In my observation, most people are two-dimensional thinkers; they get information and then they think they know it. The knowing itself becomes a truth to which one holds steadfastly. This is most glaringly obvious in people who need to be right. They encounter the world through a closed-minded lens, but really, nobody’s wrong if everybody’s right. Being “right” in a “knowing” stance leads to conviction, often without careful consideration of the information source or an embracing of the perspective of reasonability. We read books, surf the internet, overhear a conversation, listen to the radio, attend a seminar and then earnestly hold on to what we have supposedly learned. As students of the martial arts we have an instructor or grand master who imparts training, and this is experienced as ‘knowledge’ by the student. Let me give you an example of an instance where I too fell under the ‘knowing’ spell. When I was first taught heaven 6 from the Filipino martial arts world, I felt, within a few months of training, I had achieved command of this sinawali (weave or pattern). Then I attended a seminar from the legendary Dan Inosanto and realized once a student learns heaven 6, there is earth 6, and once that is learned, there is heaven and earth 6-count. Low and behold, at the seminar, Dan explained to me there are 64 variations of heaven 6 and heaven and earth. Through my own understanding of heaven 6, I discovered that with reverse grip there are 256 variations. When we add punyo, heaven 6 with multiple levels, this generates thousands of variations of heaven 6. To add insult to injury, I attended a Professor Remy Presas seminar on Modern Arnis, and realized the heaven 6 I learned is actually a variation of the brush, grab, strike empty hand version of heaven 6. Once again, as my experiential understanding expanded on heaven 6, I realized then this can be done with a knife, standard grip or reverse grip, a stick and so on. When I first “knew” heaven 6, I had actually only scratched the surface of the discipline.
Not to discount the value of information and education, but history has taught us throughout the ages that the process of knowing is constantly in flux. So why do we hold on with white knuckle fervor to our truths, when any and all truths are transient and always evolving? Let us go back in time 100 years ago to 1915. What exactly were known “truths” of this time? Women were not allowed to vote and Jim Crow laws enforced the widespread segregation and repression of Blacks. Radio, magazines, print ads and paper publications were the only available form of media and information dissemination. In 1915, there were only a handful of vaccines and DNA was undiscovered. There were 100 million people and 2 million cars in the US. About 5% of married women worked outside of the home in 1915, compared to about 60% today. We had not seen galaxies outside of our own, plastic hadn’t been invented and the atomic nucleus hadn’t been discovered. The nature of “truth” is reflected not only in our global history but our personal timelines as well. Think about what was true for you at 5 years old. Is it true for you now? The most we can say about truth is that it is part of a constantly moving process. And for every century that has come before and every century that is to follow, truth will be constantly evolving. It must be this way, because in 100 years, all 7 billion of us will be gone, replaced with new humans forming new societies and new ideas. In fact, I propose that the real value offered by our current “truths” is in their provision of a foundation upon which we stand to reach for and understand the next truth, and the next, ad infinitum. This is applicable in any endeavor, any and all walks of life, whether you are a doctor, an engineer, a lumberjack or a mechanic. We get information and hold on to our truths, and ultimately only through experiential understanding do we gain depth. If ‘knowing’ is two dimensional (width and length on an XY axis), then experiential understanding takes us along the Z axis and represents the third dimension of thinking and processing information.
In martial arts, the only stable base is an adaptable one. In the mind, the only superior intellect is an evolving one. If one becomes consciously aware of experiential understanding, one is able to move through life with a clarity of intention. Once that process is ingrained in daily living, we embark on the fourth dimension, which is time. Clarity of intention coupled with experiential understanding begets wisdom, and in my perspective, the ultimate fighter is a wise fighter.