“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.” – Bruce Lee
In 1993 I went to a movie premiere with friends. It was “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”. I became enamored with his teachings, and wanted to learn Jeet Kune Do so badly, but at that time, 24 years ago, I was upwards of 300 pounds, and had no real aspirations of ever being anything different.
But I wanted to be. I dreamed of becoming water. Of figuring out what that meant. Of transforming myself, in some way, so that I could be this lithe martial artist.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s. I first heard of Bernales Institute (BIMA) because my SCA Knight at the time had his son enrolled there. I knew about BIMA and had even attended a couple of competitions to watch my friend’s son compete. I still felt the desire to become water, and it was even an analogy in my SCA training at the time, but still, it only managed to tingle the desire again. I even bought the book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” and started reading it. I was fascinated but having no martial arts background it was more a study on the influence of Bruce Lee on the world than anything I could apply personally, even though I truly wanted to gain more insight.
I took a few classes at the University, Krav Maga and Aikido, but both times never stuck with either one. At the time, they weren’t what I was looking for and were even, to a point, teaching me things that were counter to the fighting I was doing at the time.
Still, I wanted to be a fighter. That desire has never left me. I grew up fighting, literally, due to an abusive household, but I was always the victim, I never fought back, although I wanted to. I just never felt I could.
Fast forward to May of this year. I had just returned from the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. I had competed for my 4th year as an International athlete. I had spent the past year trying to put the best female USA Team together, which was stressful, crazy and chaotic, even in the best of times.
I was tired. I was drained. I wasn’t sure I had anything left.
I’d achieved my long term goal from when I started this whole adventure, I had brought a world class women’s team to Battle of the Nations.
So now what…
I was kind of at a loss. I’d done what I had set out to do. We ended up 5th in the world, due to a technicality, that none of us knew anything about, but we were happy in our choices and the decisions we made that inevitably took us out of the competition sadly.
But that was it.
I came home, happily exhausted. But exhausted none the less. Then as the new season was “traditionally” starting, which is usually in June, I was trying to decide, was 2017 my last year? Was I ready to push for a whole new year, put my body through everything yet again, just so I could do the one thing I still hadn’t been able to do…go through another year of hell, just to fight Russia?
I thought a very long time about it. I talked it over with Greg, my husband, who has been my number one support since the moment he met me. Was I ready? Was he willing? Could I even do it one more year? Every year I get older, my training becomes exponentially harder and the competition becomes more fierce.
In May I saw a complete 180 degree change in the way Women’s Teams were fighting. I have been doing this from the beginning and am the only USA woman to compete consistently from the beginning. I could see & feel the smallest changes on the field, even when I was simply a walk on fighter for the Unified team and again when I was fighting with the Netherlands. Simple things were changing; from gear, to holds, to strategy. But mostly, it was the experience these women were gaining. All of us were “test cases” and we were beginning to shatter the learning curve.
For those of you who watched the fights this year, you saw a completely different fight than what you saw even 2 years ago and its only going to get harder to compete. This year the USA couldn’t take everyone that initially wanted to make the team. Choices had to be made, and those choices will only become harder as the year(s) progress.
So, do I end my fighting career on a high note with achieving my initial goal?
I didn’t want to, but was I ready to change how I had trained up til now, so that I could be competitive and viable for the team? That was really the question that I had to answer.
Certain things led up to my decision to continue for 2018. One huge opportunity pushed me over the edge. A fellow fighter was selling his titanium kit (that I had admired already) and I had the funds available to get it. It cut the weight of my kit by almost half and I knew that would help me train easier. I also knew I could sell my red kit to someone else and it would still be a huge upgrade for them as well, so the eternal cycle of armor was a beneficial push.
Enter Bernales Institute of Martial Arts…
“Flow in the living moment. – We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.” – Bruce Lee
I had options to attend training at Jeremy Horn’s Gym. I knew MMA fighters like Josh Tyler and even had the opportunity to fight him this year (best day ever). But it wasn’t quite what I needed. I have very little foundation for my fighting, something I have blogged (albeit painfully) about in the past, so I knew I wanted to find basics that would transfer to what I am doing now and have it be training my body could tolerate over time.
I sent video links of my fights, of my sport and of the USA team to Will Bernales. I also had another friend actually teaching at BIMA, so I knew the basis of what possibilities were there. I went in for an initial consultation and explained what MY limitations were.
I have arthritis in both hands. That factor will be the ending to my fighting career at some point. I know this. I’ve accepted this and its not a world-ending scenario, especially at my ripe old age of 50. But they haven’t taken me out yet, so I wanted to know what else I could do that would give me the foundations of that I want.
Kali was the answer. Even in that initial consult, I learned more that could help me in 30 minutes than I had learned in a year’s worth of sword training. I needed to learn how to move, how to strike, how to deflect and how to get out of holds. Up until now, I have relied on instinct, face-in-the-dirt experience and my size. After this past competition I knew that was never going to be enough for the coming year.
I had to be like water, and adapt to the changing shape of this sport, because my size, my experience and my ability to suck up damage wasn’t going to be enough any longer. If I am going to make the team in 2018, I am literally going to have to be like water, and flow. That’s all there is to it.
No more stationary ‘tank’.
Movement, skill and adaptability are the key. I am strong, I am solid and I can endure, but I am the turtle, not the hare. Time to get a little of both going…
So, what actually prompted this blog was the photo you see at the beginning. Its hanging in Bernales Institute. Its of Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee. Guro Dan Inosanto was one of the only 3 instructors trained to teach by Bruce Lee. I knew the name. I knew that when I signed up for BIMA, I had JUST missed a seminar taught by Dan Inosanto there, and that made me so sad. But I hadn’t really thought about the connection to my past desires until last night, when I saw this photo as I sat down to wait for my Kali class.
Blame it on Fate, blame it on the prednisone making me wonky, blame it on whatever, but when it hit me, it hit me. Everything finally made sense to me, even the stupid delays of starting classes, etc.
The timing was finally right.
I was finally at the exact point that I could become water…and understand what that meant for me.
The fact that I am finally training in a place that I have had some sort of weird connection with for over 15 years and that it has led me to not only learning Jeet Kune Do, but learning it from someone in Bruce Lee’s lineage is pretty amazing, at least to me.
History, tradition and lineage mean a lot to me and I am very proud of my fighting line and always will be. The man that knighted me and those in that line have been instrumental in my continuing to fight, even to the point that I am now wearing his armor, so I feel a little of that blood, sweat and tears as I put my kit on every single time.
I think about those things. I think about my line, and those that I have Knighted now, and I pass on what I can to them. I think about what they will consider important enough to pass on when they Knight someone else of our line. So while some never take lineage into account, it means a great deal to me and to my own personal history.
Finally understanding what it means to be water is part of that. Its not as simple a concept as one would think, but it also is too. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…and I promise you that photo, hanging on that wall, at 8:15 p.m. on July 12th, 2017 was worth a lot more than a thousand words to me…
I start Jeet Kune Do on Saturday…
Be Like Water my Friends