Water is most likely the easiest element to understand when it comes to the Martial Arts. Anyone that has ever come in contact with any Bruce Lee material will know that he always encouraged students to “Be like water” and that was sage advice as water has the ability to fit into any container regardless of shape or size.
How does this translate into practical application?
Simply, one should move with fluidity. Breaking that down further, when performing an action you should never delay, act slowly or leave yourself exposed. Water (in nature) is generally always moving. Perhaps we may not see the surface motion but underneath there is constant movement. If you perform a punch with a lack of speed, it will be countered. If you perform a punch with a delay, you will miss your opportunity. If you leave a punch out after it has been performed, you are now a target.
Of course the information provided above adheres to the foundational teachings of Xing Lin Quan. Different martial arts styles may vary with their strike speeds and use delay tactics (feints) which apply to Xing Lin Quan as well however the strike proceeding any break in rhythm must still be fluid.
It is important to note that fluidity only comes with experience. A student will begin their martial arts training with stiff movements and this is absolutely natural. When you learn something new, especially in a kinetic (movement) form, the brain needs to create new neural pathways. For some people this occurs faster (previous experience or a natural aptitude towards physical activity) while for others it may take a longer amount of time. How quickly you progress is entirely up to how much you are willing to practice. Think of your progression as a rain drop that falls into a river which leads to a larger body of water; if any part of that process stops – nothing great will come of it.
On the topic of progression, fluidity also links to the progression of techniques. This is to be taken in two ways:
1) Self defence techniques will go from more simplistic to more advanced as you progress.
2) Each combat technique (block, kick, punch, hand sword etc) performed should easily flow into the next movement – this is economy in motion.
In conclusion, a student should always try to be like water. Whether you are at the stage of a rain drop, river or large body of water – your knowledge and movement will only improve through practice and practice will ensure your body moves exactly as required when you need it to. If you are interested you may read into how the earth and metal elements work in Xing Lin Quan too.