Know When To Stop Listening
I was over at the house of my sensei and I presented him with paper, brush and ink, saying “Would you please write down what you consider to be an important part of karate so that I may put it on the dojo wall.” Sensei looked at me he said, “I’m not a philosopher, I was a fighter.” I paused, he was right. I had extended his karate skills into the realm of philosophy. Now that doesn’t mean that at his age that he doesn’t have some life experience, some wisdom to share. But what he was saying was true. Now from my perspective I was looking for something to hang on the wall from a man that means a lot to me. His perspective, however, was very different, he was not a philosopher, a philosopher gets hung on walls.
After some twisting and cajoling, I finally got him to agree and I put a nice piece of kanji on the dojo wall. It is very meaningful to me, and I truly appreciate what it means.
The conversation I had with my teacher in his living room raises an interesting point. Why is anybody accepting what the Pope says about global warming? Why is anybody heeding comments from comedian Amy Schumer on gun control, why am I paying attention to former Beatles member John Lennon on world peace?
Listening is fine, accepting is another thing.
No Real Experience
Martial arts instructors can be placed in another person mind as a source of authority where they have no real experience. And the martial arts environment fosters accepting. As instructors, we stand in front of people in a special uniform, in the position of power, with the highest rank, the experience, and in total control. We say it and it happens. This position is a big responsibility on many levels, but let’s drill down into the idea that I am really wise on every topic, that is not rational is it? Yet we as students let that idea slip into our heads and take root.
Here is a term that I think helps us all keep perspective; refined narrow ability. Refined narrow ability is just what it says, a person is very good at a chosen skill, and by the way that is normal. Normal in the sense that we have accountants, doctors, and carpenters.
“I’m not a philosopher,” was a very self-aware statement from my teacher, he is very aware of who he is and his role. And he might have an opinion on global warming, gun control, or world peace. However his narrow refined ability, where he put his time, his effort, and his life. That is where I am going to listen, just like I am going to listen when the carpenter says, “This isn’t 16 on center.” Know a person’s refined narrow ability, then you will know when to listen and hopefully know when to stop listening.
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Kris Wilder is a martial artist from Seattle Washington, the owner, and head instructor at West Seattle Karate Academy, he has written some fourteen books on martial arts, and leadership. Kris travels internationally giving seminars on martial arts. He is also a member of Order of St. Francis.