Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
July 13, 2016
As I type these words, “activists” affiliated with Black Lives Matter or some remnant of the “Occupy movement” are going on about how they’re gonna “shut shit down” and how “this ends here.” I appreciate and empathize with the pain and passion, but obviously nothing is getting shut down and “this” ain’t gonna' end thanks to anything they’re doing at the moment.
Back in my so-called “activism” days, people used to ask me all the time when and how I got started. My standard answer was that I’d always been a rebellious, anti-authority type so it was a natural progression. But, as I recently detailed, I missed so many of the early warnings and lessons and ended up accomplishing nothing.
More recently, I discovered a painful irony: In other facets of my life -- fitness and martial arts (in particular, being inspired by Bruce Lee) -- I behaved far more rationally and radically and thus, far more productively. Please allow me to explain…
Perpetual modification and adaptation
I’ve spent more time in gyms than I can even begin to calculate. I can now recognize how this choice instilled in me a skewed and unhealthy body perception and heavily reinforced my masculine conditioning. However, there were also powerful life lessons to be learned within those mirrored walls. Whether I was working with a client or working on myself, I was always encouraged to evaluate, experiment, and evolve -- on a regular basis -- based on results.
In gyms, I learned how to remain open to new approaches and ideas and to understand the need for perpetual modification and adaptation. If you’re not happy with your outcomes, you automatically try something else. Let the results (or lack thereof) guide you.
Also, as a trainer, it’s my job to point out to others what needs to be addressed. No one calls me “self-righteous” for suggesting their previous attempts were flawed. When new members join the gym and get an evaluation, they don’t call me “negative” for pointing out where changes must be made and work needs to be done. I don’t, for example, focus on how neatly their fingernails are trimmed for fear of appearing “divisive” by telling them about their high blood pressure. Nope, we work together to identify problems and to create a fluid plan for addressing these problems.
If only I would’ve applied this logical, results-based approach to my “activism.”
“Techniques should not be too restrictive or mechanical”
Things are quite similar in the martial arts, boxing, self-defense, etc. A punch in the face teaches you, in a hurry, that your techniques need refinement or replacement. Results are everything but, in the post-Bruce Lee era, this goes hand-in-hand with innovation.
Bruce Lee turned the staid and traditional martial arts world on its head by saying things like this: “The techniques, though they play an important role in the early stage, should not be too restrictive, complex, or mechanical. If we cling to them, we will become bound by their limitation.”
And this: “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.”
And this: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
Such iconoclasm resonated very, very deeply with me as a young man, influencing me in so many aspects of my life, but I hadn’t properly applied such lessons to “activism” until very recently when I re-visited one the legendary stories about Bruce’s early days in America.
Here’s the hagiographic version: Bruce Lee ruffled traditionalist feathers in San Francisco with his progressive decision to teach Gung Fu to the non-Chinese. For this, he was challenged to a fight by Master Wong Jack Man. If Lee lost, he’d have to leave town.
Even though Bruce whupped his narrow-minded opponent, he was unhappy with his performance and conditioning. This perception inspired him to completely and fanatically overhaul his training and his approach to fighting, ultimately leading him to the concept of Jeet Kune Do and unprecedented levels of martial skill.
Alternative version: Upon arriving in Frisco, the cocky, young Bruce Lee went out of his way to insult local Gung Fu masters and was known for having many girlfriends -- and cheating on all of them -- before marrying an American woman. An ex-girlfriend of Lee’s called him a “macho pig” and often expressed her sympathy for Bruce’s now-pregnant wife. Around this time, Lee showed up at a public event in Chinatown and mocked the martial artists in attendance before offering to fight any of them. Master Wong Jack Man took up the challenge and they agreed to meet at a neutral location.
When Wong Jack Man extended his hand for a pre-fight shake, Bruce Lee sneakily struck him in the face and that set the tone for an ugly confrontation which ended when a demoralized Lee was too winded to continue. In this version of the story, the outcome also inspired Bruce to completely and fanatically overhaul his training and his approach to fighting, ultimately leading him to the concept of Jeet Kune Do and unprecedented levels of martial skill.
Learning of this far more believable account felt so damn liberating for me! I am now free to let go of the lingering hero worship first cultivated in my childhood and accept that Bruce Lee probably got his ass kicked for being a preening phallocentric asshole.
What the Little Dragon gleaned from this experience is something most of us refuse to acknowledge, but it’s where all the lessons lie: If your tactics suck, change ‘em!
Mickey Z. is currently writing his 14th book, How to Lose Friends & Influence Nobody: My Life as an “Activist.” In the meantime, he can be found here.
What “activists” can learn from Bruce Lee: If your tactics suck, change ‘em! by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://worldnewstrust.com/what-activists-can-learn-from-bruce-lee-if-your-tactics-suck-change-em-mickey-z.