Archive | July, 2012

A FISHING BLACK BELT – DON’T FOCUS ON IT

25 Jul

Whether we are fishing in a tournament for money, with a group of (competitive) friends, or simply out for a day of fishing, we all want to be successful on the water. Despite the many intangibles (such as being out in the natural environment, or amongst friends), success on the water is usually measured by one simple benchmark; namely, the number of fish caught. When you are on the water fishing, are you over concentrating on this benchmark? Are you obsessed with winning the tournament or catching more fish than your friends? If you are, you may have noticed that the more you concentrate, the less fish you are catching. If so, here’s a story from the martial arts that should be beneficial to a more successful day on the water.

The story is the lesson of the novice student and the black belt.

At the end of class, before dismissing the student population, it is customary for Sensei to ask whether there are any questions. One night, a novice student asked Sensei, “Sensei, how long will it take me to earn my black belt?” Hearing the question, Sensei looked at the novice and said, “Based upon all my years of practicing and teaching karate-do, I do not know how long it will take you to earn your black belt.” Although the student was somewhat taken aback by the non-answer of his Sensei, he thought it best to accept the answer.

As he lay in bed that night, the student thought about Sensei’s reply. The truth be told, the student felt Sensei had dodged his question. He was determined to  get Sensei to commit to a specific time period.

At the end of the next training session, Sensei again inquired as to whether the students had any questions. It seemed no one had a question, so Sensei was about to dismiss the class when suddenly, the novice raised his hand and said, “I have a question Sensei.” “If I work twice as hard as every student in the Dojo, how long will it take me to earn my black belt.” At first, Sensei was annoyed by the novice’s question. Class that night was particularly sweat-filled and overflowing with information. “Surely, some one must have a worthy question instead of this drivel about belts?” thought Sensei. Sensei hid his disappointment, looked at the novice and answered, “If you train twice as hard as every other student I know you think you will earn your black belt in one-half of the time, but you are misguided.” “If you train twice as hard as the others, it will take you double the time to earn a black belt.” While the senior students nodded knowingly at Sensei’s reply, the novice was clearly frustrated with Sensei’s answer.

That night, at home the novice realized his patience was exhausted, he asked a simple question, he thought Sensei should give him a simple answer. A few of the novice’s friends also studied karate but at a different dojo. At their dojo, a new student signed a contract enrolling them in the “black belt club” for four years and at the end of the four years, they were guaranteed to receive a black belt. If only the novice enrolled in that dojo, he would be a black belt in four years. Better still, logic would mandate that if he worked twice as hard as everyone one else, he would have a black belt in two years. Sensei did not use such financial contracts. Students trained on a month-to-month basis and could leave Sensei’s dojo at the end of any month. The novice was determined to leave Sensei’s dojo at the end of the month, but first, he would get to the bottom of the question as to the time period for earning a black belt from Sensei.

At the end of the next training session, Sensei asked his customary question. This time, the novice did not pursue his question with Sensei. Sensei dismissed the class. As the class left the formal training floor, the novice approached the most senior student, the Dai Sempai. “Excuse me, Sempai” the novice said. “Yes”, replied the Dai Sempai. “You seemed to understand Sensei’s reply as to how long it would take me to earn my black belt, is that true?” “Yes”, said the Dai Sempai. “Can you please enlighten me?” asked the novice. As the Dai Sempai turned away from the novice, he answered, “If you do not understand Sensei’s answer, then you must, once again, ask Sensei.” The Dai Sempai continued to exit the training floor, but looked back to the novice who seemed frozen in place and said, “That is, if Sensei feels your question worthy of further explanation.”

As the students entered the changing room and began to change from their gi (uniform) to street clothes, the novice remained standing, perplexed on the training floor. Noticing this, Sensei asked, “Is there anything else my novice?” The question awoke the novice from his puzzlement. “Excuse me Sensei, but I still do not understand how long it will take me to earn a black belt.” Somewhat exasperated Sensei looked at the novice, “Your question is the answer.” “You are focused on the black belt and not obtaining knowledge in karate-do; rather, you are focused on a symbol of the knowledge.” “That is why should you try twice as hard as everyone else, it will not take you half the time, but rather double the time.” “It is the knowledge that should be desired and not the symbol.” Focusing on the black belt will only distract you from the knowledge symbolized by the belt.” The novice thanked Sensei and entered the now deserted changing room.

As the novice changed from his gi to street clothes, he decided to remain at Sensei’s dojo.

Applying the story to fishing, one will appreciate its very simple lesson. In a competitive situation such as a formal fishing tournament, an informal day with friends  or even being on the water alone when you are “competing” solely against the fish, do not concentrate on achieving the final objective. Concentrating on the final objective, such as winning the tournament or catching more fish then your friends often results in loosing the tournament or catching less fish than your friends. How do you achieve success in these situations? Remember the novice’s desire for a black belt and the words of his Sensei; do not concentrate on winning the tournament (the black belt), rather concentrate on simply catching the first fish. Once that fish is caught, concentrate on catching the next fish and so forth. In this manner, the chances of success improve.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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