Drip, drip, drip – Kim Taylor, Feb 2, 2017

Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023

Ah, that was the problem, I wasn’t writing because I didn’t have a blank screen to look at. Offensive things these blank screens. There is the urge to fill them with words.

Just like there’s the urge to fill students’ heads with all the wonderful things our martial art can offer. Sometimes though, I wonder if I’m there to offer new ideas or just to chip away the walls they seem to stick in front of their own progress.

You know what I mean don’t you? That drip, drip, drip of water percolating down through the limestone that creates stalagmites and stalactites. I just wanted to use those words, probably mis-spelled them. Did you look them up?


The drip of water is their thoughts of course, and the calcium carbonate the water picks up is the preconceptions, the self-doubt, the comments from others about their general skills. In other words, the vague belief that they can’t do what they damned well can.

While we’re on the cave analogy, let’s add the echo of the sound of their own voices repeating criticisms and corrections in their heads.

At some point in your budo career you have to understand that you’re just fine. The stuff you do is correct, it’s “good enough” and so you can get on with other things, like applying it more bigly, more strongly, more smoothly, more fastly. While you remain convinced that you can’t do it at all, you are doomed to learn it over and over and over again.

Drip, drip.

There’s a knack to taking corrections. The first thing is to smile and nod at those who are not your sensei. Now, if what they just said sounds interesting, try it. If not, ignore it politely. You fellow students are not in charge of your progress unless your sensei tells them they are. In which case listen to them but for the most part, they really ought to be working on their own stuff.

Corrections from your sensei ought to be taken for what they are, orders to change something. Did he tell you to do the exact opposite of what he told you to do last week? What you just told that student beside you to do? Are you embarassed now because he slapped your nose?

Get out of your own way, unless he just said “and don’t be telling beginners that crap” he may simply be telling you to do it this other way now that you’ve learned the lesson he gave you last week. The one you just gave the guy beside you. Just do what he tells you to do today and later compare it to what you did last week. You may see something.

Of course there’s always the chance that Sensei is losing it, that the dementia has kicked in and he really does need you to tell him what he told you last week. This might get you a lecture on why he told you that then and why he’s telling you this now, or he might just say “Oh, right, do it the way I told you to do it last week” and walk away.

And now you know why some martial arts take 30 years to learn, and why some take 30 days.

Then there is the sensei who just tells you stuff to tear you down. If that’s so, why are you still there? You don’t even have the excuse of having kids with him and being financially dependent on him and…

Just get out of your own way before the drip, drip, drip of his words poisons your soul.

Dramatic much?

If you trust your sensei, don’t think, just do. “Relax your shoulders” should result in your shoulders relaxing, not a response like “they are relaxed, that’s as relaxed as I can make them” or “am I still doing that?” Seriously dude, if sensei says you’re doing it do you really need a second opinion, from the same person, to confirm you’re doing what he just said you’re doing?

That’s you getting in your own way.

Your response should be to relax your shoulders, and then when you notice your shoulders up around your ears the next time you do the kata, drop them, don’t tsk tsk and sigh and make a fuss and look over toward sensei to see if he’s about to tell you to relax them again. He saw, of course he saw, and he’s waiting for you to relax them, he’s not waiting for you to shout across the room “oh, I’m still doing it!”

Got eyes. Don’t need to hear the drip drip of you getting in your own way.


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