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Be Like Water My Friend

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” - Bruce Lee

These are beautiful words on hand-to-hand combat by a man who spoke truths about the martial arts that no one before him truly understood. But what does he really mean with these words, and how do we implement them. 

“When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And, when there is an opportunity, I do not hit - it hits all by itself.” - Bruce Lee

This quote provides some more insight on what is being conveyed with his philosophies on fighting. When the opponent expands, attacks, moves forward, I contract, block, slip, evade. Every action has a reaction, and when an opening presents itself, our muscle conditioning should make us hit all on its own without thought. 

We all have differing ranges, depending on how long our limbs are or how we throw our shots. 

martial arts ranges
Let's think of these ranges like a flash light, your range is as long as you can shine light forwards and from each side. So if you and your opponent each have a flash light it would look like this. 
Typically we would stand just outside of each others ranges, or where our light ends. This is because it is a safe zone, and if you don't have any ability to dodge or make punches miss, then this is definitely your safe zone.
If you are a fighter that likes to stand in the pocket then you would be placing ourself in a position where both lights can shine on one another, or you are both in range.
Standing in the pocket
For the most part fighters avoid constantly standing in the pocket, instead picking and choosing when to be in range and when to be outside of range. 
However, what Bruce Lee is really talking about are understanding your opponents attributes. The biggest attributes to understand are range, timing and cadence.
Figure out range and you will understand at what distance you can and cannot be hit, while moving freely in between those ranges.
Figure out timing and you will know how fast each strike is thrown once the decision is made to throw.
Figure out cadence, the rhythm and tendencies of your opponents combinations, and you'll know exactly what is coming after the jab. Or if they throw a 1, 2, 3, low kick, if their cross get followed by a body shot, do they throw their low kicks without set ups, etc.

If one can understand all three then you can easily draw your opponent into dead space, the area where punches are missed, and let your weapons 'hit all by itself'.

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