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Chasing a Second Innocence

Innocence: lack of guile or corruption; purity.

In martial arts practice (as with most training endeavors), there's a path of growth everyone must follow. For most of us, the path looks similar to that provided below.

Stage 1: First innocence (Pre-verbal Infancy).

In this stage, the trainee knows nothing about the art and knows nothing of his ignorance. Everything is foreign, new, exciting, and, quite rightfully, in the moment. This is before (sometimes years before) the trainee begins his (or her) training.

Stage 2: Introduction (Toddlerhood).

In this stage, the trainee still doesn't know much of anything, but now he's developed a beginning awareness of his ignorance. As pejorative as this might read, this is the stage of frequent bottle feedings and potty trainings. This phase often lasts anywhere from six months to three or four years.

Stage 3: Sophistication, Part I (Adolescence).

In this stage, the trainee knows a few things, but he's still in a fog about most of what he's learning. This phase can last anywhere from five to ten years.

Stage 4: Sophistication, Part II (The Teens).

In this stage, the trainee learns a lot, knows he knows a lot, and looks for any and every opportunity to showcase his knowledge. During this phase, competition with others takes center stage. This phase can last anywhere from three to fifteen years.

Stage 5: Sophistication, Part III (Early Adulthood).

In this stage, the trainee knows more than many around him, and, while he knows it, the focus shifts from that of competition with others to competition with himself. During this time, the desire for mastery begins to emerge. The time spent in this phase (and all future phases) cannot be estimated.

Stage 6: Simplification (Parenthood).

In this stage, the trainee begins to empty himself of the non-essentials and begins, too, to empty what's genuine about him into those under his care. His own training transitions from a menu-driven, scientific approach to the free-form flow of a burgeoning artist. Dropping the conventional, he stops molding himself to the art and starts molding the art to himself.

Stage 7: Second Innocence (Selflessness/Deep Inter-dependence).

In this phase, the trainee has become the art itself; he knows, but has forgotten how he knows. No longer menu-driven, his responses to life are free of contrivance and pretense. They've become pure, joyful, even masterful; but he cares little about mastery, because mastery speaks of the future, and it takes him from the only place and time where he knows life can be lived: here and now. He loves the feeling of being free, and he takes great delight in the simplest of eating a piece of watermelon, sweeping the porch, or watching (usually from afar) a toddler take his (or her) first step.

Such are the many journeys and destinations of warrior-trainees. Where on the path are you?


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