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Time Capsules Of History
By Pete Kautz 2009

During the day I like to have music on while I'm working and my favorite radio station is National Public Radio.  In the years of listening to NPR I've become a confirmed classical music and opera fan.  When I hear Mozart, Paganini and Wagner I feel like I'm hearing the essential root of all the heavy metal I enjoy such as Therion and guitarists like Yngve Malmsteen.

The other thing you hear on NPR is great speakers on various contemporary subjects.  The other day I heard a man talking about Malcolm X, and his message was one that I wanted to share relating to the martial arts.

Basically, the speaker talked about Malcolm X's life and how over the years his views on different subjects changed.  How before his tragic assassination he was involved in a number of causes that were quite different from those he had earlier supported.  The speaker made the point that to miss Malcolm's personal evolution and freeze him in one moment in time was unfair to his memory.

This last point is what really hit home with me.  People naturally have a tendency to do this, to categorize people or pigeon-hole them in one certain way and ignore their personal evolution.  In the martial arts one person this has happened to perhaps more than any other is Bruce Lee.

Here was a dynamic individual who was making daily changes in the way he saw the world, the arts, and himself.  Look at that skinny 98 pound Chinese kid who went to university in the old photos, and then look at the Chinese Superman image we hold up today as if Bruce was born with nunchaku in his hand and 1% body fat.

Anyone who's studied his life seriously knows the kinds of major changes he went through.  You can not read his writings without getting this fact.  He constantly made notes to "investigate this or that topic" or to "discover what is the best answer to this situation".

But what was one man's evolutionary process then became a gospel to some.  They freeze it in time.  Today we just see the end result, the untouchable Iconic Bruce.  But to miss what brought Bruce The Man there is to miss out on what made him so special, and to miss out on how that can apply to our own lives.

Books and DVDs are another common source of this freezing of time.  Sometimes it's easy to forget when we pop a DVD in that it might have been shot 20 years ago!  For example, look at how many of Mr. Keating's tapes were produced in the early 1990's - like the groundbreaking American Blade Craft / Bowie knife series.

These are great tapes, full of quality info, but it also must be seen as early 90's info.  It is not state of the art 2009 info.  It is what Jim Keating was thinking about then.  When you go and train with him today, you'll find he does some things totally new, some things differently, some things similar, and some the same - as should be expected from any evolving person!

This seems obvious, but sometimes people will say "Oh, Keating just does XYZ" when what they should realize is "Back in 1991, he filmed XYZ".  It may or may not have any relationship to today!  This is the Reverse of what happened to Bruce.  People freeze Bruce in time at the end of his life, and they freeze Jim in an earlier time when a certain video was made.

On the other hand, with Jim's videos just think - if he was that good in 1991 how good do you think he is now after 18 years of refinement?  There are "masters" on video today who don't have a quarter of the skill he had 18 years ago! 

On a more personal level, think of how strange it would be if you met someone who believed you were exactly the same now as when they knew you 20 years ago!  Or think of how sad it would be to meet someone you knew from that time and realize that they are in limbo - still the same 18 year old in a 40 year old body, having never learned or evolved since that time.  Kind of sad, eh?

So, my point is that for us to learn from these examples of great men, we must not fixate on just one point in time and limit their memory or make them into a stereotype.  See these things as "chronological data points" and stepping stones to who they became, not as final absolutes.  That way we can learn, grow, and apply these lessons to our own lives!

All my very best to you,

Pete Kautz

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