Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Profound Impact of Experience

In the Summer of '69 Brian Adams bought his first guitar. In the Summer of '96 I travelled to France for the first time. How are these two things similar? At first glance they don't seem to have anything at all in common. But, I believe that if we look closely enough at seemingly unrelated events, eventually we can find something that they have in common. The example given above is no different. Both events profoundly changed the lives of the individuals involved and impacted the lives of many others there after. I  don't mean to compare myself to a famous musician or imply that we have made the same global impact. However, the chain of events that have occurred since travelling to France in 1996 has shaped who I am today just has finding the guitar in 1969 did for Brian Adams. And, to be honest with you, I just wanted to find a way to use "in the Summer of '69" and "in the Summer of '96" in some meaningful way. The rest of this post will be more serious, and this will connect to my point, I promise.

Our Lives are Shaped by our Experiences
It is no secret that our experiences shape us. Our training in the martial arts makes us aware of this fact more quickly than someone who has never trained because training in the martial arts is really a process of self-cultivation that develops, among other things, our levels of self-awareness. With our heightened sense of self-awareness we are able to take away important lessons from our experiences and productively apply them to our lives. Through the process of 心技体 Shin Gi Tai; developing and strengthening the connection between our mind and body through the repetitive practice of specific techniques we develop, not only stronger bodies but also a stronger sense of self. The more I reflect on my past experiences the more I am able to get out of them, making their continued impact more profound to me.
(Shin Gi Tai, written by the Author, 2014)

In the past couple of years, specifically, I feel like I am able to process information differently than I ever could before. In doing so, I am seeing things more clearly than ever before. I am of the opinion that regular martial arts training such as karate-do can help people reach this level of perception more quickly. I recently saw a speech by Google's innovator Tom Chi on the Internet and in this speech he outlines 3 learning gaps that he feels people need to cross in order to become proficient in whatever endeavour they are pursuing. I would like to share these three learning gaps with you and ask that you think about how you can relate them to your karate-do training and self-development in the martial arts. If you have already seen the speech I am talking about, you are already one step ahead and can probably see connections in other areas in your life as well. If you haven't seen this yet please take a moment to check it out.

In this talk he introduces the concept that "knowing is the enemy of learning." That once we know something we stop learning any more about it. Chi stresses that we must force ourselves to be in a constant state of 'learning' rather than 'knowing'. This is a concept that intrigues me, especially as a martial artist. Jesse Enkamp sends the same message in his blog posts and videos, that we must "learn and keep learning because the day you stop learning is the day you stop living." Please take a look at the full video on the "Art of Karate" by Jesse when you have a chance. I am sure you will be able to relate to his message in a very authentic way, as I have.

Re-addressing 素直 Sunao
In an earlier post I talked briefly about the concept of 素直 Sunao. At that time the best translation I could present was obedience. I know that this did not satisfy some of my readers. I tried to explain it more clearly, but fell short. Perhaps this is a better description of what it means to be Sunao? If we consider that we are not being submissive to someone else but rather in a 'state of Sunao', that is to say, to be in a constant 'state of learning' the definition can take on a whole new meaning. Although the words meek and docile are also related to the term sunao, in my experience in the martial arts context this meek obedience is not the point. One must not fall victim to the misconception that they already know something and become passive or in their approach to learning. This is especially important after we become teachers of karate-do. As I have said before the words of my first karate-do Sensei, Micheal Delaney are ringing in my ears as I write this, we must "humble ourselves to our training." I believe he was talking about sunao when he said this. Although the conversation happened many years ago, the experience and his advice continue to impact my training and my life even today.

The 道 (Michi) of 空手道
Growth, development, art, innovation, and so many more amazing things are all processes and not static states of being. We are constantly learning, growing, and developing until we become comfortable. It is at this point that we stop learning according to Chi and Enkamp. The ability to continue to push ourselves to strive for more to force ourselves to not stay too long in the comfort zone is what I believe self-cultivation to be and it is this intrinsic motivation to improve ourselves and our conditions which leads to the various successes in our lives. In my opinion, this is the 道 michi in the 空手道 karate-do. The more we can connect the things around us through practice and experience the more clearly we will see the path we must take and although it my be difficult it will always be the one we are supposed to be on.

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