Category Archives: Learning

質疑並玩耍的心態

這陣與同學透過練習及討論之些心得。
一, 和一位學長練時要不怕地表達出動作。如上班時需在上司前表達意見,甚至被駡時也要把該說的說出。我們不只在練身体,亦在練一個心態。
一, 我們可以質疑技法。特別在自由稽古中,覺得有空間必開,逃開, 阻擋時,我們可以這么做。但,要以玩耍的心態,不得比勝負。如此我們自然會避開死板的練習,將練習化而為活動的探索
一,不要讓對方受傷。自已也要當心不要硬撐著對方的壓力而自已受傷。則,衡量對方的容量。再說,不能比勝負,做不出來就算了。逃不開對方的技法,也算了。
一,最重要是兩人有沒有運動到。日人曰練武時要先「作身」。在討論細節之前,學生須有基礎的体能才可以了解。
一,開祖盛平大先生曰「目で分からんことは言葉で言ふても分からん。」釋是「眼睛看憧的,用說的也聽不𢤦。」
一,我與弟妹練時要謙虛。我亦未明皆答,惟練得久些已。皆學長姐與學弟妹練時必亦然。
一,教和練不同。學長姐教學弟妹,容易。與學弟妹練,較難。先輩要學如何和後輩練。怎么做得呢?我曾有本部道館的學長說「白帯にも稽古をさせなければ行けない」意為也要未昇段的

On Recreating Knowledge

@ Brian H: Yeah – the important thing is to approach with fresh eyes. The importance of questioning things is not to question them for questioning’s sake, but to try to figure things it for yourself. Like Richard Feynman would work on physics problems. He would try to work through a problem himself. If he go stuck, he would open the literature, peek a little ahead, then close the book and continue on his own. This meant he spent a lot of time recreating things that others had done, but allowed him to develop a keen intuition, and sometimes he would come up with a simpler or more intuitive solution.

He wasn’t really so iconoclastic as he was using existing solutions as reference. This is how we train martial arts – in the same way as how Nobel laureates understand their material.

The more we pay attention to norms and standards, the further we get from this sort of organic learning.

This sort of thing should be fun. Not a chore, but recreational.

To Learn

I finished listening to James Gleick’s biography on Richard Feynman. In Feynman’s office, there was a blackboard on which was written a few personal mottos:

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.”
“Know how to solve every problem that has been solved.”

On the board nearby, under the heading “To Learn,” a running list of topics.

He died before he could get to them.

We can’t do everything we want, but maybe if we’re lucky we can do everything that’s important.

伝承

火曜日の夜、大学の卒業生に招待されて体育館へ合気道の稽古をしに行った。その学生が先月卒業したばかりで、公務員試験を受け、結果を待っている。その結果で抽選の優先が決まり、台北に残れるかに繋がる。台北に残って、いろいろと武道を体験して稽古したいとのこと。その相手とも、この二年間で稽古をして、同じクラスに出るときにそっちから、「稽古をお願いします」と積極的にきて後稽古を積んできたので、自分の教え子とも思える。

夏は大学が休みに入り、学生クラブがこの間解散で、稽古不足の私。社会人のクラブに行ってもいいけど、良くあるのは話が多い相手と組んでしまい、運動量が足りない。一度、ある道場で「あなたはそうやった運動的な合気道が好きですね」と批判気味に言われた。そうだよ。

大学生だと体力がよくて、まじめで、いい稽古になるから、好き。

こうして、一ヶ月ほど稽古をしていなくて、体育館で生徒と久々にすることができて、嬉しかった。一時間ほどほとんど無言で動いていたら、残りの三十分で道場の端で座った中学生らしい男の子に「ほい、稽古しよう」と誘った。三人で掛かり稽古そして取り受けAB, BA, AC, CA, CB, BC と組んでやった。これも、ほとんど無言。話さないのは相手への敬意。相手を動かせて、自分で気づかせる為に。こうすると技は私から教えるものではなく、私が相手に技に気づかせる為の物となる。師弟関係を敢えて設けない。こうしてお互いの稽古のためになる。

それで稽古の中で印象に残ったのは、中学生に入身投げの後ろ受けのやり方を指導して、相手が少し上手くなって、動きを速くて大きくしたら、相手が受けて、立ち上がって笑った。それまでにはその中学生が皆に無視されて座ってみていた。増して先週にその学生もある先輩と組んで技のやり方はああでもないこうでもないとむやみに指摘された。やっぱり、流れる方が楽しいだろう。

既に仕事で頭と言葉で考える事が多い。合気道は体で考える。その技がでる瞬間で悉くそれまでに組んだ相手の動きが具現する。そして、その動きが相手に伝わり、その人の目録に入る。過去、現在、未来を結びつく瞬間。

その大学生が他所へ行っても、技を持って行く。その中学生が楽しさを覚えて稽古し続けるかも。こうして、少しけれども合気道が広がり、未来へ伝わっていく。

Correcting Duck Feet

Since I was a kid, I’ve had outward-turned feet – duck feet. Years of Aikido and dance have helped me to improve my posture, but it’s never gone away. I’ve been experimenting this week with a method that I developed.

When going to bed, get a web-belt, place feet shoulder-width apart, and secure the belt just above the knees. Sleep on your back with feet pointed up. Normally, the feet would be relaxed and splayed out, but with the feet unable to splay out this way,  other parts of the body have to accommodate. Outward rotation of the legs is controlled by contraction of the Sartorius muscle, and the inability to relax it completely can cause duck feet.

Satorius Muscle

from kenhub.com

 

Improper alignment of the legs will cause tension in other parts of the body, because you are no longer balanced on your skeletal structure, but having to use muscle to stand and move. I noticed tension in my shoulders, upper and lower back. The idea is to relax these during sleep and allow them to stretch.

I have also noticed when I sleep  with the web belt affixed this way that I have a tendency to flex my getanden (下丹田) when I shift during the night.

 

getanden

from hkgalden.com

The getanden is the muscle between the navel and the pubic bone. Flexing this muscle is important when doing certain martial arts movements, as it promotes a relaxed upper body, good breathing, and good posture.

So, I conclude that if the Sartorius cannot be fully relaxed, the legs will turn outward. Simply turning them in will pull on the Sartorius and cause anterior pelvic tilt, meaning that your butt will stick out, resulting in more curvature of the lower back (lumbar lordosis ) as you try to compensate. Everything is above continues to build on top of that, so there will be tension in the shoulders and neck.

Gently constraining the legs with the web belt puts the lower body in the right alignment. The Sartorius will be gently stretched as everything else tries to find alignment. Flexing the getanden will then use the extra stretch in the Sartorius to bring the pelvis into vertical alignment, correcting excessive lower-back curvature. This brings the spine into alignment, and the shoulder muscles can relax. I can feel my Trapezius relaxed – I must have been pulling my shoulders up and forward.

買物では狭く、書店では広く

私は多くの人と本屋さんと百貨店の楽しみ方が違うということが分かった。百貨店では歩き回って、セールがあるのか、いいものないかと思いながら歩いてみることが楽しいと思わい。大抵、特定的に何かを買うのだ。

スーパーでもこの買い方だ。

本屋さんでは却って特定科目を見るのではなく、あらゆる分野の本を取り上げてみる。この前、語学、伝記、歴史、建築、哲学、ロマンス、科学、音楽、作文、古典を全部取り上げてみた。

これが自分の中では買い物だけではなく、多くのことに渡ってパターンかされている。私は案外常に新しい見方とやり方を試している。北米に帰るたびに、自分とは逆のパターンの人と再会して、どれほど会っていない間に自分が変わって、相手が同じ道に進んでいるのがわかる。その時に、相手が経験している問題に少し開く道を案内するが、相手のために歩くことができない。

Hearing the Music

Once, I was dancing salsa with someone who suddenly stopped mid-song.

“Are you dancing with the rock-step on one or on two?”
“On one, generally, but I’m not too concerned about it.”
We danced for a little more, and then she stopped again, and said “One.”

Generally, I dance with the rock-step on one because that’s where the clave falls, and not stepping there feels odd. However, certain moves or certain songs or phrases have a strong syncopation, making stepping on two feel more natural. On-one and on-two are merely teaching constructs that don’t exist in real life. In real life, you follow the music and do what feels natural. The pedagogical construct is not the reality.

One of my friends introduced me to a Kizomba teacher whom I have fallen in love with (as a student) and unprompted from me she mentioned this very aspect of some schools – that some schools teach people to count in their heads, thinking about the form, but not really hearing the music.

One reason I love Aikido is that the objective reality of right or wrong can be imposed on someone when they are resisting flow. When they are not hearing the music, so to speak. Once at Honbu Dojo I was feeling contrary, and kept resisting my partner’s technique.
“You’re resisting.” he laughed.
“Do you want me not to resist?” I asked.
“No, it’s okay. It’ll just be more painful for you! Hahaha!”
What followed was one of the most satisfying practices I have ever had. His technique was either so clean that resistance was futile, or so adaptable that he utilized my resistance.

In Aikido people of all levels can practice together because we practice forms, but yet we can also achieve flow and response, much like dance.

Another time, I went to a new dojo and practiced with another black belt. The technique was nikyo from two-handed grab. My entry was imperfect, and left my partner an opening. My partner resisted, and although I could muscle through, I decided not to. Then, my partner made a smug “hah!” sound. If she had been a white belt, I would have left it at that.

But she was a black belt.

I reversed the force that I had been applying to do the nikyo lock, blended into the direction of her resistance, executing a kotaegaeshi throw. This happened in an instant. No sooner had she laughed than she was falling, and no sooner had she made a face of terror mid-fall that and she was on her back looking up. Her face turned from terror, to confusion, to anger.

We went again. I was still trying to see just how little force I can use. Because my entry was still imperfect, she was again able to resist the nikyo. I blended into kotegaeshi again, but she anticipated this. I reverted back into a nikyo lock and pinned her to the ground. All of this without force, but with speed. Faster, in fact, because I was using her own resistance.

We went again. Same nikyo, to kotegaeshi, to nikyo as before, only this time she expected the return to nikyo, and resisted. I blended with her force again and transitioned to kokyunage. Again, she was on her back.

We stood and faced each other again. She blinked in rapid succession. Her eyes are wild, looking at the ground, at my left shoulder, my right shoulder, at the ground, my hands. I took a step back and sat seiza to wait for her to calm down.

It’s not that I don’t like advice. It’s that I hate nitpicking about forms. Nitpicking that stops action and flow. The pedagogical construct is not the reality.

Once I took Japanese in college, and skipped two semesters after studying intensely over spring break. My Japanese teacher told me I should be more humble and that I was still making mistakes. She advised against skipping two semesters. I decided to skip anyway, then skipped another four semesters when I got back to school after half a year of study in Japan, then got a sales job in Japan. My range of expression and mobility would have been severely constrained if I had preoccupied with grammar mistakes.

What matters is whether you’re stepping or dancing.

乾脆做做看

我喜歡去幾復数的大學練合氣道。大學生體力比一般社會人好,但是有可能是最近熱了些,因為常會有人說「要休息一下」或者「要欱一點水」。

我都從頭到尾盡量不休息,不欱水。有人問我「對身体不好吧。」
「不會啊,身体會更壯。我練習後會補水的。」
我們組先在狩獵時,獵物也不會等著讓我們補水。在街上打架時,對手也不會讓我們補水。我們祖先一定是在又缺卡路里,又缺水的狀態能做出激烈運動。如Nassim Nicholas Taleb 說的,這種刺激我們不只可以忍住,而可能是不可缼的。要不然,我們的身体會衰弱。有幾會,不如做做看,找一找自己身体的限界。

最喜歡的練法是少說技法,乾脆動一動,用動作去找答案。不管對方的練習成度,只要動一動,我也可以學一些東西。但是有很多人會希望我用說的教他。那樣我還照樣動作解釋再加幾句「這樣破勢,這樣摔。」那樣教的話,大部分的人會不知不覺地動作出來,而會很感動他們能夠突然做比剛才更好。

但是有些人,特別是「好學生」就算動作已做得出,還會要我解釋。這就證明語言和動作不一樣。用語言解釋有時反而有害。我常遇到學生因為我或別人解釋反而做得比剛才差。說一句手的他就忘了腳。說一句腳的就忘了手等等。在練習中是輸流做四次技法。有人會做完個技法後愣在那裏問「那我手是應該怎樣?」「你才剛做出來了!用身体學。如果通過說話可以憧的話,我們在家裏看合氣道書就行了!大概的動作要先做個幾百幾千次才可以講更詳細的。」我那樣一面和他練,一面勸他,他似乎有點怕我,說要休息去欱水去了。

好學生不感動得比想得快,但是頭腦永遠趕不上身体的動作。還不如先做後想。可是成積好的好學生是將承擔我們的社會㖿!希望他們可以通過合氣道學會用自己的眼睛看東西。我想要好好修理他一下可是他一定會要去欱水的吧。

感謝這種人是少数的。最好玩的是我和一個對手在練習當中相互模倣,偷技法,適量試一試反擊。那樣會變得如玩的一樣快樂。會玩的人是最聰明的。找答案,多靠玩的,少靠想的。

The Expanding Frontier of Experience

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.”
“Show me.”
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.

Simple Answers

Numbers: Met with 15 family members (immediate and extended). Got 2 people at the grocery store in downtown Vancouver to remember me (why grocery store, and not a bar? haha!) Met 5 factory engineers I currently work with. Ate lunch with 10 other engineers. Flew 5 flight legs, having now 2 more to go till I get back to Taiwan. Trained 3 hours of Aikido with 5 beefy and 2 skinny North Americans at a Vancouver dojo.

Invigorated by interacting with new people and living with family again, I have reflected and compiled this list of things learned or remembered. Maybe I’ll write in more detail about some of these.

Answers I give to other people when simplicity is easy for me:
Usually, the answer stems from relying on an internal resource, like health or creativity, rather than an external resource.

When I am packing lightly.
Q: What if it gets cold outside?
A: Walk faster to create more heat.

When deciding where to park a car.
Q: What if we park and it is far from where we want to go and we have to walk?
A: Aren’t we here to take a walk?
Q: What if the kids get tired?
A: I guess we’ll have to walk back to the car.

When deciding whether to eat to preempt hunger.
Q: What if you get hungry later?
A: I don’t feel like eating now, maybe later.
Q: What if you get so hungry that you eat fast and overeat?
A: I’ll chew carefully so as not eat too fast.

When deciding whether to pack a dinner.
Q: What if you get hungry when you get to the hotel at night?
A: I’ll have some tea and go to sleep.

When deciding whether to move to Japan from the states.
Q: What if you have trouble communicating with people?
A: I like Japan. I will be friendly and do my best.

When deciding whether to move to Taiwan.
Q: What if you can’t get used to it?
A: I guess I’ll have to leave.

When deciding whether to go on sabbatical.
Q: What if you can’t find as good a job?
A: I will leave with gratitude and respect and burn no bridges in case I need to come back, but there are other things I want to do now.

When trying to find a job after graduation.
Q: What if you are unemployed for too long and become unemployable?
A: Seriously? I just graduated.

When trying to find a job after sabbatical.
Q: What if you are unemployed for too long and become unemployable?
A: Seriously? I just had a bunch of unique experiences from my sabbatical.
Q: What if you run out of money?
A: I have money saved, plus as part of my martial arts training, I’m doing construction work. I am actually getting paid to train.

When deciding whether to pack something.
Q: Do I need this?
A: If I am having to ask this question, the answer is probably no.

When being asked about my martial arts skill level.
Q: What if someone pulled a gun on you and asked you for money?
A: I’d give him my money.

The voice of consumerism.
Q: Should I buy this toy?
A: No. It wouldn’t help her to grow. Give her a toy that improves her thinking skills, or let her learn to improvise something.

Questions that make me hesitate, and answers that I wish would come faster.
Usually they stem from a fear of failure.

When I need to ask permission.
Q: What if he says no?
A: So what? Ask.

When I need help.
Q: What if he will not help me?
A: So what? Ask in a friendly way.

When I fear rejection.
Q: What if she doesn’t say yes?
A: She won’t say yes if I wait.

When I am afraid of fear.
Q: What if I mess up because I am afraid?
A: So what? Learn the triggers and learn to relax.

When deciding whether to start.
Q: What if I don’t have enough time to finish?
A: Time is going to pass anyway. Do as much as I comfortably can.

When my opinion differs from others.
Q: What if I offend with my opinion?
A: What do I care what other people think?

When I am deciding where to sit in the office cafeteria and I don’t see anybody I know
Q: What if I am intruding?
A: If they wanted privacy, they wouldn’t be sitting here.

When I am debating whether to invite myself along with some people.
Q: What if I am intruding?
A: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Q: What if they say no?
A: So what?

When about to go into a situation or interaction that requires improvisation.
Q: What if I am unprepared?
A: The wrong preparation, plus over-thinking, could blunt my instincts. Do it now. Pay attention. Relax. Smile. Improvise.

Resources I am confident of:

  1. Health and strength
  2. Discipline
  3. Creativity
  4. Simplicity and improvisation as opposed to complexity and preparedness.

Resources I am less confident of:

  1. Being a jerk. I care too much about coming across as nice, but I should allow myself to be a jerk. Both “nice” and “jerk” imply inappropriate reaction to the situation at hand. Instead of losing a nice-guy attribute, I should think of it as gaining a jerk attribute and expanding my range of expression.
  2. Improvisation skills in a conversational setting. I should treat small talk like dancing or aikido and go for flow rather than precision. This does not mean not paying attention. Mistakes and bumps are made almost unnoticeable by timely redirection, and this is a cooperative effort.

Both these skills/resources require calibration as outlined in this article (分かるように調整する). Unless I make mistakes, I will not develop the right calibration. Mistakes should be interesting instead of something to be avoided. Interesting is a good word because interesting things can be looked at in a relaxed and insightful way.

Five principles for action: Do it now. Pay attention. Relax. Smile. Improvise.