Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Can, should, and must

Here's a photo of our buddy Jules.  The photo comes from an article in which he discusses (among many other interesting things) instant gratification vs. slow, careful internalization of the art.

This is related to a lesson in martial arts that is perhaps the greatest lesson that I want my kids to get - that is, the difference between can, should, and must.  I think the world would be a better place if more people (especially world leaders) had a more visceral understanding of this concept.
Just because you can do something does not mean you should do that thing.
You may have a Right, but that does not mean you have to exercise that Right.  You might just have the Responsibility to hold that Right in reserve.
Even if you think you should do a thing does not mean you must do that thing.

A lot of aikido practice is about waiting - almost procrastinating.  One of my instructors often preached to us, "Never solve a problem right now that can wait till later.  Solve right now's problems right now and leave the future for the future."  The problem with solving future problems is they are often imaginary - that is, they don't exist and may never exist and even if they do come to exist they may not have the impact you predict - so by proactively solving problems, you are necessarily creating a mess of unintended consequences that makes your future even more messy.
So, in aikido, sure we are learning skills and actions that we can do (that is the jutsu), but we spend a lot of time in practice waiting to see what will be the consequences if we do not exert our wills upon the world.  We are trying to achieve a deep, abiding understanding of can, should, and must.
Can (jutsu) is generally easy - we all have a lot of knowledge and power and skills and ability to do things.  What we are trying to achieve is the should/shouldn't and an understanding of when we absolutely must act and when we can wait for the picture to become more clear.

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Patrick Parker
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