The world is our teacher. In every moment of every day there are lessons to be learned. Some lessons are momentous, and others are subtle. Some people believe that a black belt is an accomplishment, which it is, but it is just the “first step” along the path.
When we are born, it takes us a long time to learn how to walk. We first learn to lift our heads, then roll over, then crawl, then cruise, then we take our first steps without the assistance of others, but as adults we forget how much work it takes to do these things because we walk so much and without much effort. We take walking for granted, and think learning should be instantaneous, after all, there is instant coffee, but learning is not instant. Learning happens in steps and stages. Some steps are higher, some stages are longer.
I suppose the “first step” can be a difficult concept for people to grasp when it takes years to achieve a black belt, and there are many steps along the way to its acquisition. I adopt my teacher’s perspective that a black belt means that the person who wears one knows how to learn. There is an echo in the following: “First you have to teach your sword, then it teaches you.”
Keep training, keep learning, and listen to your teacher!
Learning keeps us young and flexible. Even as our bodies begin to stiffen from the demands of living, we work and train to maintain our flexibility. The same need applies to our minds. New skills, new techniques, and new perspectives all stretch our minds.
Continue to look at skills and patterns of thought to determine where mental stretching will benefit you. Keep training!
Training is a gift. Every moment in the dojo is an opportunity to grow. Sometimes the lessons go beyond technique and enter the realm of history or social construction, but every moment has the capacity to stretch our minds and bodies.
I remember a time when I was in the dojo training and I had an epiphany about the whole of human knowledge. It was taught by a grain of sand I encountered on the mat. As I rolled the fragment between my thumb and forefinger, squeezing and feeling, I thought about how small my knowledge was, then how finite the knowledge of the entire human race, but today, I reflect anew.
In every moment there are many grains of knowledge, and if we accumulate them, and synthesize them through the pressure of our teachers, and the long of our training, we form the solid rocks of our foundation. There is no substitute for training under a good teacher, but we must steal the grains of knowledge and make them our own. Keep training!