A Few Notes on Training/ Learning
I am always amazed at the power of a great story that can change a student’s outlook and thus his accomplishments. It usually means giving up some preconceived idea and looking at the world, at oneself in a whole new way.
The following are not great stories but some short notes than may help you break thru to a new level. Find one or two that you like and make them part of your personal training! Allow yourself to use them to make positive change.
The Beginning Student:
There was once a student who started martial arts a bite late. He was stiff and quickly fells behind his classmates. One day his Sensei commented that he “You are a very successful person, perhaps used to accomplishing your goals. There are some things however you allow to come naturally. Train daily and with good intent but you need to let go of what seems to me as a time line you seem you have to meet.”
The student said, “Sensei, but I am patient.”
The Sensei laughed and said, “This is not about patient which is calm enduring, but rather about giving yourself time to actively work toward your goal.”
The student seems not only to hear but to also let go of the time line he had set for his goal. Amazingly he within two months he was had caught back up with his peers and his stiffness, while still seen in his flexibility, disappeared in terms of his suppleness”.
Beware keeping your eye on the goal or the clock for that leaves only one eye to follow the path.
The dojo was filled with activity. The new student had been training only 3 years; his nearest sempai (senior) had been training 7 years. Sensei inspired his students, lead them and the student loved him – for his kindness: both when he was nice and when he was picking them apart. When with each little movement a flaw was pointed out.
Sensei had the new student over for a snack after class. A letter was waiting for Sensei when he arrived home – a letter from his dear friend who was in Tibet doing a medical mission in the remote part of the country. The student knew Sensei’s friend had been out of touch for several months and there were reports of violence in the area. Sensei set the letter aside and began fixing tea for him and the student.
The student made a pause in the conversation and asked if he should leave room so Sensei could read his letter, knowing if it was him, he would have torn the letter open and found out what was going on.
“Thank you but I did what I would have done had I been alone. One needs to use all of life to train, in this case conquer haste.”
The student knew enough to know that there was a lesson here. Sensei often hinted a something and if the student could ask the right question he would be helped to see the point. He had seen many students, even some of his sempai; miss the opportunity to ask Sensei a question. They missed the opportunity to take an active roll in their learning. “Sensei, I am not sure how conquering haste will help me.”
Sensei smiled and quietly said “Those who can control themselves and have patience in trivial things will have that same set of skills when the great and important things come around. My friend, who you have heard of once told me as a physician he had to treat both simple trauma (a girl falls off her bike) and catastrophic (mangled limbs and gunshot wounds) – yet they are both very much the same. If you work thru the simple trauma principles with the bike fall, then the those skills are there for the gunshot.”
“After you leave I when I have conquered my haste I will read this note from a precious friend.” Sensei finished.
Solve a problem while it is small is easy. To allow it to grow big makes it very challenging.
Know Your Limits
An middle aged, yudansha asked Sensei, over the meal they shared “Sensei, at 61 I think I am too old, too stiff to every achieve much in your Art. I have done karate before and could kick over my head. Those days are gone,” the student said with remorse.
Sensei smiled, “Thank you for honoring me with such a good question. One that applies to your personal training. First each of us rarely understands our true limits, we underestimate them. But that is a talk for a different time.”
“Rather I want you to consider that you will not learn anything until you accept yourself within your limitations. You are not 20 anymore true but you why do you need to kick to the head anyway. A kick to the knee can take some out very effectively. Everyone has limitations – part of your job is to learn to work within them. Instead of trying to do everything well, learn to do that which you can perfectly. Your yudansha training is broad, learn all the parts you are required but know where you excel. Also know that self-defense is part of the bottom line and you need to put the pieces together so that you cover all the bases. And the other part of my Art is your Kokoro, your mind, heart and spirit. Does your age limit you there? Or your precision? Or you kime? Or you joint locks?”
They both laughed and enjoyed the meal.
Lengthen Your Line
There is an old Chinese story about a student who often resorted to trickery to attempt to win on the mat. He also used stories, rumor and innuendo to put others down. Needless to say he was not that skillful and his methods quickly found out.
One day his Sifu pulled him aside, drew a line with chalk on the stone walkway. “Make this line shorter” Sifu said. The student erased part of the line.
Sifu drew a longer line next to the first line. “How does it appear now?” the Sifu asked. “Shorter” said the student.
“Yes, it is always better to lengthen your line [your skill or knowledge] than try to cut anothers. Hear what I am saying.” This motivated the student to spend his efforts improving himself rather than putting others down and developed into a fine martial artist.
Lengthen your line
Don’t Waste Your Time
A Zen priest was visiting with two lay students one was a merchant, the other a university professor. A third student raised the question about wasting time. The university professor said that ‘to spend time was to use it in a specific manner, while to waste time was to carelessly expend it.’.
The priest merely added – ‘once time has passed it is forever gone to us.’
The merchant said “I think of time as divided up into small transaction or contracts of a very precious commodity. As I have mediated for many years I have come to realize that when someone steals my time, they are taking my existence away from me. When I am asked to enter into a business transaction, I ask myself, do I want to spend the next several months of my existence making this transaction occur. I do the same with social relationships. If we will not pass time happily then I chose not to spend time with such people – I don’t let them steal my time’
The priest smiled and merely added ‘once time has passed it is lost to us forever.’
The University Professor got up and went into the other room and made a phone call. When he returned he bowed to the merchant – “I cancelled an appointment with someone who wanted to waste my time. Today sir, you were the teacher”
Each of use chose how we spend our existence. We may waste time with ‘friends’ who bring us not good or happiness or perhaps are just a social convention. We may mindlessly watch T.V. for hours a day even though it has been shown not to relax us. How much more could we get out of life if we used this time to train our kata or talk with our spouse or mediate or cross train or research something we want to know more about or mediate or just sit in the summer breeze and watch the sun set. Our choice.
“All men die, few ever really live” Braveheart