The Empty Cup
It has often been said that if we keep doing the same thing, we will get
the same results. This is also true of our martial arts training. If we have had
no formal training we may react to a threat only by natural instinct. Concerns
with this approach are that the response is undeveloped, untested and
unreliable. We, therefore, are acting out of desperation and are unsure of the
probable outcome. This unpolished approach will, more than likely, result in
repeated failure. On the other hand, if we have had some level of formal
training we may tend to rely on that particular form of training as a remedy for
every threat situation. This response may or may not be a good philosophy, but
it limits us to our current skill level. It will eventually become a barrier to
greater learning. In life we know that to quit learning is to regress unto
death. The moment we quit learning is the moment when our life begins to fade.
So, how could we overcome this barrier?
Classical martial arts philosophy provides an answer in the analogy of
“the empty cup”. Too often we hear people say “Well, I learned to do it this
way. So, I am not going to do anything different.” In doing so, they miss the
opportunity to acquire greater learning. Why? It is because their cup is full.
As a full cup cannot receive additional substance when it is filled to the brim; so,
the mind cannot acquire greater knowledge when it rejects a different or new concept.
Learning a new way does not negate what you have already learned. Conversely, it broadens
or adds to your storehouse of knowledge. It increases the quantity and quality of
“weapons” in your arsenal. To acquire greater learning we must (temporarily) put
aside that which we already know to enable ourselves to receive greater
knowledge. What we already know will be easily recalled when we need it. So, by
(temporarily) emptying our cup we allow ourselves to add to what we already
know. We now have more options. We are now better prepared to deal with the
unusual circumstance. The outcome is that we are better prepared to deal with
any type of challenge that threatens any aspect of our lives.
Charles Lewis, Sensei