Kotomi seems to be really enjoying kendo. She has admitted that one of the reasons for starting was that "all the kendo people look so young and happy." I laughed and suggested it might have something to do with all the yelling and hitting people.

But there is one thing that is really annoying her, and it is a point that I have taken into consideration as it relates to myself too. It seems that everyone wants to teach her kendo, and everyone has different ideas about how best to do kendo. Sometimes, within half an hour, several different people will tell her to do completely conflicting things: swing your arms back, no, don't swing your arms back, hit softer, hit harder, cut forward, cut downward, and so on. She's getting really pissed off.

I now see how important it is to start kendo under the instruction of a single competent teacher, in a dojo with an organised class schedule. (The dojo I started at had two teachers, but they agreed, at least I think they did, so that is basically the same).

I think that some of the people who come to offer advice to Kotomi are not very good at kendo, and tell her wrong things, but Japanese etiquette requires that she listens politely, which in turn makes the person think that they are being good teachers. If she asks me afterwards whether what they said was correct I just tell her to ask one of the senior teachers (Grumpy, Hirai or Sensei-Sensei). And in any case, I tell her, I don't think there is one best way to learn kendo, and if there is then it is not that important to follow it: you just simply listen to what people have to say, think about it, ask someone who knows for sure, and then continue on with "practice, practice, practice."

But all this reminds me of when I was a beginner (which I still am, but just a little less so). I went around telling people they were doing things wrong, how to correct it, how to think about things correctly, and so on. Even though I was right in most cases, and I knew how to do things correctly, I had no right to try to teach. Simply repeating what your teacher said, or what you read in books, because it makes some sense to you does not mean that you understand it or are able to practice it correctly, and even when you can do it correctly, you still need to go a lot further before you are tell others how to do things. Because of all this I realised the need to shut up, leave things as they are, and let people learn at their own pace, and in their own way: I realised it is not up to me to teach anyone, or change anything. This, of course, would be different if I am ever a teacher of anything, but until then I hope to accept things as they are.


Anonymous said...

Long ago six old men lived in a village in India. Each was born blind. The other villagers loved the old men and kept them away from harm. Since the blind men could not see the world for themselves, they had to imagine many of its wonders. They listened carefully to the stories told by travelers to learn what they could about life outside the village.

The men were curious about many of the stories they heard, but they were most curious about elephants. They were told that elephants could trample forests, carry huge burdens, and frighten young and old with their loud trumpet calls. But they also knew that the Rajah's daughter rode an elephant when she traveled in her father's kingdom. Would the Rajah let his daughter get near such a dangerous creature?

The old men argued day and night about elephants. "An elephant must be a powerful giant," claimed the first blind man. He had heard stories about elephants being used to clear forests and build roads.

"No, you must be wrong," argued the second blind man. "An elephant must be graceful and gentle if a princess is to ride on its back."

"You're wrong! I have heard that an elephant can pierce a man's heart with its terrible horn," said the third blind man.

"Please," said the fourth blind man. "You are all mistaken. An elephant is nothing more than a large sort of cow. You know how people exaggerate."

"I am sure that an elephant is something magical," said the fifth blind man. "That would explain why the Rajah's daughter can travel safely throughout the kingdom."

"I don't believe elephants exist at all," declared the sixth blind man. "I think we are the victims of a cruel joke."

Finally, the villagers grew tired of all the arguments, and they arranged for the curious men to visit the palace of the Rajah to learn the truth about elephants. A young boy from their village was selected to guide the blind men on their journey. The smallest man put his hand on the boy's shoulder. The second blind man put his hand on his friend's shoulder, and so on until all six men were ready to walk safely behind the boy who would lead them to the Rajah's magnificent palace.

When the blind men reached the palace, they were greeted by an old friend from their village who worked as a gardener on the palace grounds. Their friend led them to the courtyard. There stood an elephant. The blind men stepped forward to touch the creature that was the subject of so many arguments.

The first blind man reached out and touched the side of the huge animal. "An elephant is smooth and solid like a wall!" he declared. "It must be very powerful."

The second blind man put his hand on the elephant's limber trunk. "An elephant is like a giant snake," he announced.

The third blind man felt the elephant's pointed tusk. "I was right," he decided. "This creature is as sharp and deadly as a spear."

The fourth blind man touched one of the elephant's four legs. "What we have here," he said, "is an extremely large cow."

The fifth blind man felt the elephant's giant ear. "I believe an elephant is like a huge fan or maybe a magic carpet that can fly over mountains and treetops," he said.

The sixth blind man gave a tug on the elephant's fuzzy tail. "Why, this is nothing more than a piece of old rope. Dangerous, indeed," he scoffed.

The gardener led his friends to the shade of a tree. "Sit here and rest for the long journey home," he said. "I will bring you some water to drink."

While they waited, the six blind men talked about the elephant.

"An elephant is like a wall," said the first blind man. "Surely we can finally agree on that."

"A wall? An elephant is a giant snake!" answered the second blind man.

"It's a spear, I tell you," insisted the third blind man.

"I'm certain it's a giant cow," said the fourth blind man.

"Magic carpet. There's no doubt," said the fifth blind man.

"Don't you see?" pleaded the sixth blind man. "Someone used a rope to trick us."

Their argument continued and their shouts grew louder and louder.

"Wall!" "Snake!" "Spear!" "Cow!" "Carpet!" "Rope!"

"STOP SHOUTING!" called a very angry voice.

It was the Rajah, awakened from his nap by the noisy argument.

"How can each of you be so certain you are right?" asked the ruler.

The six blind men considered the question. And then, knowing the Rajah to be a very wise man, they decided to say nothing at all.

"The elephant is a very large animal," said the Rajah kindly. "Each man touched only one part. Perhaps if you put the parts together, you will see the truth. Now, let me finish my nap in peace."

When their friend returned to the garden with the cool water, the six men rested quietly in the shade, thinking about the Rajah's advice.

"He is right," said the first blind man. "To learn the truth, we must put all the parts together. Let's discuss this on the journey home."

The first blind man put his hand on the shoulder of the young boy who would guide them home. The second blind man put a hand on his friend's shoulder, and so on until all six men were ready to travel together.

Benjamin said...

A strange kind of spam...

Anonymous said...

Think about it.....

Benjamin said...

The version I know is far shorter and more to the point. The elephant represents truth, and the blind men are all those individuals who claim to have perfect knowledge of truth.

As I recall, the story was told by the Buddha as an analogy to the bickering of the Indian Brahmans (Hindu spiritual leaders) who each claimed to know the real truth, but who could never agree to anything.

The point is not that "to learn the truth, we must put all the parts together", instead it is that anyone who claims to know the truth, and who expresses what they believe it to be, only ever sees one part of the elephant.

Who is this anyway?

MrWoody said...

thanks for your comments on my blog and for the encouragement. i am also enjoying the videos you have posted.
many thanks,
david in hamilton