Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fixing Failure is Mastery

When I was in Oklahoma City, Lowry Sensei took me to the art museum where the Chihuly glass collection is on display. There was a lovely film about the artist, his team and the process of making glass. There were many glass blowing masters working through their ego issues to try to create together. The whole film was crazy lesson on dharma and budo.

In the film they defined a master as someone who could fix mistakes rapidly and use the mistakes to shape the art.

Lowry Sensei and I both got struck by the truth of this statement.

"A master is someone who can fix mistakes rapidly and use mistakes to shape the art."

Tonight Mike and I had a rough and tumble workout. Every attack was rapid, intense and with uke solidly geting his balance back. Mike is a big physically talented guy, and I found that I ran into 3-5 failures of technique application before I could find something to take the beast down. We were filming, and during our breaks we would watch our work. Even though to me it felt like swimming in peanut butter when I was doing it, in film it looked like a nice flow from one technique to the next. The result was lovely high intensity aiki. Art.

When I visit Hussey Sensei, he always demands his students fix mistakes as we train. I do not think he cares if students ever make the specific throw we are working on. To his artistic eye it seems the only failure is not working with the mistake.

You see, for me I rarely hit that first technique perfect. Aiki as I currently experience it is the process of shaping failure into new opportunity. The mastery comes from chaining failures into a work of art. Now it only takes me 5 failed techniques until I find the one that cuts like butter. I can never predict the outcome - the art makes itself.

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