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.
necessitates reflection on several levels. On the surface, water most often 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 perpetual embrace, our first
level of understanding invokes the conceptual contradiction that even while yielding to our opponent's strength, we embrace him and his directed energy, in
the end, eroding 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 engaging the water principle
, our movement becomes one with his. We, move together as one. Each apart, but each integral to the movement of the other. In the end, there is only the one.
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 can not make the wrong choice about flow.
The martial artist is like water in its endless quest for the sea. There are innumerable options 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 right. 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." These 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 threaten his or her very
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.