Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees

The title of this post is an old Japanese saying that I refer to from time to time when I teach. I had cause to refer to it last night in class to explain my current black eye.

Last Thursday, I had been practicing defenses against bottle attacks with one of my senior students. He was coming at me hard and fast with a serious of random attacks. At one point, I had an unfortunate lapse in focus and I zigged when I should have zagged, resulting in me colliding headlong into his bottle-wielding hand as he attacked, slamming hard into my cheekbone below the eye. I had hoped the blow was far enough away from the eye that it wouldn't blacken, but I was not so lucky.

By the time last night's class rolled around my eye was in that lovely stage of healing that combines all the colours of a Himalayan sunset in a sickly hue. My students naturally asked about it and I told them honestly how it happened and that it had been entirely my own fault. When students give me a look of surprise that I should make a mistake my usual response is, "Hey, even monkeys fall out of trees."

Some martial arts students see a Sensei's mistakes as a sign of weakness. This mentality of deifying instructors is silly and when Senseis start to believe it, they stop learning and improving. All martial artists from the newest novices to the highest ranking instructors with decades of experience make mistakes. Mistakes are what teach us. As martial artists, we all strive for perfection with the idea at the backs of our heads that we will never achieve it. This keeps us pushing forward and advancing our arts as far as we can take them.

For more interesting Japanese proverbs, check out Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees.

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