I have been a martial artist for over 30 years and in those decades of training, study, and personal growth, I have become somewhat of a philosopher of sorts. One of my favorite martial arts philosophers is Bruce Lee. Mr. Lee was an actual philosopher as well as the real deal when it came to being a martial artist. He was so much more than the popular culture of the world made him out to be.
I want to share a couple of his ideas because they capture so well my personal philosophy about tenkara. These quotes came from an interview with Pierre Burton in 1971.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. Pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup. Pour water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. Pour water into a teapot, It becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be like water my friend.”
In my mind this is the essence of my tenkara. It is fluid, adaptable, and open to new ideas and change.
I use my tenkara fishing to honestly express myself. It is a way for me to ebb and flow with the stream, the fish, the man I am, the man I want to become. I simply use the tenkara rod and techniques to explore my own knowledge and skills. It is after all just another form of knowledge that I use like my martial arts to expand my mind, heart, and spirit.
Ultimately all knowledge is self knowledge. I could simply emulate or copy my teachers or what I have seen or been taught or I can take those teachings and internally as well as externally explore and further refine the skills and philosophies into my own being and create something new, unique, and deeply personal. My search for knowledge becomes self knowledge. I am honestly expressing myself without lying to myself about who I truly am through my tenkara. My color of ten colors of tenkara.
My tenkara is always evolving, growing, changing. Instead of simply mimicking the masters or freely and haphazardly swinging my rod around in the sky and calling what I am doing tenkara, I am internalizing what I have been taught by teachers, and what I am discovering as self knowledge into something that is honestly an expression of the human being I am.
It does not matter if I choose to follow the strict doctrine of the masters or freely explore the limits of the method. I am more than a collection of dogmas, I am human, complex, and ever changing. I am not a traditional or new method tenkara angler, I am simply John, and I am brining all of my life experience, skills, knowledge, and ideals to my tenkara. That is who I am and how I relate to you as one human being to another.
Flowing water never grows stale…Be like water my friend.