“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.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
I took Kung Fu when I was younger. Basically all it taught me was how to take an thumping gracefully. Ok, maybe not gracefully. I didn’t practice very much, it was expensive, and I already had a tight enough schedule without trying to accommodate training session 3x per week.
I take all that back. It taught me a very important lesson: you can’t muscle your way through life.
During training sessions, I would spar with other people in my class, from Average Joe to the heavily tattooed, bearded 6’5″ gentleman named Dribble (no I couldn’t make this up if I tried). Now, I’m not exactly tiny, but I’m built somewhat slender (6′ tall, but I weigh 150 lbs.). I have to say I did pretty well against these guys.
Then Lisa came along. Lisa was 5’4″ and less than 125 lbs. Dripping wet. Carrying lead weights. Lisa was super sweet, very intelligent….and unbeatable. The thing about Lisa was this: she never tried to muscle through anything. She couldn’t! She wasn’t nearly as strong as Dribble, but she thumped him every time. She wasn’t as tall as me, but I was always looking up at her (because I was on the floor after she’d toss me like I was nothing). After our training sessions, we’d all go out for lunch. Of course we’d grill Lisa about why she was able to trounce us like it was nothing.
“Bruce Lee”, was her answer. Huh? The thing about Lisa was that she was the only one of our group who wasn’t into Kung Fu movies! She continued, “Bruce Lee’s ‘Be like water’ quote. Someone said it to me once, and just made sense. I can’t overpower anything; I’m not very strong. I’m definitely not big. I’m pretty average. None of this worked for me until I stopped trying to muscle my way through things.”
I always think of her when I’m training a particularly large dog. Sometimes the owner will comment that the reason I’m able to control their dog is because I’m so tall, and the dog therefore respects me. Not at all. I merely respect myself enough not to manhandle the poor animal! No dragging the dog by the collar. No pulling back on the leash while the dog pulls forward. I refuse to meet a dogs physical force with my own. Working with dogs is more nuanced that that. Dogs require respect, not brute force. The PAW Method constantly demonstrates this. Piloting your dog doesn’t mean pushing, pulling, dragging. It means guiding, directing, leading. Calm. Fluid. Unemotional. Instead of meeting force with more force, try something else.
Be like water.