Home > Karate, Philosophy, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized > Letting The Force Pass

Letting The Force Pass


Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength. What is more malleable is always superior over that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaption.

~Lao – Tzu~

When I began my career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons back in 1991 we were taught basic self-defense during our initial training. The self-defense moves we were taught were based on the ancient art of Aikido. Although we weren’t actually taught Aikido itself, the BOP thought that even one of the most gentle of the arts was far too “violent” to teach its’ employees, the taste of it gave me sufficient desire to actually take classes in it after I returned to Leavenworth.

Let The Force Pass. That is one of the underlying principles of the art. In letting the force pass, you yield to an oncoming force in such a way that it is unable to harm you and, at the same time, change its’ direction by pushing it from behind instead of attempting to resist it from the front. You never fight your opponent’s strength. Instead you redirect that strength away from you.

The essence of Aikido is the principle of avoiding conflict and never opposing an attacker’s strength head-on.  This can be used in everyday life and not just in self-defense situations . Bruce Lee was famous for saying “Become like water. Flow like it. If you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup”.

I have a friend, Jim Fleming. Jimmy is a great guy. He’s a devoted father and husband and a dedicated teacher and student of the Okinawan karate style of Isshinryu. Jimmy is a fourth degree black belt and has a quiet, laid back personality. Yet if you meet him you can sense a great power within him just below the surface.

Jimmy was a Lieutenant at my institution for a while. We both had a love for karate and the martial arts and that’s how we became friends. We would spend a lot of evenings at the front gate of the complex, where I was assigned at the time, having conversations about karate.  He eventually came to my dojo and started teaching a class of his own. My youngest daughter studied under him until he was transferred closer to his home. We still stay in contact today.

One of the remakable things about Fleming Sensei was, as I mentioned, his laid back personality. There simply weren’t a lot of things that could get under his skin. I remember a time when, for some unknown reason, the local Union at the prison took a severe disliking to him. They tried everything they could to file on him or get him fired. It got to the point that they were like flies buzzing around a trash can to him. I, and most of the other officers, began questioning them as to why they had taken such a dislike to Jim. We could not for the life of us get a straight answer. I remember the Union President making a statement about Jimmy that went something like “That piece of trash. We’re gonna get him.” On hearing that I told the guy point blank that Jimmy was one of the best Lieutenants that we had at the joint and that the majority of officers there agreed with me.

It went on to the point that the stress finally got to Jimmy. He was sent to the ER suffering from an apparent heart attack. Thankfully, it was some weird muscle spasms and he was ok. The doctor still made him stay home for three days. I asked him why he simply rode with the flow and didn’t fight back or make a stand. Jimmy simply shook his head and said, “It will pass”.

It did pass and life went on. Jimmy actually inspired me to become a Lieutenant myself. He was also a good friend when I went through some very trying times in my life. I have always said that even though I never took one single formal class from him, Jimmy was one of my Sensei.

How many times in life are we faced with what seems to be overwhelming odds? We fight and we fight and the situation simply seems to get worse. We take the force that is directed at us and meet it with force of our own. We make no headway and it just gets more and more complicated and extreme.

I’m the kind of person who often cannot let go of something. I’ve always had a strong sense of right and wrong and have never been too shy to voice my opinion on things. This, coupled with my Irish – Southern heritage, has sometimes been detrimental to me. I remember once I was in the middle of a situation at work that I would not give up on. The administration was just as stubborn as I was on the subject and the situation was developing the possibility to become very negative on my career. A friend of mine, who was also raised in the south, took me to the side and said to me, “Jim, you can beat your head against a wall until it’s bloody and hurts. Then, sometime, you have to have the sense to find another wall to bang your skull on”. I thought about that for a bit and saw the logic in it and walked away.

Sometimes we have to let go of something. We have to just release it to the universe and let karma do as it will. If we hold on and keep fighting, things get worse. We also become very bitter, not only to others but to ourselves as well. It’s bad for your spirit. Sometimes we have to let the force pass.

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  1. July 6, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Letting go frees up our arms to enfold the joys awaiting just around the corner!

  2. July 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

    the first thing I’ve learned in Kung Fu was that it’s a source of cultivating the spirit, expanding the mind & developing the character before being a self defense mechanism.
    it’s about energy; releasing the positive will always bring back more of the positive…
    thanks for the enlightenment here….peace & Light

  3. July 18, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Excellent as always. 🙂

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