We frequently hear and say the phrase “Empty Your Cup”, but what does it really mean? I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective on this.
As the parable goes, a teacher has a student with previous martial arts experience. He is skilled but frustrating to teach, as each time his teacher offers a lesson the student replies, “I already know that” or “In my other style, we do it like this”, or something similar. Frustrated, the teacher suggests they take a break and have tea.
After filling up the student’s cup with tea, the student takes a sip and then the master begins to pour again. “Wait! Sensei! My cup is already full!”
The master replies, “Exactly, how can you take more tea when you have not yet emptied your cup?”
I have personally experienced this both as a student and a teacher. It frustrates me as a teacher when I hear that dreaded statement, “I know”. It discounts and invalidates anything that I think is worth sharing with that student. It’s also very disrespectful. The other common statement, “we used to do it this way…” is also a communication stopper. How can you share information with someone that continues to put obstacles in your way?
My greatest frustration is not with others but with myself.
I remember “back in the day” I said “I know…” when Hanshi Sei Kise instructed me in a fine point of kata. He looked at me and said, “then you don’t need me” and walked away. That was another lesson learned from experience. I still have trouble emptying my cup on occasion but certainly keep trying. If you want to improve what you do you must take advantage of knowledge presented by others with more knowledgeable than yourself. Here again you must empty your cup.
However, I would suggest that you choose very carefully for whom and what you empty your cup. I, for one, would not empty out a cup of Starbuck’s for some Folger’s granules. So you see, think carefully before you pour out what you have. You may be giving up something better than you’re receiving.
So, how do you know when and where? As I’ve said quite a few times YOU are responsible for your own training and you’re responsible for who you listen to and believe. How do we know whom to believe and who to empty our cup for? I would submit to you that the bottom line is function. Does it work? Does it work better than what I do now? Will it work for me in the future? Will it work for me at a very high percentage of the time? It’s your call!
As I’ve mentioned here and in the past, I’ve said some incredibly stupid things to Hanshi Sei over the years. By the way, the message isn’t that I do dumb things all the time but how I attempt to learn from them. If you make a mistake at least learn the lesson.
I believe that if you make a mistake, figure out what happened and don’t do it again. Simple right? But, If you do something well, figure out what you did and replicate it and keep on repeating it as long as it works. Again, common sense, right? Well, common sense isn’t all that common.
Here’s to emptying your cup at the right time and in the right place. Here’s to getting your cup filled with only the best.
Knowing when and where to empty your cup is a very important step on the path we follow to Martial Arts Mastery!