Yesterday I read a comment left on one of my recent posts on my personal blog (My Journey to Black Belt), Joint locking – how useful is it really? by an anonymous commenter, which accused me of having a ‘beginner’s mindset’. I say accused because the tone on the comment was clearly an attempt to patronise or insult me.
This is the offending part of the comment :
“…….I find this discussion rather sterile and representative of a beginner's mindset: take this question to your sensei, if he/she can't show it follow my previous advice.
I don't mean to be condescending but from what you've written it's clear your understanding of this subject is rather limited: …….”
(This is just an excerpt from the comment; visit the post to read the entire comment)
At first I was a little taken back by the comment but after thinking about it for a few minutes I realised that being told I had a beginner’s mindset was in fact very high praise! It meant that I was open-minded, my cup isn’t yet full, I can still learn new things, gain new understanding….
Actually I don’t thing Anonymous meant that at all but he/she is wrong in thinking that a beginner’s mindset is a bad thing in a martial artist.
Maintaining a beginner’s mindset is a Zen concept called shoshin. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.
Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”
There are clearly many advantages to maintaining a beginner’s mind: curiosity, openness, enthusiasm, creativity…… Unfortunately, the person with the ‘expert mind’ becomes the opposite of this: un-inquiring, closed mined, stilted, un-creative – arrogant even.
Clearly the concept of shoshin has spread far and wide. A quick google on ‘beginner’s mindset’ found articles promoting the concept on a range of activities including swimming, software production, yoga and advertising. Each of the experts in these fields was promoting the idea of maintaining a beginner’s mindset to improve one’s ability in the respective field of practice.
All I can say to Anonymous is thank you for noticing that I have a beginner’s mindset. Clearly I am still on the right path in my martial arts studies.
Do you have a beginner’s mindset?
Sue is the Blog-Editor-In-Chief for Martial News. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue also writes a personal blog called My Journey to Black Belt