The Chinese principle of Wu Wei or Non-Action is often misunderstood and seen as a weak or passive strategy. Often the brilliance of this thinking is overlooked or underrated.
The concept is often explained with the example of the mighty oak tree breaking in half during a raging storm, while the lowly bamboo tree lays down under the pressure, and yet stands up and continues to grow the following day.
Indeed, it is better to “go with the flow” and yield to a stronger and more powerful force in order to come back and fight another day. Reengage when you have certain key principles on your side like the element of surprise, superior firepower and timing all coming to bear at a specific time and place of your choosing.
In the Chinese martial arts, they have a drill called Chi Sao, which is also known as “Sticky Hands” or “Pushing Hands”. (Although similar they really have major differences between them but too much detail for this article)
The purpose of these drills is to learn to sense the oncoming force of your opponent and redirect the attack until the timing is right for your fluid counterattack. These drills teach some valuable lessons such as maintaining your own balance while destroying your opponent’s and developing the ability to sense the openings and vulnerability in your opponent’s timing and technique.
This principle of “going with the flow” until the perfect time to act arrives, is a key factor in success in the martial arts, business, investing and even in personal relationships.
In marketing, the most successful businesses find a niche that does not put them up against the “big dogs” in the industry and allows them to dominate their space.
Businesses also find their own space at different price points either coming in low, high or offering special products or services to differentiate themselves from the competition, thus yielding to the power of their major competitors and using “change body” in order to go around that strength and control their market niche.
In relationships, it is demonstrated by not getting upset over the little things, “going with the flow” and to use another euphemism, “picking your battles”. Focus on the most important issues in any relationship.
I think Sun Tzu said it best when he emphasized the idea of never engaging in a battle that you are not sure you are going to win. Brilliant! Success is indeed based on timing and yielding until you know the odds are on your side. A simple concept, but hard to maintain and implement as a successful martial artist.
Wu Wei is a key element on the road to Martial arts Mastery.