Ever been to class and you were working with someone, teaching, guiding, encouraging, showing ………… and their response was, “I’m just not that coordinated” or “I’ve never been any good at anything athletic?
If you run a dojo and have done any teaching of deshi in any martial art and you tell me no ……. well then ….. I understand that hell has a special place for Fibber McGee’s.
Ever been doing kata with someone and you’re working on a kata that you know with all certainty that they’ve seen and done maybe 100 times, and they still get it wrong and they inflect a little pain on you; that’s how bad it was. And then you correct them and they say something on the order of, “My brain just isn’t wired to be able to easily learn this”?
Ever made the same correction once, thrice, fifty, seventy, eighty times and you start to wonder WTH are they doing, or not doing, or not getting?
Yeah. Me too.
So I’ve designed a test to counter excuses and hopefully direct the deshi to satori, or maybe nirvana ... or kensho ... or the public library. Not sure which will work better or where they'll end up after the class bows-off.
I’ve used similar tests in the past but this one, I think, will be more demanding and will require more consideration on the part of the testee as to how they need to answer. Over the years I have actually asked things similar to this in order to "shock" the deshi into looking at a different learning paradigm.
So the test questions are (and you can apply these to yourself as need be) are ………………
Can you drive a car and not kill yourself, your family, and the stranger next to you in the station wagon or the guy on the corner wearing the clown suit, claiming to be an unemployed Hobbit while he shakes his coin cup?
(Yes ... really. I never let the truth stand in the way of a good story but this one is totally true. I live on the far west side of Houston in an upscale area known as Cinco Ranch and I pass him on the corner of I-10 and Fry at least once a week. He’s a dwarf and just I love his costume. I’m waiting for him to one day dress up like Gimli complete with the axe and only then will I give him money and ask to take his picture.)
If the answer to the driving a car question is “Yes” then we now know something about you and may conclude an understanding of several things.
First, you understand responsibility for your actions as you drive a 3,000 pound killing machine made of steel and plastic and rolling on four tires at breakneck speed. Plus, you are able to multi-channel process as you push the gas, tap the brake, adjust the rear-view mirrors (sides and the one inside the cab), change the channel, talk on the cell phone, yell at the kids, pacify the spouse who is backseat driving, curse at your GPS, and pay attention to a hundred other drivers doing the same things in their car ….. AND ….. being aware of the potentialities of the “Random Event” such as a dog running in front, a board in the road, a meteor strike, the woman in the car next to you driving with her knee while applying eye shadow (this is a tradition of Houston drivers) or someone throwing a beer can out the window at Warp 7 as you look for the turn-off to Granny’s house.
The answer to this question proves that you really can do multiple things at the same time while being aware of everything happening around you and are fully responsible for your actions.
So Grasshopper ….. what’s your problem when you’re on the mat and acting like you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing? Why are you throwing your uke into other people, why can’t you see where the edge of the mat is, and why can’t you wield the jo or the bokken like the danger that it is instead of seeming ignorant of something you’ve done in class a hundred times?
Next question, can you cook a meal for six family members including the timing of the turkey, dressing, gravy and rolls so that it all comes out at the proper time AND do so while you finish that 3rd martini (and begin speaking in tongues) and then start on the wine while blending that banana daiquiri for your ungrateful brother-in-law who voted for "that other guy" and stick your fingers in that plate of antipasta?
This “Norman Rockwell Moment” better be an unequivocal yes as all of us have suffered since childhood in this moment of eternal family frustration (er … ah … bliss). This answer demonstrates that you can control and time multiple ideas and subjects simultaneously while communicating with other participants, and that you can handle cutting, stirring, mashing, blending, seasoning, plating, and serving, drooling, licking of finger, and visiting all at the same time with no thought or mental blockage involved. In short, all the cooking activities are on auto-pilot as you’ve done them long enough to internalize them and make them full functional on an intuitive level.
So Grasshopper ….. why did I just show you a simple waza and your response was something about your belief that your brain is not wired such that you can’t do more than one thing at a time and that something as basic as putting the correct foot forward is so complex that you actually have to look at your foot? Internalization of responses is easy since we know you can cook.
Next question …… can your wipe a dirty baby bottom on a 3-month old and not hurt them or “smear the shared joy” all over everything?
If you answer yes, then why is it that numerous attempts to get you to stop using force and running power or hitting me with the jo or bokken or tanto is so difficult? If you can handle a baby and not damage them, and not make a worse mess with their “gift” to you, then why did you just try to dislocate my shoulder? Why can’t you ease up, work a little slower, and use a lot less power. I know you understand how to be gentle and use a little less power, so do it.
Last question ….. can you fart and chew gum at the same time?
WTF? Is Sensei serious? WTH?
Yes I’m serious. Did you sleep through history class while attending Wasamatta U?
Did you forget the famous comment attributed to LBJ when he was in a meeting in the Oval Office and someone asked him what he thought about Gerald Ford, and LBJ made the infamous statement of, “That guy is so uncoordinated that he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time”; a statement made after Ford keep hitting people with golf balls and banging his head on the exit door to Air Force One.
So if your answer to this serious, but seemingly ridiculous question is yes, then you, yes you Grasshopper, not the deshi behind you but YOU ….. are fully qualified to learn martial arts, in a reasonable time span, given quality instruction, competent and patient teachers, in a good learning environment.
No more excuses please. No more, “I can’t learn because …………..”, or “My brain doesn’t work that way”, or “I learn differently”.
There is no such thing as a “visual learner” because if you are eidetic, then just copy what you see.
There is no such thing as an “audio learner” because if you are, then just listen and pay attention.
There is no such thing as a smell or taste learner, unless of course all that sweat and aroma of a gym locker room excites you. What’s that old saying, “Judo is eating your uke’s sweat”.
And there is no such thing as a “physical learner” because WTH do you think MA is? We learn by touching and manipulating and being attached to others so you get all the “touch” you need. Martial Arts ARE touch.
In short, what I’m writing here is that the ONLY thing holding you back from learning is the little creature inside your head, not my head, YOUR head, that keeps telling you that you can’t do it and keeps feeding you excuses to repeat to everyone on the mat.
Just stop that. Tell yourself that you can do it just as well as you learned how to intjuitively drive, cook, wipe and fart.
No … More … Excuses.
L.F. Wilkinson Kancho
The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX