies the almost mystical relationship between any specific number and one or more coinciding events in life. It also delves into the notion that significant value is associated to numbers and the patterns, sequences, and the combinations they create.
Time to Move On
Take the year 2016, for example. The sequence 2-0-1-6 (2016) when added together equals “9” (2+0+1+6). The numerology of the number “9” represents completion, or the end of a cycle. It was expressed last year that 2016 would become the year that we draw a final line in the significant projects in our lives, bringing them to completion. Take a moment to think back on everything that happened in the past year and I’m sure you will be able to figure out at least one major piece of your life that found its conclusion.
When we look at the numbers in the year “2017”, 2+0+1+7 = 10…which is distilled to 1 + 0, which equals “1”. The number one is the first number we count from; it marks firsts, and represents new beginnings. Now let’s take stock of everything we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Of those hopes, how many of them are a “first”, or “fresh start”?
The Coincidence of Firsts
Speaking of coincidences, this is the first time I have ever written for a blog, which is also being shared as the first post from The Mat. Okay, maybe it’s not entirely a coincidence since we had to come up with a topic to discuss for our first blog, but it’s definitely coincidental that it happens to be written on the first day of the first month of a year of firsts! I can’t make this stuff up, people!
Anyway, we’re doing a lot of firsts at The Mat, so this is really hitting home for me at the moment. While we certainly had to get the thought train running from the station back in 2016, it was all with the idea that we would be implementing a slew of new ideas and concepts for 2017. What stands out in my head the most out of everything we are looking forward to doing, though, is that none of our plans could be remotely possible without the completion of specific items that needed to be cleared by the end of 2016. We had to let go of a number of thoughts, ideas, and notions if we wanted to grow into what we know we can become.
"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves" -Bruce Lee
In martial arts, there are a lot of idioms and sayings teachers give their students. “Words of wisdom”, if you will. Looking back to my childhood in karate, I can recall a number of times my sensei would sit the class down to tell a story that carried a specific meaning or moral that would become a supposed life lesson for anyone who would listen. Anyone who spent any amount of time in the 1970s or 1980s need not go far to recall moments of wisdom from Mr. Miyagi, Master Yoda, or Caine from the series Kung Fu. These characters represented the on-screen depictions of any number of gurus and masters throughout time. As a child growing up in martial arts it was always about The Greatest for me: Bruce Lee.
Be Like Water
Bruce Lee wasn’t just a martial artist. He was also a philosopher. He was once famously quoted in an interview as saying, “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.”
The quote above has become a specific piece of guidance for me, both on and off the mats, for the better part of my adult life. In fact, we created the name, The Mat, as a metaphor for life and the challenges it presents. We wanted to find a simple way to associate martial arts training with life lessons, and draw upon real life experiences to instill martial arts lessons. The mat we train on prepares us for the real world and vice versa. The only way to truly accomplish this is to create an environment of continual adaptation. Any plan rarely comes together exactly as intended. Similarly, a self defense skill rarely ends up being applied exactly the same way it is practiced. There are too many variables beyond our own control to manage expectations so precisely. That said, we still need a goal or basic plan. Proper preparation allows us to adapt to the various interjections life (or an opponent) throws at us. Water will always follow the path of least resistance, so to “be like water” reminds us to work smart, not hard, to achieve our goals.
The Yin and the Yang
Conventional self defense teachings often instill lessons of aggression and assertiveness to combat assailants and potential attackers. Let’s be honest for a moment. We do not live in a world facing a continual onslaught of life or death situations. It is more appropriate to take on the conventional wisdom taught in more traditional martial arts styles, in which there is a balance between hard and soft approaches and responses… the “Yin” and “Yang” to life. See, the water metaphor goes even deeper than most realize. Water itself is the ultimate adaptive element in our universe. In extreme cold, it hardens and becomes ice, thus forming its own yin: hard, strong, and firm. In extreme heat it becomes steam, representing yang: light, elusive, and delicate. Finding the perfect balance of both is imperative to effective self defense, and will always play an integral role in both personal and business decisions. By definition, you cannot have one without the other, knowing how to tap into both sides of the extremes is important, but understanding a true balance of both simultaneously…that’s the key to success. For knowing how to truly adapt between hard, soft, and anything in between is what it really means to be like water.
The literal transition from 2016 to 2017 is a reset to the calendar…a New Year. The symbolic transition is a reminder to move on from the past, taking the teachable moments with us, in order to create a fresh take on new endeavors. As we begin this new year it is important we remember that an open mind allows for fluidity to take its course. Having a plan is important, but life happens, and unforeseen events (good or bad) will occur. We must resist the urge to resist. Accept what is presented as an opportunity to modify our intended path. Its sounds cliché, I know, but it is also true. The path to success includes the willingness to adapt as needed. To paraphrase Jigoro Kano, founder of modern Judo, “When an opponent pushes, you pull. When they pull, you push.” Judo literally translates into “gentle way”; yet another martial art whose core principle emphasizes the balance of yin and yang to work smart rather than hard. It may be a common instinct for many to push back when life pushes us. It’s completely understandable and even has its place in our “tool kit” for life. However, pulling when we are pushed we can cause an unforeseen disruption which could unbalance forces intended to stop us. Understanding this allows us to further enhance said “tool kit”. At the end of the day, getting through life is all about staying on our feet and moving forward. There’s no rule saying how we stay standing up.
Have a Happy 2017 and keep the water flowing!