Zen in The Martial Arts, Joe Hyams

Good for: Anyone

Topics: Self-reflection, psychology, behaviour, goal setting

Find it on Amazon, here.

What I learnt

Oh, man…where do I start with a book like this? It was written by Joe Hyams, the highest-paid magazine writer in the world for a decade and the author of more than a dozen books. Before his writing career, he received the purple heart (!) and the bronze star for service in the US Army. 

While you might see “Zen” and “Martial Arts” in the title and give it a miss (believe me, I was thinking the same thing). The book is not about mastering a fighting discipline or style. It’s about a journey of self.

In 132 pages of easy reading, I do not think I’ve found a book which has made me pause for thought so many times. Through the teachings of his legendary masters, such as Bruce Lee, Bong Soo Hand and Ed Parker, Hyam’s Zen in The Martial Arts is about life and philosophy.

The book has taught me how to turn negative energy into positive, control over the interaction between the physical self and mind, and how to relax.

3 key takeaways

  • Teaching. To teach is to share, not to show. As written by Hyams (who quotes Ed Parker), if you show something to someone it becomes an exhibition and it will be pushed to the back of their mind and soon forgotten. However, if you share it with them they will retain it forever and you, the teacher, will also improve.
    When teaching others about finance, I have found it’s far better to share my story with them. Then, they can visualise the journey and understand why something happened.
    I know many investors who know how to do something (e.g. value a business) but many of them fail to know why it’s done. It’s this ‘why’ that transcends time, not the ‘how’.
  • Empty your cup. Empty your mind of past habits, knowledge and speculation if you want to try something new. You can never truly achieve your best if you do not empty your mind and open it to new learning.
    “Nothing is impossible to a willing mind” – books of Han Dynasty.
  • Control your emotions or they will control you. If we are aggressive or hostile towards another person, we inspire the same emotions in return. It’s ok to have these emotions but don’t let them control your actions because they will reflect on others. It will develop into an internal and external snowball of negative energy.

I’ll leave you with some brief quotes:

“I have come to see that enlightenment simply means recognising the inherent harmony of ordinary life.” – Hyams

“To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner…to waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly.” – Bruce Lee

“Anyone who steals my time is stealing my life because they are taking my existence from me.” – Stirling Silliphant

“I can defeat you physically with or without a reason. But I can only defeat your mind with a reason.” – Jim Lau

“Too much concentration defeats itself.” – Jim Lau