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What You Think You See

Go to a mirror and stand close so you can see your eyes. Now move your eyes so you are looking at your left eye then back to your right eye and continue to repeat being aware that you are physically moving your eyes. You will feel your eyes moving but what will you see? Before you read on actually try this.

Welcome back. Most of you are probably a bit confused to downright freaked out. Even though you can feel your eyes moving you didn’t see them move in the mirror. Take a moment and think about this, what does it mean?

It means that your perception or reality is being fed to you by your brain. You are not seeing what is actually there like a camera taking it all in. In fact, your brain sends 10 times the amount of data forward to your eyes than your eyes send back to your brain. Basically your brain is saying to your eyes this is what I think is out there check to see if I am right. Your reality is just that, yours.

Understanding this has helped me become a better teacher and student of our martial art. So many times when I am teaching I will show something and ask the students if they ‘saw’ what I did. They usually answer yes but as soon as they start training it is quite evident they didn’t. I hear it all the time, people telling me that they intellectually understand the idea but they just can’t do it.

What I have learned is, if you can’t do the technique, then you don’t really understand the concept, you are just seeing your eyes not move in the mirror. You’re seeing what your brain thinks but not what is. In order to get around the personal bias we each have I learned to do more drills and experiments with students so that they could experience the concept I’m trying to teach instead of just watching.

As a student I have learned one of the best ways to understand is to be the uke so I can feel the result of the technique. Then I ask questions about the results I was getting to see if they match with my teacher’s expectations. I can’t just listen to the words or watch and think I have it, I have to try it, train with it and experience it to understand. At the moment I get it and my teacher say ‘yes that’s it’, I almost always have the thought, “wow that wasn’t what I thought it was…”

The title of this post should actually be What You Think (comma) You See. This may seem like a perpetual trap that dooms us to never learn but we know it is quite the opposite, we are designed to learn. What you think, you see, you experience, you accomplish. It explains how, in this art, as our teachers age they get better. Physically they may not be as young and strong as before but their perception, the way they think, continues to expand and that is the path of our training.

To improve and grow you must look at how you think, how you perceive and be willing to change it, to not do what you have always done. To take pause before you say ‘I got that one” and really dig into the experience of your training reality because what you think you see, may not be what you need to think, to see.

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