Monday, October 22, 2012

20 Precepts, part 1 (Know yourself)

The founder of Shotokan karate, Gichin Funakoshi, created the “20 precepts of karate-do.”  This is a list of 20 different philosophies, some specific and others general.  For this series, I will be looking at the ones that can apply to taiko and taiko training. 

Today’s precept: “First know yourself before attempting to know others.”

This one is pretty easy to understand, but some people definitely have trouble with it.

I have spent countless hours in both karate and taiko trying to figure out how I move and how to move better.  It's my responsibility as a student and as a teacher.  It’s not always easy to be in a position of teaching others, because I realize their development can be affected by what I do and say with them.  If I’m confusing or unclear, I’m making them take longer to get better.  I don’t want someone to teach me like that, and so I don’t want to be teaching like that.

Sometimes understanding the underlying concept and having good communication skills can be all that’s required of an instructor.  You don’t need to be an expert in something to be able to teach it.  In fact, teaching becomes an important part of the learning process because it forces you to think in new ways and look at things from different angles.

I often see people who love to tell other people how to do things.  Nothing wrong with that!  I mean I love being able to teach someone how to do something, and some people are genuinely good at instruction.  It becomes an issue when a person becomes eager to teach but not as eager to improve.

If you can spot a deficiency in someone's technique, first ask if you have it yourself.  You'd better ask yourself that question honestly, because I'll bet the people you're talking to will notice if you do.  It doesn't mean you can't bring things up that need to be said, but maybe you could be spending more time fixing that issue - instead of looking for it in others - so that people will take your critique of it more seriously.

The main lesson of this precept is that we should spend more time on ourselves before we try to help or critique others.  Whether I’m just observing or experiencing it, it’s really hard to learn from someone who’s all about giving suggestions and critique when they’re not turning that critical eye inwards.  It’s honestly hard to listen to someone giving a lot of comments knowing they have a whole host of issues they aren’t working as hard to fix.  When someone who's teaching me is also continuing to improve themselves, that's a teacher I can respect.

None of us are perfect and we should all be capable of giving and receiving feedback.  But when the feedback comes from ego or is soured with a lack of self-awareness, the information is tainted.

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