Monday, February 15, 2010

Six qualities of a master

Eric Pierson posts a lot of exceptional material on his blog, but I think this was the most intriguing post I've seen there for a while -

The Six Qualities of Painting

  • To display brushstroke power with good brushwork control
  • To posses sturdy simplicity with refinement of true talent
  • To possess delicacy of skill with vigor of execution.
  • To exhibit originality, even to the point of eccentricity, without violating the li(the principles or essence) of things.
  • In rendering space by leaving the silk or paper untouched, to be able nevertheless to convey nuances of tone.
  • On the flatness of the picture plane, to achieve depth and space.
- "Lu Ch'ang"
If I may take the liberty of rephrasing this in the context of aikido, I'd say that six cardinal qualities of masterful aikido (perhaps not the only six) include -
  • demonstrate the art with both power and fine control
  • embody simplicity, economy, and efficiency in effective techniques
  • demonstrate refined, gentle, lightness-of-touch within a vigorous practice
  • exhibit eccentric originality, but still be recognizable (by other masters)
  • convey nuance through restraint - not just appropriate action, but appropriate inaction
  • convey the depth of the infinite potential of the art within the finite system
The fourth quality is really the one that wowed me the most. Notice that in my refinement of the wording I made eccentricity necessary for the master, rather than merely a possible extent of the master's creativity. The art of a true master is at once eccentric, exciting, unpredictable, amazing, unexpected, and challenging!
A band director once got to lecturing us about how to play masterful jazz. He said that the trick is not in the sounded notes, but in the rests (quality #5). He went on to play a given piece with subtle variation in the rests, illustrating his point.
As a last point to think about, notice that several of these qualities represent spectra, or sliding scales - powerful but controlled, gentle but vigorous, eccentric but familiar, active, but resting. The master of an artform optimizes all these sliding scales in every moment - in every instance of the art.
Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Thanks.

    "To display brushstroke power with good brushwork control" - you ought to see me paint a kitchen!


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