“You must pay attention to fundamentals.”
“Study the basics.”
“A building is only as strong as its foundations.”
I remember these kind words that guided my practice.
Almost all of my teachers encouraged the study of basics; assuring me that they would prove central to my journey. They were of course correct. The longer my journey grew the more often I circled back to the beginning. I sensed more as time went on that the essence perhaps hid elusively in the simplest of forms.
Sometimes I think the judicious words of William Blake best describe my journey;
The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.
When we encourage the focus on basics, we are gently pointing consciousness to that which is fundamental. A beginner in martial arts desires that which he or she has seen. The student wishes to move like this and that. The teacher directs attention from that which was seen to that which was missed; what lies beneath the complex movement. The student now turns towards that which was at first hidden. Like this the dance goes on, back and forth, between the seen and the unseen. In those who use martial arts as instruments of the ego, this dance in time will exhaust a student’s resolve and bring this journey to its inevitable conclusion. In the sincere seeker though, this oscillation from the seen to unseen will energise. Such a student reveals the hidden over and over and yet is never satisfied with its fruit. A thirst remains unquenched; resolve grows and the search for truth intensifies in pitch.
The fundamentals are no longer pursued to satisfy ambition. An intuitive sense builds that a greater truth lies hidden in the centre of their practice. Basics are now studied relentlessly in search of that which is basic to the basic. The search recedes into the subtle and minute. The object which motivated the student to purse the art now turns the student outside-in. To move beyond this final threshold is to cross the bridge that no one built.
It reminds me of flowers.
Captivated by their beauty, a seeker sought flowers. But flowers could not be made; they had to be grown. The seeker began the journey of how to grow flowers. Soon it was clear that learning of flowers was insufficient; a study needed to be made of the whole plant. Careful observation led to the discovery of the hidden root. Yet uprooting the plant to reveal it proved futile; the root needed to be nourished. Keen observation was met with patience. Soil, water and light were added. The hidden power of life rushed forth to unlock dormant potentials. The seeker finally discovered the true source of nourishment in the realm of the hidden. Without effort the life of the plant was freed and flowers poured forth. Flowers whose fragrance and beauty captured the eyes of those it delighted…..who latter dreamt of beloved flowers they longed to hold.