How Open Minded Are You?

RDF-Aug2013I found this article and realized that I’ve been slipping, too.
Will a Closed Mind Destroy Your Future? – Bruce Kasanoff

The best example of the closed-minded aspect is now about 25 years ago. I had just started training in Seidokan Aikido while a buddy started in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu. We regularly got together socially and it would always end in a discussion about how each of our arts were more correct. This lasted for about three years. We both finally trained enough to recognize that both were correct. Then we started comparing techniques in an attempt to make each other better students.

It was during this same time that my Aikido teacher made a comment during a class about understanding. “It’s good that you know what you don’t know.” He was referring to when you get to the point in training (or life) when you recognize that you are missing information or understanding.

This comment made me think differently about my martial arts training. I had spent 13 years in Taekwondo prior to starting Aikido. There were many distinct differences beyond the “art”. As Mr. Kasanoff stated, people are surrounded by people of similar views. Each martial art has its own personality which is illustrated by its practitioners on and off the floor.

I think that this greatly contributes to many martial artists never “knowing they don’t know” or even seeing their blind spots. The business of the martial arts has created this attitude of “mine is the best and only way”. Students are sold that through through marketing. This can create a way to help students forget there are other resources. I once belonged to an organization of 13 fairly large schools led by a quality Grand Master. One problem that I had was the restriction of being able to only train with/visit one other school per month. There were close to 100 Dan level students and at least 20 higher ranked than me. Why should I be limited to only working with them once a month? Why should I not be able to gain their insights about the Grand Master’s concepts of training and life…especially when this was in addition to training with the Grand Master.

Over the years, I have met several students from Taekwondo “cousin” schools, those that share the same lineage, who do the same poomsae that I do. Many struggle with doing these poomsae as I teach them. Mostly, this comes from not knowing what question to ask as they were training. Several have left those schools to join me because they have started looking deeper into their own training. They have realized that they don’t know.

This closed mindedness can only hinder the student’s growth. As a Taekwondo colored belt, I had five different teachers manage the community education program that I started in. Many view this (at the operation level) as bad business in regard to student retention or (at the student level) too many changes that cause confusion. I viewed it as to opportunity to learn five different ways to explain technique and application. I learned a lot but looking back, I still didn’t know to ask all the questions.

If part of the responsibility of a martial artist is to develop the most efficient effective technique, then how can they NOT be training with other people? Those who actively seek new insights and deeper understanding probably eliminate many blindspots without even knowing it. The better point is that they are challenging themselves.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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