A friend of mine wrote an interesting blog a little while ago. Read it here before you read the rest down below. Bear in mind that he is outspoken in his views and opinion. In other words, don’t complain if what he writes upsets you: you were warned.
Don lived in Japan for many years and he is fluent in Japanese at a level most Westerners can only dream about. So not only does he have a more in-depth understanding of the country and its language, he also received a different kind of training than those who don’t speak Japanese well and only visit for a few weeks at a time (at best). I’d advise students of Japanese arts to take into account his writing when they study with a Japanese teacher. It can help you avoid all sorts of problems.
That said, I’d like to offer some thoughts on what he wrote. Be prepared for some rambling and jumping from one thing to the next.
Talent is overrated
As I’ve said before, I wasn’t talented when I started training at age 13. I was strong for my age, but I was neither flexible nor well-coordinated. I was also a slow learner and still am to this day. I was tenacious though. I very quickly fell in love with martial arts and would come home from class to train some more in my room. Or I’d be in the garden kicking and punching an old tree we had there. I also routinely showed up to class at least 30min. early and practiced on my own before the teacher arrived.
I was a lot of things when I started, but I wasn’t talented.
It’s been almost 30 years since I started training an I learned a lot since then. Some of my peers tell me I’m really good now. My critics say I’m full of shit and suck blocky nuts. The flattery strokes the ego and the vitriolic criticism is usually best ignored, neither changes anything about whatever skill I do have. Personally, I think I’m pretty good at some arts and OK at others. When I look at my teachers though, I see how much more work I have to do to be at their level. That’s the most exciting prospect for me, but I digress.
My point is that I only improved my skill level by working at it very hard for many years. That’s not a big deal, by the way. Anybody who’s good at something works at it to get that good. “Getting good” can only be done in one way: improve what you can do now so you can do it better tomorrow. The only way to improve something is to grind away at whatever is making it “not right”. The only way of doing that is knowing what is wrong to begin with. That’s where your teacher comes in. [Read more…]