View Single Post
Old 08-22-2000, 04:08 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 168
I cross train in TKD as well as aikido, but in both arts I find one of the most frustrating things for me to deal with is what I call the Empty Shell. The Empty Shell is a person (very often of higher rank than I, but most broadly just of "high" rank - maybe the one or two ranks before Dan and above), who has not internalized what they are doing on the floor. Instead, they have unconsciously directed their efforts toward convincing others that they know what they are doing.

This normally manifests itself in a propensity towards talking rather than doing. Imagine being a new student checking out the dojo and having to endure an extended one-on-one impromptu lecture on esoteric philosophical concepts that take lifetimes to understand. Now don't get me wrong, these are good ideas to discuss and by doing so we gain further insight. What I am saying is that what we do in our training is both mental and physical together; but for the Empty Shell, simply being able to talk the good talk seems to be all too often enough.

I also see in the Empty Shell the closed mind of someone who has allowed themselves to stop learning. Rather, the Empty Shell is a creature of habit. If they see a particular technique, they watch closely enough to categorize it (ie, "he's doing iriminage"), but then shut down and miss what the instructor is emphasizing or changing, choosing instead to follow the same blueprint that they always refer to out of habit.

(I suppose that begs the question "Is there any such thing as a good habit?" Can habits be the sign of a well-trained mind, or are they simply the sign of a lazy spirit? While I favor the latter interpretation, in terms of this discussion know that I specifically refer to habits that lead the student to do things contrary to the way the instructor wishes them done at that time, and that we can think of these habits broadly as "bad habits")

One specific example: the class before a promotional testing in one of my arts, a student more senior than I had me step through a particular move that I was to be tested on. He then "corrected" what he mistakenly saw as errors... and proceeded to show the technique so badly that he very nearly tripped himself because of the footwork he wanted me to do - footwork I knew to be wrong from discussions I'd already had with the instructor and other black belts. When I showed the move again and again, he pronounced dismissively that it was "Close enough." Close enough for what? Close enough that I'm going to trick the instructor into giving me rank? I didn't argue with him, or say a word. Then, on the test, doing the technique the way that I had been shown by the instructor rather than by my senior student, I was asked to demonstrate it for another student who was also testing but having trouble performing.

OK, like I said, this frustrates me, and I get long-winded when I get frustrated. But what it comes down to is this: I see these Empty Shells working with new students and know that the new students are going to be taught incorrectly. I can see these sorts of people in both of my arts, but a new student won't know any better. And let's face it, as we progress through our training, we begin to see people who just seem to really have great technique, and people who may be of the same rank but don't have such great technique. A new student coming into the dojo has no idea of any of that except for the color of the belt.

Has anyone else experienced this, and what have you done in response? Gone to your sensei? Approached the senior student in question? I appreciate your feedback.
  Reply With Quote