This week I will continue with the martial art book I am reading, A Path To Liberation by Herman Kauz. This week’s post may be shorter than usual- it has been a very busy week for me, between having my children with me all week (this is unusual for me), working while they were at summer camp (Primitive Pursuits, an awesome wilderness survival teaching program in Ithaca) and trying to get the house clean on my few hours off. As the library we are used to going to is closed for the whole holiday weekend I brought my children with me to one of Cornell’s libraries. They are being very quiet as they sit behind me at a table- still this situation makes me nervous, as I don’t know how long they can be this cooperative for- so here we are,

First a quote, quoted in the book, which goes along with some of our previous posts;

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” -Bhagavad- Gita

This quote opens the chapter which discusses Interactions Among Students. As the author has postulated previously, a potential martial art student is drawn to a teacher with whom he can relate; they may share similar outlooks in some ways in the way they view the world. If this is the case, it would seem that multiple students of one teacher would get along, because they would also be inclined to be similar to each other in ways that would make them relate well to each other. However, I gather that this is not always the case. The author concludes that martial art students might think of each other as brothers and sisters. Though he admits that “siblings do not always get on well together” (as I am learning from my children), “observed in the best sense, a brotherly and sisterly feeling for our fellow students would make us go out of our way to understand and tolerate their imperfections, to care for them, and to help them develop.”

The next chapter is entitled “Actions and Attitudes That Hinder Development.” One of the first things cautioned against, though it might seem like it would be a good idea, is undertaking training from two different instructors at the same time. Echoing what I have heard Master Pearson reply when asked about this same issue, one drawback of this practice is that no two teachers are going to teach a student to do everything in exactly the same way. It would be difficult to impossible to keep track of doing a techinque slightly differently at each different school, nor would it serve you well to have to explain to your instructor why you prefer to do techniques differently than the way he is asking you to. Master Pearson suggested that some arts are different enough that being instructed in them may be beneficial to our training, not overlapping as much as might another style of Taekwondo, for example.

To jump to the end of that chapter another idea put forth is to shun martial arts politics. In the next chapter, “Assessing the Value of Our Training,” the author discusses some of the experiences he has had involving martial arts politics, in both judo and karate governing bodies. Interestingly he states that he would expect fellow martial artists to have learned from their training a view of the world in which they would not be attached to their viewpoint winning out against that of others; however, this was not the case in his experiences. In one instance he states; “How, then, did their training manifest itself? Perhaps in their acting with strength, toughness, and confidence in themselves and in the correctness of their positions.” Further, “Though we may hope for more from martial arts training, we need not disparage development that will allow us to pursue our interests with strength, toughness and perseverance. There seems nothing wrong with self-interest either, if it is broad enough in outlook to allow an individual to seek the welfare of everyone involved in a situation, understand the issues, and be able to anticipate the course of events. The self-interest of many of these people, however, appeared directed primarily toward securing immediate advantage for only their own small group.”

In terms of assessing the effects of martial arts, “we might try to set up a study in which one of two groups would receive years of martial arts training and the other none. The behavior of the two groups in a given situation could then be compared and conclusions drawn. But we would have to ensure that all the individuals constituting the groups had a similar basic mental and physical makeup. To do all this seems a difficult but not impossible task. But it is highly improbable that such a study would be considered of sufficient importance to warrant funding.” And in this conclusion the author speaks with a practical edge that I have come to like in his writing.

He ends the chapter; “For each of us what is ultimately of utmost importance, both in our actual training and in our attempt to assess the value of this training, is to focus on ourselves. This is not meant in the sense of a selfish preoccupation or a lessening of our ability to sense what others are doing or feeling and what is going on around us. Rather, it means that we should not compare ourselves with others in terms of innate ability or quality or in the progress we or they are making. Instead, we should determinedly and single-mindedly work on ourselves in line with the principles of our discipline or art. …If we have given our training a full measure of our efforts over a few years and are displeased with our level of achievement or with other aspects of the art, it may be well to conclude it, to go elsewhere, or to proceed on our own. But if we believe we are making satisfactory progress, that there is more to learn, and above all, that we are enjoying the process, we should continue our practice.”

And so I continue mine.

The children have earned their treats for the week and I move on to all the other things that seem to need my attention- next week should have a little more leeway. Talk to you then~

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