Mind Over Matter

written by Diana Rathborne

“Self knowledge is the basis of Jeet Kune Do because it is effective, not only for the individual’s martial art, but also for his life as a human being.” Bruce Lee

“Mind over matter: if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” That statement is one of the most simple yet profound statements I’ve heard. It also is an essential mindset for the martial artist of any level. The opposite mindset is what is referred to at the Minnesota Kali Group as the “Martial Arts Princess.” The “princess” can be of either gender, and is focused on his/her own comfort above all else. I have been told that when I started training in the martial arts, I fit into that category. (I am sure that, while true in essence, the description is completely exaggerated.) One day, about 4 or 5 years into my training, I was getting ready to train before class, and Guro Rick Faye was doing his own training nearby. Just as we were about to start, he walked over to my training partner and me, and smilingly asked if I’d been able to locate the “pea” under my mattress yet. My training partner began laughing uncontrollably, and recognizing the seeds of truth to this, I did too. Thus, the moniker “Princess” was born.
Unfortunately, I think we all have one or two princess points to strive to eliminate. I know I still do. If we challenge some of our less productive training habits and attitudes, it may just make us better martial artists, training partners and people. Here is a short checklist of habits, characteristics and attitudes that can make up a Martial Arts Princess:

  • You’re not ready and everyone has to wait for you to get started training.
  • You need the “right” training music and have to change the channel, CD, etc. before you can train.
  • You just ate and can’t train until you digest.
  • You haven’t eaten and can’t train until you do.
  • You forgot your lucky kicking attire: underwear, wraps, gloves, special shoes, etc.
  • Your favorite pads are in use or unavailable.
  • Your holder holds the pads to high, too far away, or at the wrong angle.
  • Holding Thai pads is uncomfortable and makes you sweat so you avoid it at all costs.
  • Your feeder is giving you the wrong energy and you can?t train.
  • Your partner is new and you can?t do the drill the way you want to.
  • You?ve been in the art for at least two years and don?t own your own equipment.
  • Your attire is more fashionable than functional and not conducive to training hard: earrings, nose rings or other body jewelry, low riding or too tight pants, etc.
  • You frustrate easily if the information is too complex.
  • You are easily bored and must have new information all the time.
  • You lose your temper when frustrated or out-skilled.
  • You don?t like being told that you?ve got some room for improvement.
  • You harbor a belief that your current knowledge of the art is the entire art.
  • Incidental/accidental contact ruins your training.
  • You only train with people who can train at your level or higher.
  • You only train with people you can dominate.
  • You believe that if others can?t train the way you do, they?re not ?doing it? and are not legitimate practitioners of the art.
  • More than one of your training partners has been out of training due to injuries from training with you.

Luckily, getting out of the “princess mode” is pretty easy and completely within our own control. We will all have better success at challenging our own “comfort zone issues” if we can train ourselves to be completely focused on what we are doing. We will be better able to function in any physical conflict. The little things are an essential element that is often overlooked in the adage, “You fight how you train.”
In The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee encourages us to find the cause of our own ignorance. Ignorance in the art can be a physical, emotional and/or intellectual condition. Tolerance, patience, kindness, humility and being open-minded are essential to our development. Toughening ourselves, and improving our self-discipline, as well as our physical abilities, technical knowledge and attitudes, will make us better people and better martial artists. Luckily, this art provides us with both a vehicle for change and some amazing role models to follow. The most wonderful part is that there is no deadline.

“Learning Jeet Kune Do is not a matter of seeking knowledge or accumulating stylized patterns, but it is discovering the cause of ignorance.” Bruce Lee