I had told him to enter into the form, by leading him with my body. In so entering, he would be moving with good posture and extended arms, and be controlling my center of gravity through my elbow. I had told him not to pull. I had told him three times. The third time, I became frustrated.
“If you pull, then I feel like I want to go where you are pulling.” I said, whereupon I stood up with good posture and advanced my body, connecting with his and shoving him backward. He fell back several steps and placed a hand by his cheek.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I bit my tongue.” He said.
“Is there blood?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
He stuck his tongue out. No blood.
“Ok. Fine. Rest for awhile.” I said.
I felt remorse. Maybe I had been too insistent. Maybe there was another way to teach the technique. Yet, I couldn’t tell him not be aggressive with pushing and pulling because that’s how I learned. I did a lot of pushing and pulling before discovering it was much easier to do things in a relaxed way.
Then, I the lesson to learn came to me. I told him: “When practicing, keep your teeth in contact with each other and your tongue against the roof of your mouth. I have bitten my tongue, too. That’s how I learned.”
We want to protect those in our care. We want them to learn faster, and not have to go through the same pain that we did. Yet I have often remembered when I was a child, that I would often hear the words “I told you so,” or “I told you to be careful” and thought that it was not much use to have been told. I have been cut, burned, I have fallen, I have done innumerable stupid things that I had to learn through experience.
Moving to Taiwan has given me all the more opportunity to do stupid things. I have been working through different cultural assumptions. People in Taiwan are simply not paying attention to their environment to the degree that Japanese people are. Ten years in Japan has led to certain habits that manifest as opportunities for disappointment or danger. Slowly, I am learning to cover up vulnerabilities, not to depend so much on others paying attention, both on the road, on the job, and in my day-to-day life.
We cannot learn for other people, we cannot teach, we can only provide the opportunity to learn. We ourselves cannot learn much past the slowly expanding frontier of our experience. I am continuing to discover how to learn in a relaxed way, to make the cost of failure low, to get more feedback, and to be more sensitive to feedback as it comes. I previously wrote (in Japanese) about how, in the rain, I almost got hit by a man on a motorcycle. Since then I’ve taken a good look at the people on motorcycle when it rains. Their helmet visors are down, and often fogged with condensation. They must be uncomfortable and in a rush. Now, I pay special attention to traffic when I’m walking in the rain, but I had to have that close call in order to know.
Though we may read or study to get ahead, though society constructs maxims to pass down knowledge, to a large extent, we have to start from the beginning. Each generation must reinvent effective technique. When we are receptive, it is said that we are young, or young at heart. When our rules calcify, we are said to be old, or old before our years.
Let our learning be quick, and the cost of learning low. Let us be relaxed and aware of what is going on. Let people around us not suffer for any carelessness on our part.