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May 01, 2015

Learning Attitude

It has been twenty years since I graduated from University and became Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei’s Uchideshi.

Despite starting Aikido at a very young age, the time it took for me to begin my proper Uchideshi training was actually a little late.

When I became an Uchideshi, the very first lesson I had from Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei was about having the correct “Learning Attitude”.

“Learning” is similar to pouring Japanese Sake into a glass. If the glass keeps leaking and no Sake remains in the glass when Sake is being poured in it, there is no use or meaning.

“Learning Attitude” is the Sake glass in this example. Why the Sake does not remain in the glass, can usually be classified into 3 reasons.

1) There is a crack in the glass that causes the Sake to leak out

When there is a crack at the bottom of the Sake glass, the Sake that is being poured into the glass will keep leaking out. The same example can be used to describe the beginning of my Uchideshi training. I was like a Sake glass that had many cracks. I first had to repair the cracks in my “Sake Glass”.

An example of one of the cracks in the “Sake Glass”, is not watching carefully when a teacher is teaching or giving a lesson. The essential aspect of learning is watching carefully and being able to imitate, repeat, or recreate what a teacher is showing. If there is a crack in the “Sake Glass”, you can never learn even though you practice for many years.

The first thing to do is to repair the cracks.

2) Having another type of Sake already in the glass.

If there is another kind of Sake already in the Sake glass, it is not possible to pour new Sake into it.

Using the example of a full Sake glass to explain “Learning Attitude” further, in this case the full Sake Glass is all our “experiences and knowledge” that we have gone through, or what we think we already know and understand based on “our own opinions”, or “the way we think”.

If we think of the teachings our teacher has given us as “I have heard this many times before already,” it means we will never really understand or learn the meaning of what our teacher is trying to teach us. Lessons that are being repeated many times are usually very important and the reason they are being repeated and given again and again is because we have not yet understood or learned correctly the meaning.

We first have to empty out “Our Glass”.

3) The glass is too small.

If the Sake glass is too small, only a small amount of Sake can be poured into it.

It is impossible for things that have physically fixed shapes to continue to become larger, but things that do not have physically fixed shapes in this case our “Learning Attitude” can always improve and grow infinitely depending on the effort we put into it. If the size of our “Sake glass” continues to get bigger, more Sake can be poured into it.

Our “Sake glass” that we make and maintain should continue to grow bigger and improve every day.

We should not try to begin with what we what we are learning or studying, but by changing and having the correct “Learning Attitude” which is the most basic and important aspect of training and practicing. I would not be where I am today had I not been taught this from the beginning.

Usually in schools and at home, children are taught what to learn but they are usually not taught “How to learn” or the importance of having a proper “Learning Attitude”. The foundation of learning or practicing anything is having the right “Learning Attitude”.

From this experience, when teaching and helping my Instructors develop, the first thing I teach them is having the correct “Learning Attitude”. I will come back to this lecture and repeat this class till my Instructors have understood and cultivated having good “Learning Attitudes”. As a result, most Instructors can develop faster.

I believe having a good “Learning Attitude” is more important than having “ability or capabilities”. Recently, there have been more requests and chances to do Seminars and lectures with “Learning Attitude” as a theme. I think this is a very important lesson that most children and students from this generation need.

 The above examples of “Sake in a glass” also works well with “water in a glass”, the reason why it was probably “Sake” instead of “water” is because Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei liked drinking Sake very much.

It is from hearing that story as an example, that I felt how important it was to “not spill or waste a single precious drop”….




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