It is nature's way that water always follows the most efficient path to its end. It cannot do
otherwise! Still, as the course is run, barriers and obstacles arise, which at first, appear to impede its flow.
The inherent efficiency of what occurs may not always be apparent.
Understanding the water principle
necessitates reflection on several levels. On the surface -- water represents "gentle" energy, always yielding, soft and comforting. Yet, its very gentleness makes it the great shaper of nature!
Just as water shapes mountains and canyons with its gentle embrace -- our
first level of understanding invokes the concept/contradiction that even while yielding to our opponent's strength, we embrace him and his directed energy --
in the end, diluting his focus. When he thrusts, we recede, when he retreats, we fill the void -- this is the water principle. Though we are apart from our opponent, by applying the water principle
, our movement becomes one with his. We, together, are one. Each apart, but each causing the movement of the other. In the end, there is only one movement ... one flow.
The next level addresses the matter of flow. Water in its course is free to flow in any direction -- there are unlimited choices and possibilities -- but always the most efficient path is found,
regardless of the obstacles confronted. Water cannot make the wrong choice about flow.
The martial artist is like water in its endless quest for the sea. There are innumerable choices and
endless obstacles. Like water, if the martial artist conducts his search with a true heart and an impeccable spirit -- any choice he makes and any path he undertakes will bring him closer to his
goal. As with water -- issues of success or failure, correctness or incorrectness become meaningless. If the heart is true and the spirit is impeccable, the course will be appropriate. All else
loses meaning. All else is distraction.
The third level of understanding is where we become exactly as water -- totally fluid and perfectly
integrated with our surroundings. Thoughts about victory and defeat -- are questions pertinent to
"ego" and "self" -- which dissolve when the martial artist arrives at the "experience" of the water principle
. Note I did not have the martial artist arriving at an "understanding" of the water principle. He does not know the water principle by "understanding" it. He either experiences it or
does not. There are no alternatives. When one experiences the water principle, the "one" who "understands" the water principle
no longer exists and is of no consequence. Victory and defeat become meaningless alternatives when one "experiences" the water principle and responds with
the appropriate counter for every situation. Once the water principle has been mastered, there can be no wrong move.
So -- when describing the characteristic that one following the water principle
always makes the
correct choice no matter what he decides to do -- we are faced with a paradox. The martial artist, in becoming perfectly fluid and one with the flow of the
universe, makes the "right" move no matter how he moves. To the uninitiated, it would seem being locked into the "perpetually correct" course through the water principle
would cause the martial artist to lose freedom of choice and thus his reason for existence. The reality is that distinctions become meaningless -- and
debates over freedom of choice --and what is right or wrong are left to the philosophers while the martial artist flows on by -- unaffected by the obstructions.