View Full Version : Never empty your cup, get a bigger cup

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Bruce Baker
12-15-2002, 08:47 AM
I am sick an tired of teachers telling me to empty my cup.

Wrong attitude. Wrong way to explain what is happening.

You have trained in another art, put some knowledge into that cup, but now in coming to a new art you have doubled or tripled the size of your new cup and now there is just about enough to cover the bottom of this new cup.

The cup is not only growing, but you too are growing to accomandate the size of the cup.

Just as the cups grow from when you are a baby to when you are fully grown, so too there is so much more to learn with each increase of the cup, and you must grow to accomandate the growth of knowledge needed to fill the cup.

So, just as you do in life, you grow, the cup continues to increase in size, and spiritually as well as mentally, you grow throughout your life.

I say, throw out the old empty cup attitude, and enlighten those who think their cup is overflowing with the enlightenment of the cup that grows, and the person that grows to fit the size of knowledge needed to fill the cup.

Opinons, ideas ... about the old adage verses my new slant on the empty cup?

Or should we continue to empty the sippy cup of a baby till the day we die in keepin to the old adage?

12-15-2002, 09:08 AM
Good adage -

"Practicing with your A.B.C.'s"

Becoming A. B. igger C. ontainer


mike lee
12-15-2002, 09:25 AM
About 12 years ago I met a 40-year-old 6-dan teacher in Taiwan. He was quite small, even for a Chinese. He reminded me quite a lot of Akira Tohei sensei because of his small size.

Being my usual fanatical self, I immediately asked to be his uke during class. When I got the chance, I was surprised by how easily he moved and yet how he seemed to be always full of power, even though he usually moved slowly in order to teach. And yet, when one looked at him, he seemed quite normal. There was nothing to indicate how powerful he really was. Only after I was his uke, did I find out.

Afterwards, I sat down next to my Taiwanese friend and with wide-opened eyes, I told him how I felt. He said, "Yes. Wong sensei's cup is full."

12-15-2002, 10:11 AM
Some one once told me that his glass was not half-empty or half-full. He had simplified his life to a smaller glass, and now it was not only full, it was over flowing.

I always liked that.

Until again,


12-15-2002, 10:35 AM
Sounds as though your getting caught up in semantics. I have people come in to class all the time with other martial art experience or that have studied with other aikido teachers. If they are only interested in "showing us what they know" and not taking in what we are doing they are missing out. In this respect their cup is full. Why did they come to my class?



L. Camejo
12-15-2002, 12:44 PM
Ever tried to drink tea from a cup that is partly filled with coffee?

Even though you may come up with an interesting drink (that is if you don't puke your guts out:)), you will still not be able to tell or appreciate either the tea or the coffee. In fact your tastebuds may become very confused.

If nothing else, the taste of either beverage is pretty contaminated, you may become disgusted, possibly to the point of emptying the cup, cleaning it, and then trying again with either drink separately.

At this point you may decide that the previous mix tasted better, or that you prefer the separate tastes that may give you better insight into how to mix the flavours. Then you can take an even bigger cup and mix them both in proportions that taste (and work) the best for you.

Training is sometimes like this.
Just my 2 cents.


12-15-2002, 01:24 PM
You have trained in another art, put some knowledge into that cup, but now in coming to a new art you have doubled or tripled the size of your new cup and now there is just about enough to cover the bottom of this new cup.

Personally, I fail to see how, in one day deciding to study a new art I have doubled the size of the proverbial cup... I agree however, that the cup grows, as one grows over their spectrum of experiences. But my experience shows me that this growth is reactive and not proactive. Experience opens the opportunity to increase the volume of stuff present, and also gives guidance as to what ratios this volume should contain.

The proverb as it stands does nothing more than tell people to not let experience hinder new learning. Which it does. It is only in higher stages of understanding that we can compare and synthesize.

12-15-2002, 02:57 PM
Just bouncing a few thoughts around.......

If you assume that the person grows in proportion to the growth of the cup. The ratio of the size of the man to cup will average out to be a constant figure over a long period of time. In effect his thirst for the water will be equal to that which is held in the cup. Since he & the cup are still in the same ratio regardless of size, the net gain to drinking the water from this big cup will be exactly the same as a person using the normal size cup. Of course he still has to empty the cup or he will die of thirst & the water will go stale. Further if you liken the amount of water In both the cups to the size of the mans ego......it doesn't look so good.

:triangle: :square: :circle:

Bruce Baker
12-15-2002, 04:20 PM
One thought, although Mr. Carnejo has an interesting observation about food, the proverbial knowledge is not comparable to food, or tastes of food, so although there is some reletive comparison, I don't think it really applys to this thought in this context.

About the overflowing cup,or growing bigger to accomandate the size of the cup ...

Well, from the time you were cognizant of being you as you learned to use the potty to the where you are today, did things seem to get smaller as you grew, or did things remain the same in your view of the world?

Of course you became accustomed to the body you inhabit as it grew, and made adjustments thereof, did you not? Nod your head ..

Well, although I have put it into the simplest of terms, so too does the knowledge of our growth match the growth of our spirit and our knowledge, at least it should.

Example of those whose cup is overflowing, in that situation we should bring about the either the analogy about growing from child to adult, or at least that of the wandering scout who wanders here and there to increase the boundarys of their knowledge, not just staying in one particular area.

Then I hear the old storys of never leave the boat, or the town as it contains everything you need or eventually everything you need or want will come to you if you wait long enough. There ain't that much time for you and me, there has to be some wandering to get into the harmony of life.

I have tried a few times to think of something that new teachers would understand, and although we really want to bring something to the table when we start a new martial art, the only emptying that should be done is to allow time to pass before you start to open your big mouth, or try to show what you have learned before.

Just like coming to Aikido from another art, until you can find the grey areas that cross over into aikido, you might as well wait until they come up before you introduce them into class,or bring them to anyones attention ... mostly ... they just won't get it.

The difficulty is not that we can't blend what we bring to Aikido, but the Aikido methods of teaching need to get a firm foundation before you can explain it in terms aikido people will understand.

I guess the bigger cup compares more to being a new language, a new way to see things .... from this point of view you have not emptied your knowledge to be a driveling idiot, but allowed yourself to grow so that all knowledge blends in a more harmonious manner.

Bigger cup. Harmonious blending.

Work it out.

Knowledge is not like food, nor is it wise to totally forget what you have learned. If it is a lifetime of use, absorbsion, use, and more absorbsion ... then why throw away a lifetime of learning? Why not consider each change of your life a movement into a larger arena that can never be filled?

Makes it a lot easier to not be a know it all, because the cup grows to the size if knowledge it will hold, and the goal posts are only as far as you are willing to go.

Maybe it is not a cup or goalposts, but our own humor that desires to see the irony rather than the harmony...

Honestly, I thought I would see a lot more negative posts on this old adage?

12-15-2002, 07:21 PM
I have a copy of an old judo video that showcases Mifune Sensei in his dojo. The banner on his wall reads (if my translative abilities are correct) "Oumyo son renshin". (I apologize for not having the ability to send the kanji through my keyboard.) Translated into English after a rough fashion, this reads "the secret / the mystery lies in polishing (perfecting) the mind."

Jim Vance

12-15-2002, 08:45 PM
If it is a lifetime of use, absorbsion, use, and more absorbsion ... then why throw away a lifetime of learning? Why not consider each change of your life a movement into a larger arena that can never be filled?

I think now, that you have taken the proverb too literally.

Perhaps, a better way of reconsiling it would be to allow for the possibility of a collection of cups; keeping some isolated and others for mixture. I'll let that stand for now only because delving into size/ratio issues is unnecessary.
I have tried a few times to think of something that new teachers would understand, and although we really want to bring something to the table when we start a new martial art, the only emptying that should be done is to allow time to pass before you start to open your big mouth, or try to show what you have learned before.

Exactly! But how much time then? I also wonder how much of that extends beyond you. As a teacher, I welcome diversity, but not at the expense of my purpose. As a student, one of many, I doubt I would want my lesson to digress from learning the art at hand...

12-15-2002, 10:07 PM
i stick by my subhead.

Tim Griffiths
12-16-2002, 02:53 AM
Honestly, I thought I would see a lot more negative posts on this old adage?
I don't think there's anything wrong with the old adage.

Emptying your cup don't mean literally forgetting what you know - that's quite difficult even with shock therapy.

If you really want to learn something new, you can't always successfully approach it from the perspective of your previous experience. We see this a lot with karateka who begin aikido. We don't say "forget your karate", we say "try to put your karate to one side for a while while you learn the aikido principles" (pour your tea back in the pot?). "Later, mix them up as much as you wish".

No one is suggesting you 'empty your cup' by throwing away the contents. Unlike a cup, we have the ability to put a bunch of concepts to one side for a while (make a paradigm shift) while we learn something new.

There's a danger in taking these analogies too far. My mother used to tell me "Many a mickle makes a mockle", and now I have a house full mickles and I'm completely out of mukles.


Ghost Fox
12-16-2002, 07:39 AM
I thought the point was to empty your cup as much as possible. Martial arts are more a distillation process then a process of accumulation. What is the point of learning thousands of techniques (adding to your cup) if you cannot see through to the heart of the matter? I see people all the time jumping from one art to the other without gathering sufficient mastery in any one art. This piecemeal approach is due to the impatience and laziness of the times. People often stop practicing an art, after the first stage of training, gathering. Then theyíre off to gather some more techniques from a different art, and so on and so on. No one is interested in the tedious process of distillation, mastery. Of analyzing the various Shihonage (for example) they have learned in order to see the underlying principles of a category of techniques. So instead of continually trying to fill your cup, with this or that technique, why donít you distill what you have until you reach the essence of the art. That way you donít have to concern yourself with any situation because you have the empirical formula for which all the formals (techniques) are derived.

IMHO of course.

:triangle: :circle: :square:

12-16-2002, 09:28 AM
I'm confused, Bruce. I'd really like to hear your explanation on why you ask people questions through an analogy, and then when they respond back by analogy, theirs is "improper."

Why is yours the only valid explanation. Are you attempting to teach us via the socratic method? What is your purpose to all these queries? Referencing your response to Mr. Carmejo.

Bruce Baker
12-17-2002, 07:18 AM
My post to Mr. Carnejo was simply to point out that the food comparison to knowledge, as the original analagy of water in a glass was not about differnent types of food that taste different, but about quantity, and being able to add more to the glass of knowledge.

The point of my using this method of questioning, is that I don't have all the answers, just the ones that work for me in my lifetime of experience, and if you have a better answer ... speak up!

I can't get any simpler than that.

The reality of the cup of knowledge, is that it is always growing as we continue to learn, it is never half full, or half empty, but barely containing any knowledge at all in the great amount of knowledge that is available. We have but to learn that to truly see how the empty your cup adage is for you to shut up until you learn enough to contribute in a positive manner.

Why do you think people smile at you, slap you on the back, and tell you that you are doing just fine when you bring up questions from techniques in other martial arts that resemble techniques found in Aikido? Positive reinforcement that deny an answer but forces you to find an answer within your present level of practice.

At least that is what it should be over most teachers and students who really don't know, or don't want to confuse your learning the foundations of Aikido.


You aren't the only one.

I am a minority within a minority that cross trains, searches for answers that cross over into all martial arts, and still maintians the integrity of Aikido.

There is no distillation, but it is more like a filing system with many subfiles and variations in each category.

Within Shihonage, I find a variety of arm manipulations not only found within variations of Shihonage, but many grappling, jujitsu, and plain old school of hard knocks lessons that can be changed or varied by the simple name of shihonage. Do you?

Part of putting Aikido into pillars of learning is one explanation to letting the mind lead the body into a general direction of movement but have the ability to us transition, or variations as the venacular of Aikido, so you are not locked into any technique as a set form never to be varied from.

Cup of knowledge? Distilling techniques into being the best they can be and calling them Aikido? Get real.

We learn A, B, C .... but eventually we don't think of the letters, but we see the words which bring to mind pictures, and meaning.

Pillars of Aikido? Same thing.

How many words can there be? About as many as there can be variations for Aikido.

If you get that, then you understand why the glass of knowledge is never empty, but why you are always filling a bigger cup.

12-17-2002, 08:27 AM
There have been some really good posts here that made me stop to think about the "cup".

My sensei never had a problem with anybody cross training -- as long as when they were in the aikido class, they did only aikido. He also said that when we were in the other martial art to do that art , and not aikido. Otherwise you were short changing yourself.

He always said that to make progress, you needed to live in the present moment - and study whatever you are doing at the moment.

I don't think that the cup gets bigger. Maybe we have many different cups that are easily interchangeable. Maybe we need to learn to be able to tell the difference between cups and fill each one accordingly.

Unfortunately I have seen many people walk into a class thinking that they know something about anart just because they have studied another. I think it would be very good if the student walked in with a solid foundation in the basics of one art, and openly accepted new concepts without trying to revert back to the other art. Then, and only then, do I think that cross traing is good.

Otherwise, the teacher will always be telling the student to "empty the cup".

Bruce Baker
12-17-2002, 03:51 PM
What really burns me up is that we teach variations without explaining how they link to other base forms, incorrectly explain their history or use, and are told to accept many things because that is what their teacher showed to them?

That is fine for brainless followers, but eventually even brainless followers get enough knowledge to ask themselves how come so many other martial arts use simular movements, or even better variations upon the same movements.

Enough of this empty cup banter.

There are some of us who are students of a number of other martial arts who are seeing the puzzle come together without diluting, or polluting Aikido, but forceing it to open its eyes to accepting the knowledge of other martial arts, even if we don't use it in common practice. It has to happen. Whether it is today, or a hundred years from today, it is coming.

There is a certain portion of practitioners who are isolationists, and that is acceptable within the evolution of all things, but it doesn't mean we all must be isolationists or accept that Aikido practice is written in stone. The very basis of no two Aikido because of time, space, the inabilaty to absolutely reproduce a movement that is exactly the same even though the naked eye percieves it to be so, is but the first phase of awakening to how vast the variations will be if you accept this principle.

Cups? Knowledge? Cross training?

It is what you think it is, and it is nothing at all. If it works when you need it, then it is your practice, your martial art. Maybe we will evolve the present Aikido into something more advanced in the future, but for today, we practice our classical style, and try to be aware of how it crosses into so many other martial arts within that classical practice.

The actual application may not be the practice, but at least our mind will accept the fact that not everything you need to learn is from your teacher, or found in the daily mat practice.

If learn this lesson, they you expand the basic foundation of your Aikido, or what ever martial art you practice to include the entire spectrum of the universe, this existence of world, or life, and learn from lessons it has to teach you.

I am kinda typing this and listening to SidArthur on HBO. I know I read it twice in the 1970s, but I had forgotton how much it influence my change of thought from the standard Christianity thinking to widening my horizons.

Maybe that is what I am trying to do with the larger cup that can never be filled, take away the image of "you don't have anything of value" and change it to " you may keep what you have but realizes there is a hundred or a thousand times more to learn than I could teach you, or you could learn. Be patient. The time will come to use the knowledge you have learned."

The empty cup has far too much negative connotation for me.

My opinion.

Enough from me. Time to go to practice.

Catch you later.

12-18-2002, 03:01 AM
woah.... so much talk about cups!

i think anyone can take whatever they want from an analogy, and i think too much time has been spent discussing analogy.

takemusu aiki.... a deep well of techniques. formless form. going beyond the technique. yada yada yada. after all.... isn't aikido just another vehicle for satori?

12-18-2002, 07:57 AM
I agree with "ghosttfox" on this matter.

It seems that people in general can't or won't sacrifice their valuable time to atain true mastery of anything these days. They always have to adapt everything around them to fit their ego. "If it isn't done my way its bad". The grumpy-five-year-old-approach...

It would be OK if people with this attitude were the only ones that had to wade through the watered down world they created for them selves.

But that's not how it is, now is it?

For those who do not share their oppinion are still forced to adopt their pluralistic and nihilistic approach to everything. They are even ridiculed when refering to any deeper meanings or values in anything, including Aikido.

Humility is the only way to deal with this. Who are we to dismiss the forms of age-old practicing of arts over night just because it takes effort, time and humility to master them.

I think this mentality stems largely from an etnocentric innability to submit yourself to the authority of concepts any foreign culture, in this case the japanese, in a given situation. It's like going to a vegetarian veitnamese restaurant and ordering a burger with a great big dollop of ketchup on the side...

I don't see how anyone could think they would "get" anything from a art you won't give an honest try...

Jesper Arenskogh

12-19-2002, 02:20 AM
My sensei never had a problem with anybody cross training -- as long as when they were in the aikido class, they did only aikido. He also said that when we were in the other martial art to do that art , and not aikido. Otherwise you were short changing yourself.
I'm curious - when do you practice integrating aikido with everything else you've learnt? Surely if aikido (A) needs to be practiced and other art need to be pracitced (B), when/where/how do you put the two together to form something bigger (C)?

Personally, I've tried the movement patterns (entering) whilst boxing with some "interesting" results (ie: getting smacked upside the head). More aikido is required!!

Bruce Baker
12-19-2002, 06:42 AM
New approach ... learn aikido as an addition to what you already know, but give it time to blend into what you already know.

This is the approach I use for people who are having a hard time adapting to Aikido.

It is not so much an adaptation, but the next level you need to advance you training and put to use the knowledge you have gained from other studys.

Cup of knowledge? Some story created while drinking tea, or cupping hands to drink water .... good adage if seen for it's common sense, but too many of us have no sense. The cup is given too much importance when learning to explain Aikido in terms of movements that apply to all martial arts is what is lacking.

Bigger cup?

Next evolution to being able to explain these movements across the board for all martial arts.

Is that simple enough?

About the boxing, ever notice how it is aimed at the upper body in an attempt to cause submission or knockout? No thumb, or elbows, or kicks to the legs, jujitsu, judo throws, etc, etc,etc

Lots of rules to restrict many types of movements, and techniques, eh?

Same goes for this grappling business too.

Oh, well.

That cup needs to travel and get a bit more knowledge, doesn't it/

12-19-2002, 07:37 AM
I personally don't do too much "reality training". At this point in my life I train strictly in aikido. I have been for about 12 years now.

I started Shotokan karate when I was 15 years old. That was 30 years ago. Even as a young guy, I was always getting hurt...shins, elbows, feet, ribs, nose, etc...

I welcomed aikido's philosophies and way of training. Personally, I have no problem separating the arts. I also got a little rank in Tae Kwon Do.

Personally, I try to make sure that my aikido works.

This is what I do. I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with anybody else integrating their other martial arts. I run an aikido dojo and I teach strictly aikido. When people from other arts train with us, they sometimes have questions on how aikido would work in a certain situation. We stay together after class and work out those scenarios. I show him how I would handle it in aikido, Tae Kwon Do and Shotkan. They show me how they would handle it in their style. I have learned many things from these people and I would think that they from me.

You know, it's not a competition to see which art is better. I really do beleive that it is better for someone to get a solid foundation in one art, rather than trying to learn 3 or 4 arts at one time.

I respect each of your decisions on how you wish to train. I would hope that you would respect mine.

12-19-2002, 08:34 AM
I also think it is disrespectful to be practicing something other than what the sensei is teaching.

I try to concentrate on what is being taught and not be playing the "what if" game.

As far as when to integrate other arts.... I would think you can do that on your own time. I know quite a few people who thought that they knew enough to create their own style of martial art that included a mix of various arts. I say to them, more power to you! I personally am not at that place yet. I am still trying to get a complete handle on the basics of aikido. I understand it could take a lifetime.

12-19-2002, 08:39 AM
I try to concentrate on what is being taught
Total agreement. When doing Aikido, do Aikido.

Until again,


12-19-2002, 10:50 AM
You know, it's not a competition to see which art is better.
You've misunderstood - I'm not trying to "compete" one art Vs another. I merely curious as to how folks practice integration - both within aikido (flowing from standing, kneeling, two arm grab, shoulder grab etc) and in a larger martial art context.

Presumably without some experimentation things aren't likely to slip into place by themselves.

Please don't misunderstand - I'm not saying go onto the mat and start throwing spinning back kicks at your unsuspecting friends ;-)

12-19-2002, 12:30 PM
I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to sound that way. I guess sometimes I say some things in an attempt to clear up my thoughts.

My bad....

12-19-2002, 12:34 PM
I think people have given you their answer, as much as it may not be the answer you are looking for. Lots of people, seeming to be in the know, have said that they devote time to each art separately. They keep the apples and the oranges isolated for training ("cultivation" if you like the fruit comparison).

As far as integration, I believe it happens spontaneously. After training AIKIDO for a length of time, (5 years for me) I suddenly find it showing up in my kenpo. However, I wonder how much of this is integration as it is just different elements finding their places: aikido evasion, kenpo atemi, wing chun hand trap, aikido joint lock, etc. More like tools for very precise instances than a true integration? From that perspective, the answers given, the one's I doubt you expected, make the most sense.

12-19-2002, 12:38 PM
I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to sound that way.
Entirely alright - I wasn't too clear in my first post ;-)

Regardless, still interested in this topic.

(not to change horses in mid stream, but I wonder how the hapaikido guys manage to combine things?)

12-19-2002, 12:57 PM
CZR wrote : -

>I think people have given you their answer, >as much as it may not be the answer you are >looking for.

You've got a real habit of doing that ;-)

I like it!!

>Lots of people, seeming to be in the know, >have said that they devote time to each art >separately.

Veering slightly off topic now, do you believe that "having other fruit in the basket helps the apples ripen quicker?"

(how's that for stretching the metaphor?)

Does one need to practice making a fruit salad?

>As far as integration, I believe it happens >spontaneously.

I have no doubt you are right. I wonder perhaps whether this can (and should ?) be expidited.

Not that I necessarily want to you understand, just curious. I see some interesting things online abt

Karl Geis / Fugakukai - some ideas on how to make "fruit salad" ;-)

>After training AIKIDO for a length of time, >(5 years for me) I suddenly find it showing >up in my kenpo. However, I wonder how much >of this is integration as it is just >different elements finding their places

Without the other elements, would his have ever happened?

Kind points back to a point Bruce was making a while back re: aikido as a principle VS fixed art.

12-19-2002, 02:54 PM
This is a well known koan:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

I think this is the source for the phrase (although I don't know).

In any case, my question to Bruce is whether he is railing against emptying the cup because he has sincerely tried it and found that it doesn't work for him.

12-19-2002, 10:38 PM
I think this is the source for the phrase (although I don't know).
As far as I know, that is correct...

Veering slightly off topic now, do you believe that "having other fruit in the basket helps the apples ripen quicker?"

No... not necessarily at any rate...
I have no doubt you are right. I wonder perhaps whether this can (and should ?) be expidited.

Thanx... I doubt it can be expidited with any statistical certainty. And definitely do not think that it should be. I have always been of the mind set that training time and quality are just that. You want to learn: train better or longer, or both (within reason). Also, think of the implications of expedition, it is either detrimental/risky, or it would become the training standard.
Without the other elements, would his have ever happened?

Perhaps... As a complete martial artist, one should not neglect any range/type nor environment of combat, regardless of style. Seek these within one system though. You cannot walk two roads at the same time...
Kind points back to a point Bruce was making a while back re: aikido as a principle VS fixed art.

I tend to contemplate, having gained proficiency in a few arts, whether all arts share the property of showing "fixed" technique initially then transcend to principle...

Kevin Leavitt
12-21-2002, 06:41 PM
Maybe empty your cup means checking your baggage at the door, or leaving the ego behind?

It is hard to do for me at least, but is becoming easier the older I get (and the closer I get to dying!)

I think there is always something to be learned and it certainly is harder for me to learn something when I a busy surrounding myself with the greatness of what I think I represent.

By stripping away ego (emptying the cup)...I allows me to open to the possibilities of what is being conveyed. I then take what little morsel I discover, think about it, process it, and decide to either keep it, or throw it away.

Using my experiences and past (baggage) as a filter, allows me to decide if what is being taught is relevant to me.

What I am finding now as I get older, is that things I learned and discarded when I was a teenager are important today. They were not important then, but they are now.

I think it is a natural process, some people mature faster than others. I truely believe that true wisdom and happiness lies in being humble, simple and egoless. I hope I can get there someday!

12-22-2002, 01:36 AM
Maybe empty your cup means checking your baggage at the door, or leaving the ego behind?
I agree with you, but it seems folks all around tend to misunderstand the adage. Infact I've seen things swing the other way too (just as Bruce hints at)

"no, no - your technique is impossibly wrong. You must do it our way!! Empty your cup!!"

That also belies a kind of arrogance no?

If aikido is truely a two way transmission of knowledge, then who's to say what is right and wrong? (Of course we're assuming two sensible partners in practice, seeking to learn)

Still, I think you hit the nail on the head. Empty your cup refer more to a mental than physical act.

12-22-2002, 03:41 PM
More thoughts

Socrates was said to be the wisest amongst men, because he claimed that he knew nothing at all except that he knew nothing.

Perhaps this is on the same lines as emptying the cup?

:triangle: :square: :circle:

12-22-2002, 04:40 PM
"no, no - your technique is impossibly wrong. You must do it our way!! Empty your cup!!"Ah, but if I can't empty my cup of the knowledge that this is arrogant and wrongheaded behavior, I allow that to prevent me from learning whatever the arrogant, wrongheaded person might have to offer.

12-22-2002, 05:31 PM
Ah, but if I can't empty my cup of the knowledge that this is arrogant and wrongheaded behavior, I allow that to prevent me from learning whatever the arrogant, wrongheaded person might have to offer.
See, now your just being prickly ;-)

If you were a metallurgist and I insisted that the marshmellows were the hardest know substance, what would you make of that situation? Could you really learn something *directly* useful from that? Honestly?

(I get your point tho. I was inferring the exterme case scenario, as per above analogy. What you're hinting at is "shade of gray". I think both situations can / do occur)

12-22-2002, 05:31 PM
Peatee-san has a point there. That's basically what I did last night training, and I enjoyed the training session as if it was my first.

I wasn't able to do the techniques that my sensei was demonstrating, mostly aiki-waza. That made realize that I have yet to know anything. Most of the students, especially the ones that have been practicing as long as I have, didn't get it either. We didn't force ourselves to be able to do the technique, none of us actually get it.

We just look at each other and smiled. Basically my training partners and I agreed that we still yet have a long way to go. Even though none of us properly executed the technique, none of us were frustrated, instead we were satisfied that at last our "cup is empty".

12-22-2002, 05:39 PM
Here's another p.o.v. -

Perhaps the veneration of humility is intimately a Japanese trait. (emphasis on veneration)? In the analytical west things are more "show me the money". <not necessarily a good thing>

Perhaps this is simple case of culture clash / misunderstanding / too much Kungfu Theatre on TV ? ;-)

12-22-2002, 06:15 PM
In regards to Nan-in's, "emptying the cup":

One can't truly "empty the cup" in a sense that forgetting everything that one has learned. But like Leavitt-san said, it prevents one to be resistant, hard-headed, and egotistical.

As for Strahinjevich-san's example of marshmellow being the hardest substance on earth, if I was a material expert of course I would never accept it.
Ask the person that states that, "Why is marshmellow the hardest substance on earth? Please enlighten me."

The person might be talking philosophically or something else that is other than the physical nature of the marshmellow. That person might be able to give a good explanation. We might never know if we just laugh at the guy and dismiss him directly.

But if the person cannot explain why or didn't give a good explanation, only then you could dismiss his statement.
It's the same with everything in communication in this world. Politicians, teachers, students, etc. can't properly explain and justify their statements, people would dismiss them immediately. But the problem is people won't give them a chance to explain or justify. Therefore, when someone has something good to communicate, they just dismiss them from what they have said before or from their reputation. One of my lecturer said something like, "Gold is still gold, even when it comes out of a pigs mouth."

On the extreme opposite case, some people just accept the other persons statement because those people idolize that person too much. They just believe whatever that person say is correct. They, the fanatics, too need to, "empty their cup".

To me, "emptying the cup" means seeing the truth as it is. We must not see things with relevant truth that is bounded by our egotistical, prejudiced, and discriminant mind. This is the difference between "kan" and "ken".

12-22-2002, 06:37 PM
If we were talking about Zen, then the cup is never truly empty. The fifth ring, emptiness/nothingness, is not empty/nothing at all. "Mushin" or "no mind" does not mean you're not thinking, or become an idiot.

Mushin does not mean relying on instinct or how good of a reaction one could do either. Being reactive and instinctual could be disastrous. Being in mushin is actually quite the opposite, it is being active and seeing things for what they truly is.

Being in "mushin" is being "the empty cup". Mushin must be practiced not only in techniques, but in communication and other daily activities. We take this life for granted, we sometimes forget how precious it is.

12-22-2002, 07:13 PM
We must not see things with relevant truth that is bounded by our egotistical, prejudiced, and discriminant mind.
What I meant to say is:
We must not see things with relative truth that is bounded by our egotistical, prejudiced, and discriminant mind.

12-22-2002, 09:57 PM
then the cup is never truly empty.
I like what you said here, and I believe we can never really empty our cup. To put my thoughts into words, I allow the cup to fill, then drink from it, always leaving a little something in the bottom, this is the foundation for the next fil. The cup of knowledge should never be emptied, but drank from regularily, to ensure it never overflows, so there is always room for more but never remains empty or full, but each taste unique.

Hmmmm...hope you can see what I mean here, anyway...keep on sipping!!



12-23-2002, 06:54 AM
I'd like to add one (? last ?) thought to this tread. (which has suprisingly turned out to be a good 'un)

Perhaps some ppl resist "emptying the cup" for the same reason they resist a discipline like Zen. Superfcicially it seems to require aquiesence / passivity. Infact the opposite is true - you simply act without preconception. You don't get rid of anything, you just learn to appreciate it in a different way.

Developing on this, how many folks who tell you "empty your cup, dammit!" really stop to think of the impact those words have?

Gread thread here folks. Kudos all round ;-)

12-23-2002, 07:23 AM
Superfcicially it seems to require aquiesence / passivity.I remember once having read Siddhartha in High School and giving an impassioned speech about how enlightenment seemed to be more or less like death.

It's interesting that you said 'act without preconception' (which I think is right) when I would have probably said that it has something more to do with 'humility' (which may also be right). It seems like these two different themes of arrogance opposed to humility and judgement opposed to an open mind (or freedom from preconceptions) have some sort of connection. I'm not entirely comfortable saying that they are the same thing, though.

Bruce Baker
12-23-2002, 09:19 AM
Enough of the cup.

Some of you get it as being a good analogy for those who come to learn by teaching what they have learned, and some of you have yet to see that it is indeed the struggle of the body and mind to adapt.

The longer you practice Aikido, the more cross-over you will see in movements. Sometimes the teacher knows the variations and applications, but many times they don't get into it.

Correct behavior, and attitude.

Joe Cavazos gets it!

There is neither a cup, nor the attitude. There is open sharing and adjustment to allow knowledge to flow.

That is my entire point of bringing up the cup.

The same attitude I dislike in others to give to me, I wish to correct this behavior in myself.

So, what is my way of explaining it to those who have had previous training?

Everything you have learned before will fit into your Aikido training, give it time and you find how to use it.

No cup emptying.

No attitude of Aikido being better than any other art.

A true explanation that give equity across the board to all practitioners from any art going to train in another art.

Maybe it is time to get a few schools with only two belt ranks. How many of you would stay to train, and how many of you would choose the schools with kyu and dan grades?

You want me to put away ego, integrating techniques that come up in class like old friends from previous training? Sure ...

Give up you rank and train for the love of training, then we will see who really loves to train and who is full of ego?

Oh, well.

Final point.

Sidarthur? His journey was to learn the truth of all things through depravation and pain.

I already have the pain, the constant ringing in my head, so I guess I am halfway there to enlightenment.

Fact is, when you endure pain long enough, you must use your inner strength to attain what other people consider normal operating conditions for their body, and in using that inner strength on a continual basis ... it does make your mind go places most people don't get to ... because they think only on one level.

Don't mind me, if you disagree, but if you have been there, to where I sometimes wander to in my poking and prodding of you in forum questions, speak up.

Even Sidarthur found out that enlightenment is no fun if you are alone.

To share our thoughts and dreams, experiences is the true enlightenment of being alive.

By the way, just because it is a bigger cup, why do some of you think you have lost anything in volume?

Same glass of water, but now it has grown to a pond, a lake, a river, a bay, an ocean, maybe even drinking the love of the Universe O'Sensei alludes to?

The awe of seeing how small the amount of knowledge you hold compared to what you can learn should put that ego in its place and get the same results as the old "empty your cup" adage.

That is the probably what the monk was saying anyway.

Paul Smith
12-23-2002, 11:58 AM
Mirroring Jay's quote. Richard II, Shakespeare.

Richard, a king who would be a man, who spent his life in indolence and self-absorption. In his death-cell, awaiting execution, reflects:

"... a man be eased with nothing, till he be eased with being nothing...I wasted time and now time doth waste me."

Personally, I want to make sure my cup is clean before filling it (and learning to clean it, I am filling it too).

12-23-2002, 12:17 PM
Hey Bruce, I was wondering when you'd chime in.

I think that I'll feel like you 'get it' (as you say) on the issue of cup emptying after I see you post something like "that's interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way" somewhere on these forums.

Perhaps, as a metaphor, the image is wasted on you. Both you and I would agree that that isn't because you know too much and don't have anything to learn. Perhaps there are other metaphors that are easier on you because they 'fill' you with a greater respect for all you have learned and known. That's great, because (I think) the hardest part of learning is often finding the metaphors that work for you.

However, just because you can't get the metaphor to work for you doesn't mean there is something wrong with the metaphor. It just means you haven't learned to appreciate it or understand it fully. You may never learn, in fact, and there may be nothing wrong with that, either.

I still find that the metaphor of 'unbendable arm' is one that is more counterproductive for me than helpful. That doesn't mean there is something wrong with the metaphor, just something wrong with the way I'm using it or connecting to it.

Bruce Baker
12-26-2002, 08:51 PM
Opher, I might agree with the unbendable arm is there was only one degree of using it.

As in applying degrees of force, pain, and motion in practicing aikido, so too does the degree of application vary for many techniques including unbendable arm, only they don't like the label of Bendable arm when it is already labeled unbendable arm? Go figure.

I sometimes put long discussions in terms of discuss, plan, and execute.

While you are discussing what to do, I have already put a plan in place, and I execute it before you have gotten to your plan because I see the movement of the army from the mountain not from the midst of the battlefield.

You know, it is the old story of looking at something so close all you see is a small piece of the picture, not the whole picture or how the piece you are looking at fits? Yeah, that old game.

The fact is, since we have beaten this metaphor of 'empty cups' to death, then indeed we have reached another plateau of understanding that goes to the basic thesis, of "Say what you mean, not what you think you mean." That is a common saying of mine for people who suddenly realize the metaphor, or partial instructions without proper discussion is indeed their own fault for assuming that what they said was understood by the other person.

So, as we meander about, and ask each other what the heck sensei said or was tryig to allude to as we try to immitate the movements, and try to get the feel of techniques in Aikido practice, tell 'em what I tell 'em when the words and explanations don't match ... say what you mean, not what you think you mean.

If you are still a student after that, barring being knocked into the middle of next week, you might as well keep 'em, cause that my friend, is a good teacher.

12-27-2002, 08:00 AM
While you are discussing what to do, I have already put a plan in place, and I execute it before you have gotten to your plan because I see the movement of the army from the mountain not from the midst of the battlefield.
Can someone PLEASE tell me why this man has not been elevated to Shihan already? Someone should write the Doshu on his behalf immediately! :eek:

12-27-2002, 09:37 AM
Sorry, Bruce, but I have almost no idea what you are trying to say. The only thing that I did get out of it is that you are advocating speaking in a plain and straightforward manner. That's a little funny because apparently what is plain and straightforward for you is quite opaque and convoluted to me.

There are those who claim that all language is metaphor. Whether or not I hold with that, metaphor is often a powerful and concise way to communicate. It also seems to have a greater grip on our imagination and can thus lead to deeper insights and understandings than an effort to capture the same idea in a more explicit way.

Like I said, some metaphors don't work for some people. When a metaphor doesn't work for me, I try to assume that it's because I am being inflexible in my thinking. That may not be true all the time, but it's almost always more interesting than any of the other approaches I can think of.

Bruce Baker
12-27-2002, 10:14 AM
You don't get it, do you Gregg?

There are no shihans off the mat.

There are people with more knowledge and practice than other people.

We are all human beings of equal ability, and some of us have a sense of humor about it?

Lighten up ... life is too short to be that serious.

Read the art of war. What I said is merely a paraphrase of some of the instructions found there.

Remember as you complain, "you most dislike in others the things you dislike in yourself."

If you can learn to work with that, then go ahead and write to who ever you want.

But in writing this disciplinary note, consider ... you have wanted to say what I have been thinking, or are you angry because someone who is not a high mucky muck in the lodge of the grand phu-bah makes sport of the thoughts gathered from so many sources in the martial world? My opinions, or don't I have a right to think?

I guess that was uncalled for ...

I will leave it though .... as a jab at the ego of some practitioners who have not found the humor of life, or the have not learned that someday you need to see the world through eyes of equality, not the caste system.

Maybe it is I who am deluded in sizing up other people, situations, encounters that can be handled with words or actions? Could be my encounters with senators, congressmen and celebritys out drinking and whoring with bodyguard at hand that makes me so cynical.

When you are out there, in the middle of situation that can't be settled by words, you have to know when to throw a table, twist a few arms, or get the hell out of dodge.

Either way, you gotta get a grip on this Aikido worship thing.

Hey ... I just woke up in the middle of next week. Give me a break.

(Middle of next week ... been knocked out? ...or haven't you ever seen someone knocked out for a while by a clip to head?)

Bruce Baker
12-27-2002, 10:16 AM
Don't get Mad Gregg ... I was just ribbing you.

Just kidding around....