The Usefulness of the Teacup is in its Emptiness

A learned man once went to a Zen teacher to inquire about Zen. As the Zen teacher explained, the learned man would frequently interrupt him with remarks like, “Oh yes, we have that too…”. Finally, the Zen teacher stopped talking and began to serve tea to the learned man. However, he kept on pouring, and the tea cup over-flowed. “Enough!” the learned man once more interrupted. “No more can go into the tea cup!” “Indeed, I see”, answered the Zen teacher. “If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

I hope my comrades will read the following paragraphs with open-mindedness, leaving all the burdens of preconceived opinions and conclusions behind – this act, by the way, has in itself a liberating power – on the other hand, do relate this article to yourself because although it is about JKD, it is primarily concerned with the blossoming of a martial artist – and not a “Chinese” martial artist, a “Japanese” martial artist, and so forth, and so on. A martial artist is first a man, which we ourselves; nationalities have nothing to do with martial art. I am asking you not to accept or nor to deny what is said; all I ask is that you suspend judgement and listen choicelessley.

Supposing several persons who are trained in a different combative arts have just witnessed a fight. I am sure we will hear different versions of it afterwards. The consequence is quite understandable, for one cannot see a fight “as is” because he will see the fight according to the limits of his particular conditioning-say from the point of views of a boxer, a wrestler, a karateka, a judoka, a gung fu man, or anyone who is trained in a particular method. Every attempt to describe the fight is really an intellectual and emotional reaction, a partial idea of the total fight; in this case, the reaction depends on one’s likes and dislikes. Fighting is not something dictated by your conditioning as a Korean martial artist, a Chinese martial artist, and so forth, and so on. True observation begins when one is devoid of favorite set patterns, and freedom of expression when one is beyond systems.

Bruce Lee, Artist of Life

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