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A student of mine recently accompanied me to a training session out of town. We each went with different expectations, but also a shared sense of excitement for this opportunity to learn. Much that was taught was new to him; review and refinement for me. However, amongst the new material, there was an exercise that surprised us both, and for the same reason.

Full disclosure; the exercise wasn’t completely new to me. I had started it some months back and dismissed it as unimportant to my personal development. The training included a modified wooden weapon and I felt that I already had more than enough weapons to work on. This one, frankly, did not interest me very much. I dutifully followed along, but neglected to practice later.

My student has not practiced much with weapons at all yet. And, he had been somewhat clear that he felt no urgency to start. Their potential practicality was lost on him and he preferred to focus on his empty hand karate. It is safe to say that neither of us were chomping at the bit to learn this particular esoteric weapon exercise. Yet now, we can’t wait to work it into our daily practice.

Why? The value of practicing with this weapon lies less in knowing how to use it, and more in how that practice enhances our empty hand skills. Once this concept was explained, both of us started seeing the possibilities. And that explanation was not just verbal. The very same teachers that were presenting this idea were also demonstrating formidable empty hand skills that had benefited from the weapons training. The connection seemed so obvious that I was left feeling stupid for not seeing it the first time around. My student is now looking at not just this weapon, but all weapons, with new interest.

This is an example of good instruction but also a reason why we have to keep an open mind to all aspects of our training. It is easy to dismiss things when we only have a limited understanding of their usefulness. And, truthfully, our understanding is always limited, due to our own preconceptions, experiences, and preferences. The key to growth is to be aware of these limitations and trust that what is being taught has a purpose, even when it is not as well explained as in the above example. I don’t advocate completely blind trust (see trust by verify) but this experience has reminded me to keep the glass half full. And, since my student reached the same conclusion, independently, I now have someone to help me keep it that way.