There is a tendency in all practices to find and hold up the most talented of individuals. The F1 driver who wins the World Championships, The MMA fighter on a winning streak, the innovative coach or teacher with seemingly new and interesting ideas. But ‘No man is an island’ as the saying goes and behind every one of these people is a web of influence stretching back in time.
In this post, I aim to cut through the illusion of individualism in endeavours such as these and, more precisely, cut through any thoughts that my own work is purely the result of my own innovation.
Individual realisations are perhaps the greatest moments of a person’s journey, in the early days of training break throughs come thick and fast and our practices are filled with ‘New’ realisations. Over time the regularity of these breakthroughs reduces and we begin to deepen and engrain the processes in which we have become immersed. For some, it is from this process of personal introspection and realisation that seemingly new concepts and innovations emerge. Certainly, my approach to coaching people has developed from a large proportion of my time training and testing concepts and methods in isolation from any specific tradition or teacher.
But, with all that said, it is important to recognise the illusion that is at work here. This is the illusion that it was you alone who came up with all this stuff. In fact, many of those ‘New’ realisations that the new practitioner’s experiences are well documented and a result of the practices undertaken. That is not to say that innovation or new ideas do not emerge, certainly they do, but there are many layers to the individuals development.
In truth, the place in which we reside today is the work of hundreds, if not, thousands of individuals. Our experience of training, our research of other people’s work (which is also seeded in others work) our discussions with peers, our interactions with students, our guidance by teachers, even our arguments with those who disagree … all of these things plant seeds which are the beginnings of your own personal inspirations and break throughs.
Of course, the reality remains that it is a combination of dedicated training and commitment personally as well as a mountain of experience that creates your viewpoint today. But the effect of those you interact with should not be underestimated. Every experience, every person who pointed to something (sometimes without even knowing they have) and ever teacher builds on your outlook and provides a constant, often unconscious stream of inspirations. It is almost impossible to understand and clearly perceive this web of influence stretching out into the past. The main individuals that we can clearly feel in our methods and works today, whatever they may be, are those which could justifiable be called ‘teachers’.
The teacher is the individual who laid down much more of the roadmap for you, who planted more seeds and who helped you to understand the dead ends. They are the individuals who consciously and purposefully pointed the way for you as opposed to those who may have given you insight inadvertently.
I have had a few such teachers, those who have developed me as a person and whose influence on me is still clear in my mind. I have also had many influencers who would never have even known they had made an impact, from my discussions with people around the world online or those who share their concepts with the world, planting small seeds in people like myself who then go away to make them their own.
To all of those who have influenced my journey, those who planted all the seeds, Thank you.
To the teachers who’s effect and influence still inform, inspire and advance my understand of my practice and outlook today, Thank you. Specifically I need to mention my dear friend Alex, my friend and brother Paul (wherever he may be!), Serge, Ball Sensei, Okabayashi Sensei, Victor and Gareth ... but there are many more who touched my training with unique knowledge whom i did not spend as extended a time with. Also the people I have had the pleasure to share my journey with, most notably Mike, who has trained with me for over a decade and still keeps me on my toes!
In conclusion, it is important to experience self-realisation and awakening to our own version of whatever we may explore, to be open to inspiration and ‘new’ concepts. But we must remember those who planted the seeds that allowed this innovation or process to occur in the first place. Most will never even know that they planted a seed or pointed the way, but some do and for me, they will always hold a special place in my mind.