You need to relax if you're going to confront or by confronted by someone physically, especially if they're a foot taller than you and have 100lbs on you. That's the 2 cent take-away from 詠春 (Wing Chun). It's the only way you can be aware enough - or sensitive enough - to figure out what to do, and what to ignore.
It turns out this principle is ridiculously useful in life; that is the parallels with this principle in everyday life actually make life much easier to do successfully and with integrity. As are a some other principles from 詠春:
It's important to keep one's basic "structure" intact. In Zen we can call that a constancy of practice. In 詠春, if we act, we're acting from our "core." Likewise, in 詠春, although the force used arises from the 丹田
(that point below the navel you know about as the tanden), you're centered through your feet.
A strong force is never directly opposed; it is diverted, or one moves around it. This is one of the most useful things I've seen/absorbed. Someone responding to me in anger or rage does not have to be met with anger or rage, if only because it's freaking useless and a waste of energy to do so. It is "being like water," as that famous student of 葉問 (Yip Man) pointed out. Bruce Lee might have seemed silly saying these things in movies, but the guy did study philosophy when at the university. And the funny thing is, these apparent
dime-store dollar-store aphorisms can be used in real life.
Likewise, when the opportunity arises, go directly to the center; and defend your center. In everyday life, we might have to wait days or weeks or months for the opportunity, but we should take it when it arises.
I cannot tell you how useful it is to generalize these notions in everyday life. I do think that the approach of the folks at the Mountains and Rivers Order (don't tell me about their historical issues) has merit here: Zen should be applied in all aspects of one's life, and one's Zen practice should be informed by other aspects of one's life. Doing something that you can apply positively to all aspects of your life is helping all beings. And in practicing these principles, one definitely experiences what used to be called a "paradigm shift" in one's view of one's self. Not 悟りor 見性 (satori or kenshou) but it can feel now and then like the Day the Universe Changed. Yet we still don't know what we don't know, so that feeling isn't always entirely useful.
It's also increasingly why I'm not so enamored of "causes" or "engagement," as I've written previously. So very much of that stuff being written or discussed is just so unaware of actually how to do anything useful. It's not surprising - it's not something widely disseminated in our culture.
While this post was bubbling around in my head, I came across this article in the NY Times on the apparent increasing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts. The NY Times, in its corporate persona as arbiter of all things of the trend, seems to have pronounced that MMA is to young men as yoga is for women and other older people, and places the blame/origin for this on the movie "Fight Club." While "Fight Club" was a pretty good movie (and therefore roundly denounced by right-wing fundamentalist Christians in the US), I'm not sure of this data as presented by the NY Times. I'm sure MMA is popular today, and I'm sure a big aspect of this is its violence. But from the folks I know in 詠春, I know this: It is useful to know about other styles and aspects of martial arts. In reading that Times article, I thought, this certainly has aspects of pointless spectator sport violence, but it is arguably better than WWF. Besides, anyone who's read anything about this stuff or seen it does get to think silly thoughts after a while, such as just what would happen if a kick-boxer fought a sumo wrestler?
MMA? I never watch it. I think the NY Times is just "style pronouncing" again. I think at least some of the people who watch MMA are looking at something they cannot do themselves, and as such, it's a distraction (and a violent one at that). It's better to learn to do something yourself. It might help other areas of your life. So if one were learning MMA, one might become more peaceable. I mean, it's the case with 詠春 - as someone told me, the more one knows of it the more one is reluctant to actually get in a real physical fight, because if one skilled in the art does enter into such a fight, at least one of the fighters will be effective, and that means someone will get hurt. Luckily, it doesn't have to get that way most of the time.