Emptying Your Cup

We hear the saying all the time, especially in the realm of martial arts. "Empty your cup", but what does it really mean? How can I empty my cup? Does this mean I have to forget everything I've learned and start over? What will happen to all the knowledge I have worked so hard t gain already? Why should I have to empty my cup? Lets look at what emptying your cup really mean.

If a cup is full, and you continue to put liquid in, it will just flow out and you are wasting any thing more you try to put in. It just won't stay. In this way, look at the liquid in the cup as any preconceptions you may have to learning something. This includes any opinions, judgments, old habbits and ways of thinking and so on. If your mind is already set prior to starting or learning something new, you may think you know it all... or know enough. You may even think you can get by on what you know already. This is bad because you will miss out and over look a lot of things which will really prevent you from fully learning or comprehending new things.

When learning martial arts, you have to empty your cup. This does not mean you are discarding anything that you already know. Look at it as if you are just emptying it into a larger cooler for the time being to keep it cool! You have to make room so that you can learn new things and not allow what you think you may already know to conflict with your training. "Emptying" your cup allows you to refill it.

When I first started martial arts I was 15. I knew nothing about martial arts except for what I saw on tv, in movies, video games, or what I read in books, on the internet and from instructional videos (with the exception learning a thing or two from some family members who were martial artist every now and then). In a way, I think that allowed me to learn better because at that time, I saw my cup as being empty. I was eger to learn! I trained for almost 4 years with my first instructor and it built the basis for everything I thought I knew. From then on, every time I went to dabble in another style throughout my journey, I always found myself falling back on my inital martial art training. In my mind... I knew "martial arts" and I thought anything more I learned would be just a suppliment to what I clearly already knew. It hurt me a lot, because though I was participating in the class and doing all the techniques... at the end of the day, nothing was really sticking. I always held on to my intital training and was not able to grow. I always found a way to relate what I was learning to what I thought I already knew. That attitude kept me in a box for a long time.

It wasn't until I started capoeria in 2007 that I realized if I wanted to continue learning the style, I had to let go everything I thought martial arts was about. Capoeira was a completely diffrent beast and though I recognized a lot of the kicks that I've seen in other martial arts. I found my self having to relearn. I could not have done that if I had continued to hold on to all of my preconcieved thoughts of martial arts, if I had not "emptied" my cup. I would have been compressing my growth.

I see it even more now since I started training in escrima, since I had never trained in a weapon based art before... I had to learn quickly to clear my mind to prepare to learn all over again in class and to keep it mentally separate from capoeira and other arts I have learned from in the past.

There will be a time and a place to mesh all of your knowledge together if need be. But while training and trying to learn an art... that particular art must be focused on with no other interruptions. The cup must be emptied at the door. This is what I have come to understand about emptying my cup over the years. I think it has helped me to grow. As Bruce Lee said once- “Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality".

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