I am ready to learn and advance

I have seen people enroll in a martial arts course for the purpose of learning things that they want and need and do not yet know, and then display displeasure when they are given guidance as to how to learn what it is they want to learn.

“Flex those knees deeply and see what that does for increased power.”

Grim frown and tightened shoulders. “Sorry”.


Sorry? You are taking lessons for the purpose of learning new stuff, and you are “sorry” when you demonstrate that you do not yet know that stuff you came in to learn?

When you do something wrong and someone you trust points that out, the only proper reply is, “Thank you! I’ll work on that.” The most pointless thing to say is, “I’m sorry.”

If you see feedback as helpful and are excited about gaining new skills and knowledge, you will be happy to learn what is blocking your goals and what can be done to improve your efforts to attain what you want. Sure, it may sting to hear that you are not already the perfect package, and it would be so much easier if you already had what you wanted and did not have to be open to change. But seeking information and guidance for ever improving skill is the path of the best of masters.

Of course you have the option to disagree with any feedback. The more you practice listening to advice from others, the more skillful you will become at discerning what is helpful and what is not. Not every advice-giver is worth listening to. But you will never grow if you consider skill-yet-unearned as a flaw and feedback as criticism.

My top students crave my advice. They pressure me to show them their “areas for growth” (polite term for “mistakes” and “goof-ups”). They are so powerful that they no longer need me as some Dad figure to pat their heads and coo only praise. They want to know how to get what I have gotten, and do what I can do, and they are impatient if they suspect my feedback is softened to pablum for the delicate system of a newborn.

“I am working on _____ and I feel I could be doing it better; what is one aspect that I should be improving more effectively?” – asked with an ardently probing face – is the question I love the most as a teacher. It gives me full permission to offer the best of all guidance without having to guess whether or not real input – as opposed to reassuring praise alone – is truly desired.

And then I love to hear, “Thank you. I’ll work on that.”

14 comments to “I am ready to learn and advance”

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  1. Can tell your students truly appreciate the very valuable source of inspiration as well as enlightened straight from the heart guidance from you. Equally important is always seeking with new quesitions is as important as the answers.

    Remember many years ago when having the privledge of training with you. Each moment, was a learning experience.
    From watching, listening, Experiencing the lessons in each moment from you, through you, was and still is truly an unforgetable enlightening experience.

    Appreciate all you share, past…present…..future !!

    Also enjoying reading your book, “How to Own the World”.
    Really mindful reading and hope everyone has the opportunity to pick up a copy to read and experience too!!

  2. Thank you for reminding me to keep my cup of knowledge half full — that way I am always thirsty. A happy birthday to you, a man who is truly blessed, and an inspiration to all. Again, thank you.

  3. Anshu,

    Truly a thought provocative post! I shared it with my students as they too are going through the “sorry” stage. Thank you for your insightful posts and I look forward to the next one!

    -Luis Acosta
    Dojo Cho
    Bujinkan Nezumi Dojo

  4. Daniel Grant Baker says: -#1

    Dear An-shu Hayes,

    I know that I have been (an sad to say still am) guilty of “sorry”ing.

    Thank you for this post on how to properly verbally handle learning from mistakes and errors in training.

    Thank you!
    Do-mo A-ri-ga-to Go-zai-mas!

    Daniel Grant Baker
    To-Shin Do LDS White Belt
    Mansfield, OH

  5. Truly words and advice to take to heart. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  6. Jeffery K. Emerson says: -#1

    An-shu, I just read your post on the sorrying phase. I teach a small group of students and have experienced the same from each of my students from one time or another. It was so wonderful to see that we feel the same about this issue. It has always been an honor to read your writings and I personally look forward to more in the future. I wish you continued success in all that you do and wish you a early happy birthday. May you and your family be blessed.

    Thank you,
    Jeffery K. Emerson

  7. David Edward Oliver, BS. says: -#1

    Dear Stephen K. Hayes; I am writing to let you I have read your books and you inspired me. You are one of my heros and I do value your knowledge and I respect your martial arts skills. I do hope you are well and in good health and that you continue to propser in all that you do. Most Sincerely; David Edward Oliver, Bluffton, South Carolina, USA –

  8. Daniel L Dunn says: -#1

    Thank you for the advice An-shu. While reading your blog I remember times when I have felt over critical of myself training and would have perhaps felt the need to apologize if ‘corrected’ in such a situation. I very much agree that good advice should always appreciated.

    I preemptivley took the advice of your blog and flexed my knees deeply to see what it would do for increased power (while practicing Ichimonji no Kamae with kihon strikes) and to no suprise power, form and ease of execution were all greatly increased.

    So I feel as though I must say with great gratitude for yet more pieces of great advice,

    Thank You, I am eager to continue working everything.

  9. Tyler Hayes says: -#1

    Hello An-shu. I am guilty of the sorry state, at least I was when I first started studying Aikido. My sensei told me essentially what you have said here, and it not only helped me realign my martial arts practice, but changed my perspective on life in general. Rather than apologize for what I did not know, I now engage it and learn constantly, without fear and without hesitation.

    Hopefully soon I will be able to engage To Shin Do, when I am financially capable of it. I am looking forward to it.

    Many blessings 🙂

  10. steve siverling says: -#1

    I am working on becoming more open to critiscism. It is not easy.

  11. as far as my trainning in nin-po, only a short month in a dojo. I knew few things, and when my teacher showed us, none of us were sorry because he is a great teacher. due to life happening while I was busy making plan’s I lost touch with my teacher and mates from the dojo. I pray I can find a way to reach my black belt in to-shin-do. and ignore those who preach ninjutsu is dead. they insult the grandmaster in Japan. who gave away his great daughter, to a great American husband. thank you so very much.

  12. Thank you for this post! I can’t in few enough words tell you how wonderful are these words: “you will never grow if you consider skill-yet-unearned as a flaw.” This is what I have loved about training martial arts from the beginning: the opportunity to grow together on a very personal level, to be so intimate with each other’s “skill-yet-unearned” or weaknesses. I needed the personal attention; that’s the reason I never thought of quitting even though Aikido at first was such a low factor in my mind. Back then, I was embarrassed by my flaws. It was actually meeting another martial arts student that awakened in me the endless beauty of learning a martial art – and of learning anything. If one can learn to appreciate the art of learning, then one can learn to appreciate all aspects of life. Turn embarrassment/pride/fear into awe/joy/gratitude. What could be more deeply satisfying?

  13. HoooAhhh. Ninpo Ikan

  14. I find your words inspiring and would like to take the ideas to my students in a totally different area. I use to tell them: The Only thing you are not supposed to say in class is “I can’t”, cause if u say so, it will happen.
    When having trouble finding how to make the exercise just say: “I haven’t made it yet, please help me to achieve it”.
    It works like magic; and I know your words will help em to keep advancing.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.
    May the light be always at hand in your way.

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