01 Jun Black Belt Pedagogy – Part 1
See With Your Six Eyes
The Importance of Visual, Tactile and Psycho – physical Learning
My instructor once described the importance of engaging both the body and the mind in the
technique that you are trying to do. He said, “See with your six eyes.”
He described the eyes we use to see the world with, but then held his palms out, and
described the two hot spots on the palm that seem to heat up when you are conscious of
them. He said that we should feel the opponent with these two eyes, because to truly
engage with someone, friend or foe, we need to unite our physical, tactile self with our
consciousness. He then spoke of the two hot spots on the soles of our feet. The Chinese call
them Yongquan, or “bubbling cavity”, and they are two key points on the kidney meridian.
He emphasised that we also need to connect with the earth, for if we are not grounded
physically, and connected to nature, we can’t generate the necessary power to deliver
He wasn’t just talking about martial arts, however. He was talking about life. If we
disconnect our physical and conscious self, then essentially, we lose ourselves.
This view of life seems to have been somewhat lost in our modern world. Our children learn
rigorously at school to read and write and to absorb ever increasing volumes of knowledge
in order to cope in an increasingly complex world. Schools are under enormous pressure to
gain satisfactory scores in public testing, to the extent that free play, experiential learning,
drama and dance can inevitably be considered as non-essential education when so much is
at stake in the comparison of schools, states and countries over literacy and numeracy
What does this mean for our children? And why do they need martial arts? The answer is
simple if we trust our intuitive self. Children need to experience the world, not just know of
it. International bestselling author Dr Leonard Sax writes about the significant shift in
education in the West. He describes the two important types of learning, and uses the
German word for Knowledge, Wissencshaft, and the word for Understanding and intuition,
Kenntnis. He argues that Western schools have largely left Kenntnis by the wayside. This is
where the student learns about trees by feeling, smelling and being surrounded by them,
rather than reading about them. It implies the critical importance of developing social and
physical skills through play and physical endeavour.
Enter martial arts. If you have had moments of uncertainty about the time your child spends
at the dojo when they could be cramming a few more hours into study, in the hope of
gaining that desired ATAR, it may be worth a second thought.
In martial arts training, the student learns to engage their body and mind in an absorbing
activity. It is absorbing, because a mistake has definite, and sometimes uncomfortable
outcomes. The student gets hit, thrown, wristlocked or arm barred.
These are definite and palpable consequences to the lack of complete engagement. The good news, however, is
that within this apparently dangerous environment there are built in layers of self-control,
mutual regard and compassion. The student rarely actually gets hurt, all students are aiming
at a common goal, the achievement of the coveted black belt rank.
Then there is the other and more powerful “paradox of martial arts”. As Daniel san said in
Karate Kid 1, “I learn to fight so I don’t have to”. It is remarkable that after 35 years of
teaching martial arts I have rarely heard of an experienced student actually getting into a
fight outside of the dojo. Boys and girls who believe in themselves, are motivated to
succeed, and comfortable in themselves don’t need to get into fights. They can walk away
because it doesn’t challenge their social status to do so.
Apart from the mind/body connection, self-control and self-esteem, martial arts offers
invaluable opportunities for social and emotional development. Positive interaction with
others in a supervised environment allows the boy or girls to learn tolerance, patience,
inclusivity, to win with grace and to lose with dignity, and to achieve a long-term goal
through commitment and discipline. To “see with your six eyes” is to experience the world
with all of your senses, to learn by the experience in, (Kenntnis) not the knowledge of (
Wissenschaft) the subject, and this is precisely what makes activities like traditional martial
arts so important in our modern world.