Empty Cup

By , September 8, 2011 12:56 pm

One of the things that is fundamental about Aikido is that it is more than a martial art useful in defending yourself. It provides great exercise, a chance to make friends, a way to deal with stressful situations possibly without physical contact, a way to help yourself be a better person, and a lifelong course of study.

As you progress through the ranks your breadth of understanding expands. Each time we revisit a technique or discuss a principle your understanding of it changes, rises to a new level. You then apply your new understanding to a familiar technique or principle and you learn something new or have a better understanding of it.

That’s why I encourage you to come to each class with an “empty cup”. Whatever is being taught there is something to be learned. When you say to yourself, “I’ve seen this before or I know what this is about” your mind is closed and very little will be gained. But, if you open your mind and allow yourself to “see” the technique as if for the first time then you have opened your mind to the possibility of growth and a new understanding. It’s hard to do and in the beginning it has to be a conscious effort, but the reward is a greater understanding.

This same “empty cup” approach can be applied to your training partner. Every partner has something to offer you as you practice a technique. That is why it is vital to train with as many different people as possible. There was a time early on in my training when I preferred to work with only a handful of other students. They were “easier” to work with, were good ukemists and everything seemed to go smoother when I partnered with them. However, I did myself a great disservice by gravitating towards those people and, I believe, stunted my growth because I avoided working with the others. When a technique is difficult or you get frustrated because it’s not working as well with this partner than it did with another that is a time when learning has the greatest opportunity of happening. You really have to think about why something isn’t happening or why your uke is reacting in a certain way. It forces you to evaluate what you are doing. Embrace those times and know that you’ll be better because of your time and effort.

Take this “empty cup” philosophy with you in all that you do. There is always something to be learned from every experience. Only when you tell yourself there isn’t will your time be wasted.

“Be grateful even for hardship, setbacks, and bad people. Dealing with such obstacles is an essential part of training in the Art of Peace.” – O’Sensei

Teresa Mastison Sensei

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