The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, February 19, 2010

Empty Your Cup

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Aikido Journal.


A side effect of the author's job is that he must relocate every few years. To continue his martial arts training, he must fairly regularly enter a new dojo and a new way of doing things. 


The full article may be read here.

To truly empty one's cup is a difficult thing to do. Perhaps it is the first gate one must go through before achieving anything worthwhile.

If a dojo or instructor has the generosity to open the mat to us as a visitor or student we owe it to them to do things their way on the mat, not how we’d like to see them done. When entering a dojo it is critical to not only begin with an empty mind but to leave it open to new ideas. That seems obvious enough on its face but it is much more difficult to accomplish on the mat. My history with aikido leads me to conclude there are two factors that must be overcome to truly embrace an open mind; muscle memory and ego.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” is incorrect. Rather, it should read “practice makes permanent.” When we learn a given technique or simple movement we repeat it many times. The intent is to ingrain it in our minds so that it is second nature. As simple example is to cross your arms in front of your torso, then uncross them and recross them with the arm that was on the bottom on the top. You’ll most likely feel very uncomfortable crossing your arms in a manner you are not accustomed to. That is muscle memory. Eventually we hope to do our aikido movement without thinking about them, particularly should the need arise during a martial application. This is fine until we have the movement ingrained and then encounter someone that does the movement differently than we’ve been taught. It is important to note that differently is not necessarily incorrectly. If we do not consciously consider every nuance of the newly demonstrated method our bodies will unconsciously revert to what we know and have practiced best. In my experience, this is much more difficult when relearning a move than when learning it for the first time. In the latter case, before one can learn we must erase or at least overcome our previous experience.

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