The Importance of Continuous Learning in Martial Arts

In martial arts, it's crucial to keep learning all the time. Getting really good at skills and techniques takes a lot of hard work. Adam Mitchell emphasizes how important it is for students to imagine what their opponents might do and to push their own limits.

Trying to learn how to learn

Nick: That's a really powerful concept, the beginner mind, and it removes the ego. No matter how good you are, or how many years you've spent learning something, as soon as you embrace this beginner mind, sho shin, it's like I'm free to learn again. And it's a really beautiful, powerful concept.

So two themes are coming up when I'm thinking about our conversation now, Adam, is this theme of learning, and then sharing or teaching. And as you know, in my book, I touch on manabigai, the value of learning. So manabu is the verb to learn.

And then oshiegai, so osheru is to teach, so oshiegai would be value in teaching. Obviously, you experience both, almost every day or throughout your week, you're learning, you're teaching. So is is learning and teaching martial arts, one of your, obviously, it's one of your main sources of ikigai.

Adam: Wow, that's another good one that I'm gonna kind of sit in and think about here. The martial art itself, like, I'll give you an example. The constant learning, not just the technique, not just the history, not just the art, but the learning to learn part.

So in Budo, there's this concept of kaso teki, this imaginary enemy, the sort of the hypothetical opponent. And when we train, I've never studied Iaido, but I believe that this is a pretty big thing among the Iaido community.

But for us, and when we do our own jishu geiko, the solo training, it's called. The learning how to visualize and minimize the variance of our different opponents to be able to look at someone who's maybe six foot tall, a little bit taller than me, maybe their skill level just a little bit above or possibly a little bit below. Maybe they're a little heavier, bulky upper body.

But I'm trying to picture this person that I maybe had a challenge with when I was studying in Japan or at another dojo, and they got in on me and they were able to get. So I want to go back to that, and I want to visualize this. And I'm right now in this place where I'm trying to…

Part of my learning how to learn, is really trying to visualize in front of me what I'm doing without an actual opponent to play it out. And this is something as a teacher of children, one of the first things that we teach is this, these leaping techniques.

And we would teach this little gesture of long jump forward. I would get kids to jump one tatami. About 12 years old, most kids can jump on tatami at 12 years old. So we start with the length of their body from their feet to the top of their head, and we put a piece of tape on the ground and they can't have a running start, they have to bend their knees to squat and leap forward and kind of like the jumping from one tree stump to another.

And if they lose their balance, they have to go back and try it again. But eventually we get them up to where their feet, their toes are against the seam of the tatami. They're leaping in their heels clear the next scene. In order to do that, I have to take them through some, they close their eyes, and I have them feel this cool tatami under the soles of their feet, bend their knees, launch themselves forward, visualize the tatami going underneath their feet and then seeing the next scene go under and they pass it.

I can't guide them through that as they do it, we have to go back and they have to replay that. They have to recall that in their mind and visualize themselves doing it. And 3000 kids, 25 years, every single kid has done it, for the exception of the ones who may, because of the physicality just can't.

However, I create their threshold, their threshold is in that place where they feel limited that they can't do it. Well, that's where we start and you give yourself permission. And through the power of visualization, we push yourself past that point. This is extremely important in your own solo training, that you don't just sit there and wave your arms around with a wooden sword.

Or you don't just do like a karate, just doesn't stand there and do forms in a mirror and swing their arms around, that they're actually creating in using the intention of the language of their body. And they have a purpose in front of them, always in front of them. And this is where I'm at right now.

So when we talk about that, like always a student, always trying to learn how to learn. Well, here I am with those children jumping over the tatami, I'm still doing that. I'm still trying to figure that stuff out to make myself just a little bit better.