Whole Being — Masterful as compared to knowledgeable -knowing is seldom enough. Sometimes, it’s a hindrance. Mastery is moving past knowing to being.
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Masterful as compared to knowledgeable
When I think about mastery, my head goes to the martial arts. I’ve been engaged in martial arts various and sundry since I taught myself jujitsu when I was 12. I had a year of judo when I was 17, then several years of kyokushinkai karate, which was developed by Mas Oyama.
Oyama was the guy who brought karate to the U.S. after World War 2. He’s famous in karate circles for demonstrating the power of his style by fighting and killing bulls with his bare hands. (Of course, in this politically correct age, he’d be in jail for cruelty to animals, but I digress.)
I started out with a sensei (teacher) named Richard, who taught karate in the basement of the student union building at good old Elmhurst College, where I got my B.A. He was 6′2″ and, I thought, pretty fast.
A couple of years in, he decided to open a dojo (school) in the next town over, and import a teacher from the main school in Tokyo (Japan 😉 ). The Head Offices sent us Sensei Miyuki Miura.
Miura was in his mid 20’s — a bit older than me — and was rated number 2 in full contact karate in all of Japan. This would be the equivalent of a small town baseball team hiring Willie Mays as a batting coach. He was that good. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Until they dedicated the dojo. Then I saw the angels sing.
The dedication took place about a year after Sensei arrived. His English was better, we’d become friends, and he’d “only” broken two of my ribs and given me a major blood clot on my shin.
More on that later.
Two guys arrived from the New York City dojo… and I was forced to raise the bar on y understanding of mastery. One guy was dressed in full body armour, the kind used in kendo (sword technique). This allowed the other guy (who was later introduced as Tadashi Nakamura, Master of the New York City dojo and head of kyokushinkai karate in North America) to hit the first guy full force with his hands and feet, and not kill him.
They sparred for a bit. Then, the guy in the armour picked up a sword. The other guy tossed various fruit and vegetables at him. He moved the sword a bit and sliced the fruit and veggies in half. This later became the appetizers for the party. (I’m joking there.)
Finally, Nakamura fought against the guy with sword. And please note, he was only wearing a gi, not body armour. The culmination was him kneeling down, and the guy with the sword took a healthy cut, straight down at his head. Nakamura slapped his hands together over his head, and caught or trapped the sword between his palms. I’d never seen anything like it. Mastery.
I found a video of the catch!
I progressed to the brown belt level, and around the time the above show went on, I was training the new students. Punches and kicks were pulled, but accidents did happen.
For example, I was sparring with Sensei one day. He did a spinning reverse kick, which I’d never seen before. He spun, I thought he was retreating. So I stepped forward, and walked right into the kick.
Heel in solar plexus, toes on ribs.
Two broken ribs and I thought I’d never breathe again. I did, obviously. After I got up off the floor, Sensei had me get up and fight some white belts, protecting the ribs with my elbow. Fun, fun, fun!
Anyway, I healed and practiced and got a bit better… and then started to get a bit cocky. I could toss a board tossed into the air and punch through it. And even though I’m shy of 5′7″, I could kick pretty high.
One day I was sparring with Richard (remember, he’s 6′2″), my former Sensei, now Senpai (senior student). I did a head kick, and managed it perfectly. My toe stopped against his temple (great control!!) He grinned. Congratulated me.
Then he called Sensei over.
Told him what I’d done. Sensei smiled and stepped in, taking Richard’s place. We bowed to each other. I began an attack, which he blocked, but my intent was to set him up for my famous kick to the temple. He was my height. This would be easy.
My foot never got more than 6 inches off the ground.
Each time, no matter which foot I used (I favoured my left, as I’m left handed and footed) he’s see me just starting the kick and would block me by using the side of his foot.. he’d kick me in the shin.
I tried 20 times before I gave up.
Two hours later, I had a blood clot the size of a half tennis ball raised up over my shin. The skin does not stretch well there.
What I had thought was my mastery of a karate kick was not mastery. I had knowledge, and a bit of skill, but not mastery.
Long opening story, for a simple point.
I learned that in the martial arts (as in life) there is always something new to master. And mastery takes a ton of time — it comes through practice, dedication and the willingness to yield.
One must yield what does not work, yield the need to be thought of as special, and yield to one’s instincts.
If you walk The Pathless Path, you will understand:
but can only be truly educated by one with mastery.
And, please note: humility is a good thing.
I know, for example, that I was an excellent therapist and a good Bodyworker. However, I also know others that were or are better than me at both.
I know a lot of knowledgeable people… people who have read a lot of books, taken courses. The problem is, they have learned a new skill, and don’t know what to do with it.
Take relationships. I can’t tell you how many people I know that are knowledgeable about what makes a relationship work — they might even teach courses on it — and yet, have never had a successful long‐term relationship.
Others won’t take advice even after asking for it… big sigh… “I know that! I think (s)he should change. It’s just how I am!”
Darbella and I have been practicing the art of communication since 1983. I can’t think of anyone I know who communicates better than us. We have spent 35 years doing the hard work, constantly refining this one skill.
I would humbly suggest we have reached mastery, and still have much to learn.
Knowledge is never enough. Knowledge is typically gained unsupervised — from books, courses — but without feedback.
Mastery comes with diligent, endless, rigorous practice. And mastery requires feedback. From a master. Which means admitting, again and again, that knowledge is not enough.
It is not, in my opinion, possible to progress into wholeness without a mentor.
And it is emphatically not enough to simply be knowledgeable. Often, because we gain a particular skill, and because the people around us don’t have that skill, we can convince ourselves that we have mastered the thing.
But that’s like being a brown belt. Sure, I knew more than the white belts, but confusing my knowledge with mastery lead to broken bones and blood clots.
This week, find a mentor. Work hard. Dedicate your life to this walk. Get the basics and the requirements under your belt. Stop looking for a shortcut. (“You mean I have to use good communication all the time with my partner????” YUP! No excuses.) Let go of your ego need to be seen as wise and all knowing.