Several months ago I watched a program on TV about Bruce Lee's Philosophy of Life. As a student and instructor in martial arts, he had come to the conclusion that styles and formulae are inherently flawed and can block your ability to be like water, as he put it. Water, in his mind, was a great thing to emulate. I heard him say that if you pour water into a glass the water becomes the glass. If you pour water into a teapot it becomes the teapot. He went on to say many things about the attributes of water. I was taken in by how passionate he was on wanting his students to step away from formulae and get in touch with their instinct and become the movement. He spoke of knowing how to deal with the broken rhythms and unpredictability of an opponent and use it as your great asset of strength and he felt that martial arts did not deal with these conditions. Martial arts he felt had become stuck in tradition and become blocked and less than it could be. I got the feeling he would have said it had lost the water energy he had been speaking of earlier. And that students who have mastered a school had not become everything that they could be because the rules stood in the way of their greatness.
Bruce Lee’s feelings on the subject of formulae were also how I felt about what I had witnessed in my own world of horse training. In general, horse trainers that follow formulae, no matter how accomplished, were uncomfortable with unpredictable behavior which creates a feeling of being lost and unsure of how to respond. The format of the seven Waterhole Rituals fixes the problems inherent in other formulae by creating a situation with the horse that, when you don’t quite know what you are doing, using trial and error will bring you to a positive result. This way you learn how to work with unpredictable responses from the horse, which will bring out ultimate horsemanship skills.
These rituals and ceremonies are similar to the exercises in martial arts called Katas, except they are companionship activities rather the pursuit of an opponent. Katas are exercises of movements slowed down in a rhythmic form that you would use to stop an opponent in hand to hand combat. The interaction with horses is similar to Katas in that they are exercises slowed down in a rhythmic movement that you would use to create leadership in harmony. However, the horse may choose to behave at any speed he wishes and the human can control this in a very timely and slow response. This way humans can take their time to think, act and respond accurately.
I believe my greatest asset is how comfortable I am when I haven’t a clue what I am going to do next. I just know how to flow in the interaction that works for me from a natural understanding of horses and the language of movements. This is where I put my focus when developing people in the art of horsemanship. Once my students have made the all important connection, formulas and style then become extremely helpful. All information becomes valuable. When you have developed your natural abilities to be able to handle unpredictable behavior, formulae do not get in the way and become supportive. Horses should be handled like water when water is an ocean wave. An ocean wave cannot be controlled but surfers can ride a wave with a connection that is magical. When you allow a horse total freedom you can shape his behavior to achieve a willing performance without force. Then you have become a master in the art of horsemanship.
I look forward to speaking with you on Thursday.