Why So Serious? – Learning Jeet Kune Do

I just finished teaching a private lesson and I wanted to share something related to it.

One of the biggest obstacles that I see with new students is learning to relax during training.

It’s difficult, I know, to jump into something new and still be able to stay relaxed.

There’s so much new stuff to learn, so many bad habits to correct, and so many new things to take on. And being told to relax and just flow can sometimes add to the stress of it all.

But, to quote Bruce Lee, “The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.”

In other words, feeling self-conscious and over-analytical is the biggest obstacle that we face when trying to learn and execute any skill properly.

A story that my Sifu, Chris Kent, told is of a caterpillar who is asked how he walks with so many legs to keep track of. As he contemplated how he does so, he suddenly found himself tripping up everywhere.

Relax and just flow.

Easier said than done, right?

What has helped me as I’ve tried to learn anything new has been to lower my expectations and try to just have fun with the idea of the technique or skill at first.

Between “boredom” and “overwhelm” is a place called “fun”. If you don’t feel challenged by something, it becomes boring. But if it’s too much too soon then it becomes overwhelming.

Finding that middle ground is where your training becomes fun and learning becomes easier.

So, relax during training. Have fun with it. Start small, get a feel for the movement, and then add more and more technical skills as you go. After all, you have your entire life to get good at something. So don’t try to do it all in one day.

One great way to relax and learn is through shadowboxing.

I learned the importance of shadowboxing from a pro-boxer who beat the snot out of me in a sparring session.

Afterwards, we started talking and he told me that one of his favorite things to do is to throw his headphones on, go somewhere alone, and just start moving.

Start by forgetting about “proper technique” and just move. Find the beat of the music, find your own rhythm, and play.

Begin by playing with your footwork, your head movement, and your hand movement. Add in some jabs. Then bring in more and more techniques as you go.

But the moment you lose your natural rhythm and start getting caught up in the technicalities of your techniques, go back to just the movement. Get a “feel” for your balance, for your body, and how to flow.

In the end, training is about having fun. At least that’s what it’s about for me.

Sure, self-defense is a big part of it. Fitness is a big part of it. But those, to me, are the byproducts of learning Jeet Kune Do.

As kids, we dressed up like superman and pretended to fight bad guys. Now that we’re older we find more sophisticated ways to play. We dress up in our JKD shirts and boxing gloves, we work drills to hone our technical skills, and we spar in order to apply them to a more realistic situation.

But isn’t it still just an excuse to pretend? We imagine being able to move and fight like Bruce Lee, so we join a Jeet Kune Do school. And, as our partner whips punches at our face, we parry and use head movement to evade. And somewhere in the back of our minds we’re just having fun playing the role of “Kickboxing Adonis”.

Maybe I’m alone in this perspective. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. But I doubt it.

As Bruce Lee said, “Play. But play seriously.”

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