My cup is too full – Preparing to learn a new style

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Most of my martial arts stand-up techniques come from Korean styles. Learning a Japanese style is presenting a challenge for me. The reason can best be explained by the Tea Cup Story.

“Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.

One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served, the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally, the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

I have gone to seminars in Japanese styles but now that I am studying it, I see that I need to get a bigger cup. I am still training in my other styles so I need to expand my mind to accept the new techniques and not lose the old techniques. There are a lot of similarities between the styles but there are material differences that are confusing to me and present a great challenge.

Studying multiple styles has taught me that the “I’m right, you’re wrong crowd” is misguided. People should take pride in the styles they study. If you are not enthusiastic” about your style, you won’t reach your potential, but one should not become arrogant and believe that their style is the end all be all of martial arts. As one of my teacher says, the martial arts are like a body, every part has its place. The eyes are different from the ears and the stomach is different from the heart but they are all important. The same is true for martial arts. There is a place for different styles.

Learning multiple styles has helped me outside of martial arts. I have learned to how to transfer skills and to understand that different tasks will require modified applications of my skills. Learning to use the similar and deal with the different is a skill that is valuable to people outside of martial arts.

Learn multiple styles, even if it is just for awareness, don’t be arrogant about your style and use your adaptability skills to succeed in other things in life. The martial arts are not a sport. They are a lifestyle and that lifestyle can help you succeed in all things in life.

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