Sei-Shihan Eli BitranMany years ago a man took his son to see the oldest Karate Master. The journey was long and hard, the Master’s Dojo was at the top of a high mountain covered with snow. The boy was already an experienced fighter, but his father wanted him to learn from the wisest of Masters. When they arrived, the old Master greeted them and invited them into his humble home. The father said to the old Master that he wished for the master to teach his son and help him become a great fighter. The young son immediately broke in and started to explain how he wanted to be the greatest fighter ever, and talked about how quick he was, and strong. He explained how he had already mastered all the Katas (A Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements) and that he wanted the old man to improve his kicking and punching techniques to an even more lethal level. He spoke for a very long time.

All this time, the old Master said nothing. When the young man was finished, he leaned forward, grabbed the tea pot and poured the tea into the young man’s cup. The cup filled quickly and soon enough, tea started to spill onto the plate holding the cup, and from there to the table. Alarmed, the father cried out “What are you doing? Why are you spilling the tea?”

Calmly the old Master placed down the tea pot, turned to the father and said: “Your son is like this tea cup. His mind is full. I cannot fill a cup that is already full” and sent them both away.

A year later they came back, father and son. The old Master invited them into his humble home. The father said: “I want you to train my son”. There was a long pause. The son said nothing. An hour went by with the three men sitting in total silence. Then the old master turned to the son and said: “Now you are ready and we can begin your training”.

This story was told to me by my Seido Karate teacher Sei-shihan Eli Bitran in one of my lessons. I thought about rewriting the ending but decided to leave it as close to the original version as I could. You need to know Sei-shihan to understand, no drama, just tranquility and Ibuki (Method of Breathing).

Sometimes we are so preoccupied with trying to show-off our knowledge we forget how to be quiet, listen and learn. Don’t look at the cup half empty, be the empty cup.

Sei-Shihan Eli Bitran

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