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Bruce Lee: Why he was one of a kind, part 2

What really separates a good martial artist from a great one, such as Bruce Lee? There are two major concepts that I’ll share. First, someone with both highly developed abstract and concrete skills versus someone who is a predominantly concrete thinker.

A concrete martial artist, through experience and training, along with natural inherent talent, can look menancing and scary, but put him in a ring with an equally experienced and skilled fighter with both abstract and concrete skills, and predict who will win the match. The fighter with highly developed abstract skills will have a tremendous advantage because he doesn’t just know how to use a technique (like a concrete fighter), but he also knows when and why to use a specific technique. He knows how to get out of trouble when trapped, and appears more fluid and graceful.

Another similar situation is clearly evident on the operating table. A concrete surgeon can accomplish the task most of the time because he is sufficiently educated, trained, experienced, and skilled to complete the surgery, but what happens when things don’t go according to plan? What happens when a concrete surgeon encounters something unexpected and new that he has never seen before?

A concrete surgeon will have difficulty dealing with that unfamiliar situation and may respond by blaming others and yelling at nurses, surgical techs, and the anesthesiologist. The ship is sinking and the concrete thinker doesn’t know what to do next. On the other hand, an abstract thinker may have a chance at solving the new and unexpected problem by focusing on the task at hand (instead of panicking and blaming others) and using his creativity and mental flexibility. Thus, a concrete fighter can excel as long as things go according to the game plan, but an abstract opponent will mess up his plan, and suddenly the menancing, but concrete fighter appears like a fish out of water.

Second major concept: most experienced fighters have 3 gears – slow, medium, and fast. However, about 10% of black belts have an extra gear that makes them really dangerous. If you are young and want to enter the world of full-contact MMA fighting, I recommend you seriously consider whether you’re among the 90% with 3 gears, or the second group, who can suddenly shift into an higher gear. If you’re among the first group, you will likely end up being a punching bag for the second group, who are usually at the top of the food chain: the champions and top contenders, already busy enough beating each other up for the prized possession of a champion belt.

If you only have 3 gears, do you really want to enter the mayhem, unequipped to deal with someone with a 4th or higher gear? It is important to realize that people with extra gear(s) do not go around constantly fighting at the higher gear, and instead reserve and use it sporadically, at the right time, place, and reason, because fighting at an higher gear is anaerobic instead of aerobic. In other words, they can shift into an higher gear only a limited number of times during a fight.

It’s not like a cartoon figure, whose arms and legs go flying constantly at high speed. The fighters with extra gear(s) are usually intelligent enough to save their anaerobic capacity and instead time it for the brief spurts of anaerobic power at the most critical junction: they set up their opponents to enter the engagement zone in order to maximize their gift of having an higher gear, which leaves the opponents basically defenseless against someone who can shift suddenly into 4th or higher gear, when the opponents are already stuck in 3rd and their highest gear.

In addition, if someone fights constantly at an higher gear, the opponents will simply adjust, typically by keeping a farther distance, which may neutralize the fighter’s gift of an higher gear and make it difficult for him to use the higher gear successfully because everytime he tries to shift into an higher gear, the opponents will retreat further, making it next to impossible for the higher gear fighter to close the distance.

There are some martial artists who appear fast and can fight constantly at 3rd gear because they are well-conditioned aerobically, but that is a different concept than fighting at an higher gear, which is an anaerobic activity.

In summary, possessing highly developed abstract skills along with the prerequisite concrete technical skills, and having higher gear(s) separate the elite fighters from the rest. So, Bruce Lee wasn’t just among the 10% with a 4th gear, but he was the real thing, among the truly rare <0.1%, who possess a 5th or higher gear. In addition, Bruce Lee was an individual with highly developed abstract skills, and these two things, my friends, were what most separated him from all the rest of martial artists, fighters, and Bruce Lee-wannabees.  

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  1. 2 Comment(s)

  2. By camp on Mar 21, 2015 | Reply

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