nature's way that water always follows the most
efficient path to its end. It cannot do otherwise!
Still, as the course is run, barriers and obstacles
arise which at first appear to impede its flow.
The inherent efficiency
of what occurs may not always be apparent.
water principle necessitates reflection on several
levels. On the surface, water most often represents
"gentle" energy, always yielding, soft and comforting.
Yet, its very gentleness makes it the great shaper of
Just as water shapes mountains and canyons
with its perpetual embrace, our first level of
understanding invokes the conceptual contradiction that
even while yielding to our opponent's strength, we
embrace him and his directed energy, in the end,
eroding his focus. When he thrusts, we recede, when he
retreats, we fill the void. This is the water
principle. Though we are apart from our opponent,
by engaging the water principle , our movement
becomes one with his. We, move together as one. Each
apart, but each integral to the movement of the other.
In the end, there is only the one.
The next level addresses
the matter of flow. Water in its course is free to flow
in any direction. There are unlimited choices and
possibilities, but always the most efficient path is
found, regardless of the obstacles confronted. Water can
not make the wrong choice about flow.
The martial artist is
like water in its endless quest for the sea. There are
innumerable options and endless obstacles. Like water,
if the martial artist conducts his search with a true
heart and an impeccable spirit, any choice he makes and
any path he undertakes will bring him closer to his
goal. As with water, issues of success or failure,
correctness or incorrectness become meaningless. If the
heart is true and the spirit is impeccable, the course
will be right. All else loses meaning. All else is
The third level of
understanding is where we become exactly as water,
totally fluid and perfectly integrated with our
surroundings. Thoughts about victory and defeat are
questions pertinent to "ego" and "self." These
dissolve when the martial artist arrives at the
"experience" of the water principle. Note I did
not have the martial artist arriving at an
"understanding" of the water principle. He does
not know the water principle by "understanding"
it. He either experiences it or does not. There are no
alternatives. When one experiences the water
principle, the "one" who "understands" the water
principle no longer exists and is of no
consequence. Victory and defeat become meaningless
alternatives when one "experiences" the water
principle and responds with the appropriate
counter for every situation. Once the water
principle has been mastered, there can be no
So when describing the
characteristic that one following the water
principle always makes the correct choice no matter what he decides
to do, we are faced with a paradox. The martial artist,
in becoming perfectly fluid and one with the flow of the
universe, makes the "right" move no matter how he moves.
To the uninitiated, it would seem being locked into the
"perpetually correct" course through the water
principle would cause the martial artist to lose
freedom of choice and threaten his or her very
existence. The reality is that distinctions become
meaningless, and debates over freedom of choice, and
what is right or wrong are left to the philosophers
while the martial artist flows on by unaffected by the