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Learning something new means unlearn all you have learned

Learning something new means unlearn all you have learned Learning something new means unlearn all you have learned
Source: Allan Woo via Artstation
Zen in the Martial Arts
From a book
Zen in the Martial Arts
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The author recounts here his meeting with Bruce Lee, with whom he wishes to train.

"Why do you want to study with me?" he asked.

"Because I was impressed with your demonstration and because I've heard you are the best."

"You've studied other martial arts?" he asked.

"For a long time," I answered, "but I stopped some time ago and now I want to start over again."

Bruce nodded and asked me to demonstrate some of the techniques I already knew. We went out to my driveway and he watched intently as I went through the various katas, or exercises, from other disciplines. Then he asked me to execute some basic kicks, blocks, and punches on a bag hanging from a rafter of the garage.

"Do you realize you will have to unlearn all you have learned and start over again?" he asked.

"No," I said.

Bruce smiled and placed his hand lightly on my shoulder. "Let me tell you a story my sifu (e.d master) told me," he said. "It is about the Japanese Zen master who received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

"It was obvious to the master from the start of the conversation that the professor was not so much interested in learning about Zen as he was in impressing the master with his own opinions and knowledge. The master listened patiently and finally suggested they have tea. The master poured his visitor's cup full and then kept on pouring.

"The professor watched the cup overflowing until he could no longer restrain himself. 'The cup is overfull, no more will go in.'

" 'Like this cup,' the master said, 'you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?' "

Bruce studied my face. "You understand the point?"

"Yes," I said. "You want me to empty my mind of past knowledge and old habits so that I will be open to new learning."

"Precisely," said Bruce. "And now we are ready to begin your first lesson."

This does not mean that Bruce prevented me from applying a critical mind to his teaching. In fact, he welcomed discussion, even argument. But when challenged too long on a point his reply was always, "At least empty your cup and try."

Later I learned that Bruce practiced what he taught. As a youth in Hong Kong he had studied wing-chun, a branch of kung-fu, under the celebrated master, Yip Man. When he came to America as a teenager he observed Ed Parker's kenpo-karate, taking from it many hand techniques that appealed to him. From taekwondo he borrowed the devastating kicks that make the Korean style so formidable. He also studied other styles of martial arts, taking from all of them whatever he thought useful. Although considered one of the best martial artists of his time, he was always learning, always in a constant process of change and improvement.

He truly kept his cup empty.

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