Sunday, December 23, 2012

A punch is just a punch

Bruce Lee is quoted as saying,

"Before I learned martial arts, a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. When I studied martial arts, a punch was no longer just a punch and a kick was no longer just a kick. Now I understand martial arts, and a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick."

I was thinking of this idea this morning as I was walking in the hills near Edinburgh in some wild weather.  Yesterday afternoon I had the great pleasure of a Skype conversation with a couple of great guys - Marc and Matt.  If you are  not familiar with them please check out their blogs:

 Marc - Feel Good Eating

Matt - Matt Metzgar Musings on Health & Other Topics

We spoke about a number of things but kept coming back to the simple ideas:  go to bed early, eat well, stand up straight, cultivate friendships, look on the bright side, get and stay strong, play.

Like Bruce Lee says, we can get ourselves so enmeshed in the complexities of programmes, diets, science, blogs etc that we need to come back to the simple things sometimes.  Yes there are scores of studies about the benefits of sleep ........ but that still means you need to sleep......we can learn so much about exercise and resistance training....but you still need to do it.  So much information, when we really just need to take some decisions, moment by moment.

Does that make sense?


Stuart Gilbert said...

It makes perfect sense. The hardest bit is switching off the computer, getting my backside off the couch and remembering to do it at times. Not getting enough sleep is my downfall, but I feel that it is the foundation that underpins everything else. I love the direction that you are going with these last couple of posts. Keep up the great work.

Chris said...

Thanks Stuart

Ondrej said...


Based on your experience with diets, would You rather recommend "Just eat real food", or would you still include some form of fasting to ensure weight loss? If we exclude calorie counting, I thought "Just eating real food" didn't really work out for You.

Anonymous said...

Counter balance Complexity with Simplicity :)

Chris said...


eating real food works out just fine. There is a clarification perhaps that if you want to go for extreme levels of leanness then you will need to achieve a calorie deficit, either counting calories or fasting. But in general for health and performance you can go a long way with just real food. If you want to finesse it then work out your calories, get enough protein to promote satiety and prevent the loss of lean mass.

The point of this post was not really diet, it was about how we tend to overcomplicate things and then come back to some simple almost obvious truths.

Ondrej said...

Yes, I understand now, thanks. I am as guilty as anyone else. Patience is underestimated.

Steven Sashen said...

I don't know if Bruce actually said that, but if he did he was paraphrasing a Zen saying that pre-dates him by centuries: Before Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers. During Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers. After Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers.

What I love about this saying is that it's LITERAL. That is, it's saying that after Zen NOTHING HAS CHANGED, nothing is special, nothing is magical. It just is exactly what it is. And, because of that, this saying is also letting you know that there's no need to go through any rigorous practice... just drop the idea that you, or anything else, needs to be "special," "improved," "advanced," etc. You (and everything else) are already everything you need to be.

What's the point of this tirade? Well, because most of us think that once we become lean, fit, or whatever your transformational goal is, we'll become magically different (certainly happier), that we won't be mountains or rivers any more.

Without that lie to sustain us, though, the path of exploring diet, fitness, etc. can be a LOT less stressful ;-)

Anonymous said...

Truth by nature is self evident As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it ,it shines clear

Drew Stearns said...

Good stuff Chris, as always.

I often wonder if it's worth the time trying to explain the physiological underpinnings of diet and exercise to people, rather than just giving them the bullet points. I suppose it depends on one's goals.

For instance, my own goal is to put on as much muscle as efficiently as possible. Learning some basic biochemistry and muscle fiber physiology has helped immensely in this regard (thanks, in part, to your blog!)

If my goal were to reverse the obesity epidemic, I wouldn't dare talk about the intricacies of glucose metabolism or skeletal muscle hypertrophy. What would I do? I'm not sure to be honest.

Maybe I'd create a salty, sweet, crunchy, chocolaty, caffeine-laced junk food. Something so incredibly addictive and unhealthy people would lobby their congressmen to draft legislation prohibiting its sales.

On the backside of this package of junkfood, I'd list a super-basic diet and exercise program, endorsed by a beautiful celebrity. Maybe I'd sell the first 10 million units at a loss, you know, to get people hooked.

I mean, this sort of thing worked for the Trojans, right?

Do you have any pie-in-the-sky ideas about how make people healthy?

Chris said...

Hi Drew.

How to make people healthy? I don't know. I think at one level people "know". Moving naturally, sleep, social life, minimising stress. However, it is about day to day decisions. By the way, I am still on a quest for more muscle and less fat but as time goes on, each incremental change is harder. Just maintaining muscle & losing a bit of fat is enough

Ondrej said...


If you think about it...we still know very little. I have some understanding of muscle anatomy, physiology,patophysiology...through med school. But in the end, there are only few valid principles of training. Like progressive overolad. Lot of stuff is just some speculation to sell ebooks. Many guys with poor exercise form who used strange equpiment from the latest commercial developed admirable physiques, while many exercise physiologists are average at best. Blogs dont usually provide good information, studies are also misleading and hard to control and interpret. If one decides to study, he should really pick the best sources like textbooks and learn from the best personal coaches..."Small poundage increases over period of time", as Skyler Tanner says.
I came to the blogosphere for that secret knowledge. Now I appreciate the basics and know what's necessary. and I am very grateful I found HIT and therefore I could focus on essentials instead of drowning in fitness world and following latest fad. It's not magic, but at least it's safe and fair investment for the outcome I can realistically expect that also respects the time frame in which the changes happen and is very time efficient.

Joe A said...


I don't think it is a matter coming back to the simple must arrive at them (from ignorance, to learning, then understanding). Simplicity is the destination because you have effectively removed everything but the essential elements. This is a process, like a sculptor chiseling away everything that is not the sculpture. you cant have the end product without the process of eliminating...the only way the punch is like a punch or a kick is like a to not know any different or learn (complicate it) and understand (simplify it)...

The context of that Bruce Lee quote lends perspective:

"Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation...To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is...Thus, contrary to other styles, being wise in Jeet Kune-Do doesn't mean adding more; it means to minimize, in other words to hack away the unessential.It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential."

I think things on the blogosphere get confusing b/c you have people chiseling away and documenting what and why they chiseled. Does that make sense? All the detail and minutia discussed is an effort toward "less wastage of expression". My exercise experience is as simple as its ever been...not because I "stuck to the basics" but because I identified and removed obstacles, constraints and the unessential fray...

Chris said...


Very helpful and perceptive. We do not consciously return to the basics, but find ourselves there when we strip away all of the useless stuff.

Chris said...

Happy Christmas to all by the way.

Drew Stearns said...

Ondrej - Excellent post. I agree completely.

Merry Christmas, all.

gingerzingi said...

I like this. My motto for 2013 is "more doing; less thinking about doing." I always seem to have time for endless speculation and introspection and not enough time spent actually doing the things. Hoping to change that this year!