The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

“You haven’t yet opened your heart fully, to life, to each moment. The peaceful warrior’s way is not about invulnerability, but absolute vulnerability–to the world, to life, and to the Presence you felt. All along I’ve shown you by example that a warrior’s life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is a warrior’s sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death.” –Dan Millman

In the movie, Bruce Lee’s character “tricks” the other character in order to avoid fighting him. It’s not that he’s afraid to fight him, it’s that there really is no point in fighting him just to prove he can beat him. He knows he can beat him. But he would rather teach him a lesson. Hence the art of fighting without fighting requires tricking the situation somehow. It’s having the wherewithal to rise above the situation, using metamind. It’s not only having the capacity to outthink one’s opponent, it’s also the ability to out-reason one’s own emotions (i.e. rising above feelings of anger, jealousy, or revenge). It’s a kind of emotional alchemy one must master in the moment in order to get a grip on the situation before it escalates into violence.

Bruce Lee

Here’s the thing: Acting violently in a violent culture only perpetuates violence. Similarly, acting immorally in an immoral society just perpetuates immorality. Unhealthy acts beget unhealthy acts. Like  Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Lest the whole world goes blind, eventually someone wise enough must wake up, swallow their pride, think wisely instead of emotionally, and put a stop to the vicious cycle. One who implements the art of fighting without fighting is precisely the one who ends the violent and immoral cycle. The tactics and methods one uses in practicing this art can be myriad and far-reaching, and always depend on the situation.

The key is to find a middle ground. In a violent culture, the worst thing you can do is to react violently (violence should only ever be used as an act of self-defense, and even then used only as a last resort). The second worst thing you can do is to remain complacent and allow atrocities to occur. The best course of action is to be proactively non-violent through strategic and wise civil disobedience.

Similarly, in an immoral society, the worst thing is to be immoral and commit atrocities. The second worst thing is to remain too moral (goody-two-shoes, blind-faith, status quo junkies) and simply allow atrocities to occur. The best course of action is to react amorally through tactical civil disobedience against the immoral system, or by  counting coup in humorous non-violent ways.

Civil disobedience is similar to “tricking” someone who wants to fight into not fighting. It’s outsmarting the bully, whether that bully is the schoolyard variety or an overreaching cop, or the State itself. Like Howard Zinn wrote, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.” We solve the problem of civil obedience by implementing the art of fighting without fighting on the powers that be. Humorously shaming the system (tricking it) into becoming healthier is far superior and moral to using fear tactics and violence which is inferior and immoral.

The non-violent, amoral agent practicing the art of fighting without fighting is the key to undermining both violence and immorality because this particular agent is the one using the art of fighting without fighting like a surgeon’s scalpel to slice open the Achilles’ Heel of the violent and immoral system. Not by attacking or harming humans, but by attacking and harming the unhealthy infrastructure (both psychological and physical) that is holding up the violent and immoral system.

The art of fighting without fighting is a celebration of trickery and satire, not guns and violence. It’s the understanding that a violent person is almost always a symbol of failure. Violence is immature at best, and deadly at worst. True courage isn’t blowing up a hostile tank, it’s counting coup on your enemy in hilarious ways. It’s tricking your “opponent” into boarding a dingy so you can fight him on a nearby island, but then pushing the dingy away from the boat before boarding it. It’s making fun of yourself better than the bully did. It’s becoming the sponge, absorbing the worst the system can dish out, and then wringing it out in imaginative, paradigm crushing, comfort zone stretching, box-flattening ways. It’s mocking Power itself. It’s laughing at authority and using a sincere sense of humor to dethrone self-seriousness.

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