Oct
03

“Bruce Lee on blending with one’s opponent,” by Stanley Pranin

bruce-lee-yip-man

“I believe Bruce Lee is talking about blending with
the direction of movement of one’s opponent.”

While on Facebook yesterday, a photo of Bruce Lee with his teacher Yip Man with the above transcription caught my eye. I thought the content was especially relevant to aikido practitioners. Please read the quote before continuing.

The first sentence about “following the natural bends of things” and “not interfering” clearly reminds one of the aikido principle of blending with one’s partner. The point of “never asserting yourself against nature” is, too, of special importance. The Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei admonished practitioners to harmonize with the “activities of all things in nature.” A concrete example of this would not be resorting to physical strength when executing a technique in direct opposition to an opponent, but rather blending with his movement. Yet this is a common tendency among aikido practitioners.

Here’s where it gets interesting: “Never be in frontal opposition to any problem, but control it by swinging with it.” I think this is the gist of the matter. What was Bruce Lee thinking about when he wrote this? I have no idea what he might have specifically meant. But I can make reference to a concept that I describe in “The Zone Theory of Aikido” that seems to fit perfectly.

The key here is as Bruce Lee states, to “never be in frontal opposition…” I think this has a very literal meaning that I attempt to describe in the above video giving specific reasons for the importance of positioning oneself wherever possible to your opponent’s flank, that is, what might be called his “dead zone,” before executing a technique. In other words, one avoids “frontal opposition” by not remaining in front of the opponent.

Next, he says “control it by swinging with it.” When I first read this, I thought it was rather a curious use of terms. What does “swinging with it” mean? He’s not talking about anything having to do with punching. I believe Bruce Lee is talking about blending with the direction of movement of one’s opponent. In my mind, a “swinging” movement perfectly describes aikido’s “tai no henko,” a blending or opening movement that is the gateway to ura or turning movements. In the video below, Morihiro Saito Sensei explains this crucially important tai no henko exercise and its purpose.

I realize this is merely an interpretation of what Bruce Lee may have been referring to in the above quote. Nonetheless, the concepts are intriguing and fit perfectly with aikido theory and practice!

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Comments

  1. In Wing Chun, Bruce Lee’s base art, there is a concept of 1 in 1 out that I have heard referred to as ‘swinging with it’ before.

    The basic premise is that as you meet any resistance you simply ‘switch off’ all tension in your arm and withdraw, while continuing your attack with your other arm, and if that meets resistance, repeat, and so on…

    Very similar to Takeda Tokimune’s explanation of aiki where he says something to the note of ‘if he pushes, I pull, if he pulls, I push’