Squandering Priceless Gifts
Sensei’s Corner – April 2007
Although there is a cost associated with getting an education, how do you actually put a price tag on what you’ve learned? In the end, most people describe their accumulated knowledge gained through education as “priceless.” I agree for two reasons. First, enhanced cognitive abilities have limitless potential for creating wealth and happiness. Simply put, people who have more acquired and internalized knowledge (whether gained formally or informally) are more successful, make more money, and spend more time at the “top” of Maslow’s pyramid1 of needs. Second, once learned, knowledge cannot be taken away from anyone. Indeed, knowledge is a priceless gift offered to us every day from the people around us.
In the US many individuals view education as a right rather than a privilege. This attitude has led many to take for granted the timeless gifts given to them by their teachers. Teachers are often treated without respect and are now compensated at a level far below what I believe their gifts are worth. Many civilizations throughout history revered educators as part of the core of a society’s fabric. In fact, in many cultures, including Medieval Japan and Okinawa, a student was considered eternally in the debt to their Sensei – a debt that could never be fully repaid.
For many reasons (good and bad) martial arts instructors in the US are considered more like paid service providers than providers of priceless gifts. Of course, some martial arts instructors market themselves in this way operating a school as a business rather than as an institution for training in the way. But, unfortunately, even when students find a great instructor and a dojo that truly facilitates their lifelong pursuit, they do not treat the lessons with the proper respect. By failing to pay attention, capture notes2, and/or spend time between classes reflecting on what was shared in each lesson students squander priceless gifts offered by their instructor. Lessons are forgotten, ideas are not challenged, understandings are not deepened to the point where knowledge is internalized within the student. Like growing a plant from a seed, developing a true means of self expression through the physical arts requires fertile ground and daily nurturing
What can you do to capture, internalize, and nurture the gifts your Sensei gives you? Here is a list of ways to start:
- Keep and use a training journal.
- Read books related to the topics covered in class.
- Read periodicals that explore the topics covered in class.
I will happily explain in more detail how to apply each of these to further your training. Also, you will find many details about these topics in the book, Karate-Do Traditional Training for All Styles
Notes and References:
1. Abraham Maslow was a philosopher who described a series of pursuits that humans follow throughout their lives. It starts at the bottom with attention being paid to the most basic of needs including food, clothing, and shelter and progresses toward social needs and eventually self-actualization. In theory, individuals cannot focus attention on being happy while they are unable to meet their basic needs for sustenance. The ultimate goal for human beings, according to Maslow, is to become self-actualized. The diagram below shows the pyramid described by Maslow.
2. Much research has been done into the value of note-taking in the retention of information. Below are some links to research demonstrating the increased ability of study groups to retain information when proper note-taking is done. Some studies disagree as to the reason, but all agree that taking notes and using them to study greatly enhances information retention. These are valuable concepts to apply to keeping a training journal.
– Sensei Don Seiler