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The Cycle

posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:51 PM by Eric Banks

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” 

-Abigail Adams



Last weekend I had the cool privilege of spending a couple of days in Atlanta training with Shimoji Sensei and his students.  Though I’d been to Atlanta several times in the past few years, I hadn’t been able to spend more than about a day there at a time since my first real extended training trip back in November 2007, so this was a real treat.


I approached the trip as an opportunity for learning, growing and just breakin’ out of my everyday routine.  Most often, our (my) immediate world consists of about 40 or so people, those you live with, work with, play or train with etc, on a day to day basis.  Too much of this makes for a small world and narrowed vision, so, for me it is always good to get out there and see all the gobs of people going about their lives right there in the big, busy, frenetic airport.  Watching the people go by is always a highlight of any trip that I take.  I see people of every background, ethnicity, size, color and shape, everyone flowing and going there and coming here, doing their own thing.  Sometimes, I watch a person and try to imagine, feel, what they are like, how they live.  That’s fun and always interesting.  But, of course, people watching wasn’t the main reason I made this journey…I went to learn.


From the moment I approached the dojo, I was smilin’.  I’ll admit I was a little nervous at first, actually, had been a little nervous for a few days, but I was able to chill once I finally arrived and stepped out of the rental car.  I changed into my gi, we chatted, and then we went to it.  The training was great; intense, and both mentally and physically challenging.  Throughout the two days, I was able to ask so many questions that, believe it or not, I’ve got no more questions to ask…for now.


Now this, having no more questions to ask, doesn’t mean I’ve learned it all, assimilated it all or even really understood any of it.  No, for me, it just means now I am at the stage again of chewing on and digesting this information, putting it into practice, digging into some old topics anew, and investigating some ideas for the first time.  This is the normal cycle for me: I experiment, I ask questions, chew on concepts, test them out, train, and hopefully assimilate them into my self, and then expand on them, and this leads to new questions that couldn’t have been asked unless and until I understood, both intellectually and physically, the concepts that came before.  First comes the question and the seeking, then the gaining of knowledge, then putting that raw data into action through practice, which leads to incorporation and then more new questions.  Incidentally, I think this cycle or process of learning applies to most things, and while I’m certain that one can accelerate the learning / assimilation of knowledge curve, I’m not sure it is possible to skip any of the steps.  This, the desire to hit the “fast forward” button, to skip ahead, is where a lot of us go wrong, not just in martial arts training, but in relationships, business practices, and living life in general…    


After I return from a seminar or other spectacular training such as this, it takes me a few days to “come back to earth”, to get back to where I am mentally focused enough, and have the information organized in such a way that I can train it and begin contemplating teaching it.  I figured out a long time ago that this post-seminar muddle-headedness is all a part of my natural learning process, and though I would like to skip this part of the cycle, I just have to go with the flow.  Understanding your learning cycle, knowing the highs and lows of your personal learning style and skill-assimilation process are simply invaluable.


Well, several days have passed and, thankfully, the muddle-headedness has cleared up, so it’s on to the next phase of the learning cycle!