20 Jul

How does one improve fishing productivity and enjoyment? The answer is to learn to make fishing mistakes correctly.

It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. This is true not only when we fish, but also in life itself. We are human and thus, by definition, fallible. The key to mistakes is to make mistakes correctly and learn from them. If you make mistakes correctly and learn from mistakes, you will be on a path of continuously improving your fishing productivity and enjoyment.

At Canyon Lake, AZ, an observer waits for me to make a mistake while fishing

Training in Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate Dojo taught me many life lessons. Here is a story from Goshin-Do Karate oral tradition that will illustrate the need to make mistakes correctly.

In ancient Japan, the elephant was an unknown animal. The Shogun had heard tales of this mythical creature that lived in a far off land. Naturally, the Shogun wished to learn of this creature. He chose his three wisest ministers and dispatched them to find the animal and return to the kingdom with a description of this elephant. He instructed his ministers that time was of the essence. They should swiftly complete their task and report back to him. In a mythological twist of fate, the three wisest ministers were all blind.

The ministers arrived in the land of the elephant. Being blind, they began to feel this creature with their hands so as be able to describe it to the Shogun. The first blind minister touched the elephant’s ear and concluded that an elephant was a wide, thin and flat creature, much like an aquatic stingray. The second blind minister touched the elephant’s leg an concluded that an elephant was like a giant tree. The last blind minister touched the elephant’s trunk and describe the elephant as long and snake-like. They immediately returned to Japan and reported their descriptions to him. The Shogun was confounded by the differing reports and ordered the “incompetent” ministers to commit Seppuku (ritual suicide).

A depiction of Samurai seppuku

The point of this Goshin-Do Karate fable is, if the Shogun would have only allowed the ministers sufficient time to continue touching and describing the elephant, they would have made enough “mistakes” until they finally would have accurately described the magnificent elephant.

When we fish, whether on the water, or at home reflecting on the day’s fishing, we understand that mistakes are inevitable. In fact, sometimes mistakes are a signpost to great learning. It has been observed that, “A general of merit should be said to be a man who has one great defeat.” (See Endnote #1). So, don’t get frustrated when you are fishing and make a mistake. Take a moment, understand the mistake and learn from it.

In closing, I be out on the water once again making mistakes and learning from them as I pursue the next fish that is hiding around the next rock.

Sensei John

UNIQUE VIDEO: See an ancient fighting Kata translated within the context of a historical Okinawa fisherman – FISHERMAN AS WARRIORS, click this convenient link:


  1. Asakura Norikage (1474-1555), fromWilson, William Scott, Ideals Of The Samurai, (O’Hara Publications, Santa Clarita, CA 1982), p.81.

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