I was reading one of J.C's posts over at Bujutsu: the Path. He titled a post Weakness. In it, he discussed his frustration when he didn't pick up a technique as quickly as he'd like or when he discovered a bad habit in a technique he thought he knew well. He went on to say humility is the key, accepting a weakness in order to improve or fix it.
J.C.'s post got me to thinking about my own meandering journey. When I started over with my Sensei, I was pretty confident in a whole bunch of techniques. I didn't think I was a master by any means, but I knew what I knew. Well, I thought I knew what I knew. I didn't. Sensei picked my techniques apart. He dissected them and showed me areas to improve. This process continues today.
Perhaps one of my own epiphanies was realizing that I would never truly master any technique. I could get real good at them, but there will always be room for improvement. Always. And that's a good thing.
Reading the post made me realize that I am always looking for feedback to improve. In fact, if I do a technique and my Sensei says nothing, I now begin to dissect my own techniques for ways to improve. I used to get frustrated when I didn't execute a technique flawlessly, now it never even occurs to me that I could do it that way. I believe this to be progress. Does this mean I have discovered a degree of humility? I hope so.
So if we never master something, how do we know we are improving? I remember being in class with J.C. and he was receiving some feedback from Sensei on a well worn technique. After class, J.C. was sharing his frustration at the fact that he'd been doing the technique for a long time and Sensei still found a bunch of areas to work on.
Having worked with J.C. for quite some time, I knew he was getting better with each passing week. What made me chuckle was that fact that he was so frustrated with himself, but he didn't realize that Sensei was now nit picking. When Sensei does this, it means you have essentially become proficient in the execution of the technique. Being picky about the small things mean you've graduated from learning the basics of it to getting really good at it. When the corrections get smaller and we delve into the nuances of a technique, I know we've improved.
There are also times now when Sensei says nothing. I know I've done something correctly, but it still doesn't feel right. And there are times I do something, and it feels effortless and it works perfectly. It is in these moments that I suspect that there is something beyond just the mechanics of a technique. It is in these moments that I get glimpses of greatness, not in myself, but in my art and the energy around me.
Never be satisfied. Always strive to improve and enjoy the journey.