“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” –Bruce Lee
This is a famous quote by Bruce Lee, the creator of Jeet Kune Do.
A martial arts philosopher, Lee inspired many people to follow and believe in their own path; to forge a personalized expression that will unleash their maximum potential in whatever discipline they pursue.
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless…” he advised.
The first half of this sentence tells us to be eclectic when required and not be trapped by dogma.
“Absorb” also means to practice and acquire a component of martial arts so many times, to the point of owning it.
To make our expression second nature.
However, when it comes to discarding, we have to exercise caution.
Discarding does not mean to ignore or avoid completely.
On the contrary, when it comes to the martial arts, discarding something requires us to first master that very craft, skill or ability.
Let us consider the different levels of “discarding”.
When any specialist or master with thousands of hours of practice under his belt uses the word “discarded”, it tends to have a very different meaning as compared to someone who hasn’t really had at least some form of formal training or expertise on the component that is being discarded.
For example, when an expert in trapping “discards” trapping, it is probably because he has been through that route thousands of times.
He knows how to bypass or “not use” trapping according to his assessment of the situation.
He could say that he has discarded trapping, but that really means that he has become good enough to “not use” it.
He knows how to “not use” it with the goal of becoming more efficient; waste less.
He has solved the equation down to its simplest form, and at any stage of that equation that he deems necessary to ultize his “discarded” trapping, he can simply add it back in.
One example of this would be Disengaged Trapping, where we only trap according to how much of it is required (the goal is still to hit).
When a novice or someone without mileage says to “discard”, or chooses to avoid trapping entirely because either he read somewhere or someone told him that trapping is to be “discarded”, then it is funny, because to discard something you need to actually own it in the first place.
JKD is “simple”, but you can’t just claim to have achieved the depths of simplicity without mastering the simplification process.