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Mastery
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I think "mastery" is an interesting topic. Not being one myself, I have some vague ideas on what it means to be a master, but I don't fully understand the concept. The questions I'd like to explore with this thread, if people are interested, are:

1. What does mastery mean in a martial arts context? (Or any other context for that matter.)

2. Is training for mastery different than training for other reasons (like self defense, fitness, fun, etc)?

3. Are there common characteristics that are shared by different people who have mastered different things - a chess master, a martial arts master and a master painter, for example?

If anyone has any other questions to add, please do.

I don't mean Joe Blow who is called "Master" because he has his own TKD school or "Master" as a rank-based title. What I'm trying to get at is what it means to actually master an art.

Posted on: 2010/9/21 2:28
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Re: Mastery
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read:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/257928/-Mastery-by-George-Leonard

after reading, please post your changed outlook, either for or against the ideas in the book.

thank you.

Posted on: 2010/9/21 4:48
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just playing the ONI's advocate!
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Re: Mastery
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Thanks, I'll definitely read that. It's beside the point though.

There are lots of places on the web to read about what various people think about mastery and there are good books by Dan Millman, Napoleon Hill, Richard Bach and others but I'm interested in perspectives based on people's own personal experience - particularly Bujinkan-related experience, which isn't something Mr. Leonard or any of the other authors mentioned above can provide.

If you have ideas of your own that are based on your own experience I'd love to hear them. Thanks for the link though. I'll definitely read it.

Posted on: 2010/9/21 5:24
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Re: Mastery
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Mastery to me implies that no further progress or improvement can be made so it’s an ideal that is impossible.

People ask me if I am fluent in Japanese as if there are two magic levels of complete ignorance and fluency. Of course there are many, many levels in between. In the same way I think most people outside the martial arts view there being two levels of novice and master.

I remember Seno-sensei saying when he started in the early ‘60s that he was looking at Hatsumi-sensei and thinking how he would love to be as good as that. Years later he realised he had past the level he was looking at back then years ago but he still hadn’t caught up to sensei because he had been improving at the same rate. So maybe it’s hard to pick the bar of mastery when it keeps going up whenever you approach it. I remember him also saying that when they trained with Hatsumi-sensei it was very much about moving from position to position and lots of basics. Then they went to see Takamatsu-sensei and the whole days training was all over the place – all about flow. At the time he thought the training was very different but now he watched Hatsumi-sensei and it is “frighting” how much he has (his budo has) become like Takamatsu-sensei.

When Hatsumi-sensei was training with Takamatsu-sensei he wasn’t just copying his teacher, he took ten steps backwards to take one step beyond.


Posted on: 2010/9/21 9:46
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Re: Mastery
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There is an eastern concept caled Zen, and I'm sure most are familiar with it. To take a driving example from another thread, when driving becomes "natural", that is, there is no more concious thought, you have reached the Zen of driving. You could say you mastered driving. Now, there is a huge diference from Driving Miss Daisy to F1 racing.

To master the essênce of a Martial Art is a perfect possibility, however, to master all the levels this essênce can be applied to is impossible, due to the simple fact that nature is infinite and we are limited to the idea of a lifespan. If you take the Budhist idea of reincarnation, then it's a whole 'nother ball game. But I'm sure it's one most here will pass on.

Mastery has nothing to do with the idea of perfection, it has to do with a constant natural and flowing adaptation to any given thing. To take this idea and apply it to Bujinkan training we have a very large field of things to master. In particular because it's not just a combat art, it's a complete Ten Chi Jin art. As Soke would say Ninjust exists base on the premise that certain things are sacred and should be protected. I've never seen Soke swimming, maybe he's a damn good swimmer. But I've seen very few people on Earth manipulate such a large group of people and situations in general with such ease. He is certainly a master of manipulating perception.



Posted on: 2010/9/21 14:58
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John Holladay
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Re: Mastery
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I have many times looked back at my own teacher back in the day, and no matter how long ago that "checkpoint" was I still seem to not have caught up to the skill level he had back then.

Posted on: 2010/9/21 14:59
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Re: Mastery
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Quote:
I have many times looked back at my own teacher back in the day, and no matter how long ago that "checkpoint" was I still seem to not have caught up to the skill level he had back then.


That's a sign of many things like your personal ability and dedication and also your teacher's adherence to "Keep Going". We can't overlook that that isn't always the case. This is so important, as Soke himself has said in the past, a teacher must always be able to kill his students. We naturaly respect greater ability and someone who does what he says. A teacher should eran his respect everyday, not just when the student first walked in the dojo.

Posted on: 2010/9/21 15:29
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Re: Mastery
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For me, 'mastery' can mean a couple things. On the surface, mastery can mean simply to have learned everything there is to learn (to have 'mastered' something). But, on a personal level, mastery is a concept of personal satisfaction proven over time and experience with a particular topic. This is where it becomes tricky for martial arts. How can you really say you've 'mastered' martial arts? It's a lifelong process, so it never ends unless you either die or stop training.

I think we all have our ideas of who the 'masters' are, that archtype label being put on them based on our perceptions of their ability and prowess. Whether the facts support it or not is something else. But, that impression can hold the title even when we ourselves may have surpassed that person's abilities at the time when we first considered them to be 'masters'. That's the stigma of the 'master archtype'.

For me, true mastery of budo is really a road to death. You either train until you die or you let your budo die (i.e. stop training). If you think you are a master, you are dead already (IMO). Therefore, it becomes more about the quest, the journey, than the destination.

To illustrate my point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRShWun7Mc4

Posted on: 2010/9/22 1:18
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Re: Mastery
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Quote:

I remember Seno-sensei saying when he started in the early ‘60s that he was looking at Hatsumi-sensei and thinking how he would love to be as good as that. Years later he realised he had past the level he was looking at back then years ago but he still hadn’t caught up to sensei because he had been improving at the same rate. So maybe it’s hard to pick the bar of mastery when it keeps going up whenever you approach it. ... At the time he thought the training was very different but now he watched Hatsumi-sensei and it is “frighting” how much he has (his budo has) become like Takamatsu-sensei.


I was in that same class. (Or maybe he said it more than once.) It was a very cool story. I like Seno-sensei.

Posted on: 2010/9/22 3:22
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Re: Mastery
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It impossible to measure yourself objectively against someone else in an art like this.

And sometime 'different' is better than 'equivalent to'.

However, I believe those of us who think humbly are likely to be closer to the path than the egotostical types who love to point out how many people they have overtaken who used to be their teacher or senior.

For myself, I am often critical of the actions of some high ranking people, especially those who relentlessly commercialise the art with more fervour than they seem to apply to their own training, but I still have to accept that some of these people have better taijutsu than I will ever have, and I'm not happy about it but have to live with it and keep going regardless.

Posted on: 2010/9/23 8:18
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