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Bruce Baker 12-15-2002 08:47 AM

Never empty your cup, get a bigger cup
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?

bob_stra 12-15-2002 09:08 AM

Re: Never empty your cup, get a bigger cup
Good adage -

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

Becoming A. B. igger C. ontainer


mike lee 12-15-2002 09:25 AM

fill'er up!
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."

SeiserL 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,


PRapoza 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.


CZR 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.

JPT 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 doesn't look so good.

:triangle: :square: :circle:

Bruce Baker 12-15-2002 04:20 PM

Two thoughts on responses
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?

jimvance 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

CZR 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...

YEME 12-15-2002 10:07 PM

i stick by my subhead.

Tim Griffiths 12-16-2002 02:53 AM

Re: Two thoughts on responses

Bruce Baker wrote:
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 they're 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 don't you distill what you have until you reach the essence of the art. That way you don't 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:

aikigreg 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

Get it, get what?
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.

JMCavazos 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.

shadow 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?

Jappzz 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

bob_stra 12-19-2002 02:20 AM


Joe Cavazos (JMCavazos) wrote:
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/

JMCavazos 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.

JMCavazos 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.

SeiserL 12-19-2002 08:39 AM


Joe Cavazos (JMCavazos) wrote:
I try to concentrate on what is being taught

Total agreement. When doing Aikido, do Aikido.

Until again,


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