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Shoshin, the beginner's mind

When we are sure of everything and our sense of curiosity is closed, this state of fundamentalism can only freeze us in our evolution. It is when we allow ourselves to be sure of nothing and curious about everything that we can evolve and learn freely. - Gaëtan Sauvé, Psychoverbal Self-Defense Series.


This allows us to remain in a state of mind that we call Shoshin in the martial arts, "the beginner's mind". Shoshin is the state we must maintain throughout the learning of any discipline. Shoshin is the spirit of openness that gives us permission to learn something new and to change our perspective on a subject. This is also called having a "fresh mind" and "new mind" in the Zen approach.



"Empty your cup"


This quote is attributed to Bruce Lee: "Empty your cup so that it may be filled; strip yourself to gain the whole". This quote comes from an old Zen tale. I know that many of you will say to yourselves: "Well yes! I know this story very well. But read on.



A man with a lot of knowledge once went to a Zen master to learn Zen. While the Zen master was talking, the scholar frequently interrupted him with remarks like, "Oh yes, we have that too," and so on. After a while, the Zen master stopped talking and began to serve tea to the scholar, but he kept pouring tea until the cup overflowed. "Enough! The cup is overflowing. You can't put more in the cup," interrupted the learned man. "Indeed," replied the Zen master. "If you don't empty your cup first, how can you taste my cup of tea?


So when a guest instructor demonstrates a technique or tactic that you think you really know, before you close your mind and your sense of curiosity, adopt this Shoshin state. Perhaps you will learn a new detail that will make it easier to perform that tactic or technique. It is perhaps this difference that will make all the difference in a fight.


- Gaëtan Sauvé

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