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Empty Your Cup of Tea II
Part 1: A Timeless Fable

As you progress in your martial arts journey, understanding that there is always something to learn, from anyone at any level in any style, is the key to true growth.

 More of this Feature
• Part 1: A Timeless Fable
• Part 2: We Visit a McDojo

The very first article here at About Martial Arts is titled "Empty Your Cup of Tea," posted almost two years ago. Since it discusses an ancient Zen fable, I like to think that the lesson in that article is timeless. We had a workout recently that emphasized the lesson in that fable: that as you increase your knowledge about the martial arts, the more you have to "empty your cup" to continually learn new things.

A Timeless Fable

The fable describes a learned man who visited a Zen master. The Zen master began explaining his philosophy, but the learned man kept interrupting, saying, "Oh yes, we have that too. Ah, I've seen that before."

Finally, the Zen master stopped talking and poured his visitor a cup of tea. Once the cup was full, though, he kept pouring until the tea overflowed onto the table.

"Stop!" exclaimed the visitor. "No more can go into the cup!"

"Yes," replied the master. "If you do not first empty your cup, how can you accept my gift of tea?"

A Visitor Attends Our Class

We had a guest at our workout recently, a practitioner of xingyi and bagua, the Chinese internal fighting arts. At first, Rod appeared to be just another Silicon Valley engineer, his beard tinged with grey over a Java ONE t-shirt. But in joining our drills, he exhibited the confidence and openess to learning that you'd expect from a 20-year student of the martial arts.

We each took turns doing our usual warm-up, light sparring, hand strikes only. I found that Rod reacted well to our trapping and multi-angle striking, and served up a lot of surprise attacks as well. That's one fun thing about working out with folks from other disciplines--you immediately see the holes in your style (or at least your personal rendition of that style) that others could exploit.

You see such things only if you're open to them.

Part 2: Narrow-minded McDojo Master >>

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