Down, But Not Out

Above is a well known Zen quote, “fall down seven times, get up eight”… and did I take a major fall this summer.

I am more determined than ever in my journey in the martial arts, and that led to a rather intense training regiment that I followed for five days a week. I started to feel what I can only describe as a tightness in my left calf muscle, but I shrugged it off as a minor annoyance and increased the intensity of my training.

Lesson 1: Listen to your body!
I paid the price for not listening and at least going easy on the kicking drills. During a training session I pivoted to kick with my right leg and felt an unnerving “pop” in my left calf. At first there was no pain, but it was more than obvious I could no longer put any weight on it (the pain came about 5 minutes later). A trip to the ER two hours later proved I tore the muscle and would have to stay off my feet for a minimum of a week. This was frustrating to say the least. I was unable to walk without assistance and it took nearly five days before I could support my own weight on the bad leg. I still can’t pivot on the foot and certain movements stand as a constant reminder of my mistake. It will probably be another week or two before I can include kicking in my training regiment.

Seven times down, eight times up
“Include?”, you may say. Correct. I never stopped training. I went stir crazy after less than 24 hours of not being able to walk to the bathroom without it being an ordeal. I found I was able to travel around my house on my hands and knees way faster than I could on crutches… so that became my new mode of travel. I’m sure it was hysterical to watch.

With my new mode of travel I realized I could pretty much do whatever I wanted so long as it didn’t involve engaging that particular calf muscle. I sat down to come up with a list of what I could do to continue training on some level. Kicks were certainly out… but that doesn’t stop me from pulling up a chair to my heavy bag and working on some punching drills.

trainingPictured here on the left is the workout regiment that I came up with. Every drill and exercise here allows me to work around the fact that I can’t stand up under my own support. I’ve included situps, half kettlebell getups, pushups while being braced on my knees (the regular way would aggravate my injury), as well as various hand drills including basic block and counters and using a jook wan ring to refine my form.

“If I fall I will get back up. If I am beaten I will return”

The whole point of my experience here is to hopefully teach you to carry on in the face of adversity: whether its an injury or something more personal in your life. With a little thought, less whining, and more action you will see more progress than you ever thought imaginable. So many of Bruce Lee’s teachings come back to this very point and I can think of a number of quotes to support it:

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
Stop talking, stop thinking and just do. I like to say, “Ready, FIRE, Aim… then FIRE again!” If you keep talking about a thing, you will never get it done.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
This is a classic Bruce Lee quote, with the last sentence probably being his most famous line. He is essentially saying that sometimes, a head on approach is not going to work for a particular obstacle in life. You need to think outside the box to overcome it. Be like water.

When it’s path is blocked, water will build up and pool behind the object blocking it. This is akin to resting: taking a step back and assessing the situation. Think about it. What can you do to get past this roadblock? Now eventually one of two things will happen. The first is that enough water will build up behind this object that the pressure against it will cause the object to give way; allowing it to continue on unobstructed. This could mean that you merely need to gather your strength. I could have taken this approach. Simply waiting out my injury and allowing myself to heal. Or maybe the second thing will happen…

The water will continue to build behind this object until it finds another way around it and flows down this new path. I decided on a training regiment that allowed me to work around my injury, rather than waiting it out.

Be like the river making its way down from the mountains to the ocean. Let nothing stand in your way.

Be like water, my friends.

- Dan Sorber is the owner and instructor at Fight Club Martial Arts in Rehoboth Beach. He is ranked an advanced instructor in both Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai and has studied numerous other styles including Wing Chun, Shaolin Lohan, Tae Kwan Do and Isshinryu Karate. He can be reached at 302-396-7438 or
His school offers martial arts lessons in both Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai and instructs all ages


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