Don’t Know X 3

“They don’t know what they don’t know, until they find out they don’t know it.”

The above is the last line in a book I just finished reading. Its a short tome providing a quick, thought provoking read on creative thinking.

Littered throughout the book are many points that would be relevant to any student wanting to Master Tai Chi Today.

The last chapter in the book used the experience of a Royal Navy Officer Wenman Wykeham-Musgrave to make a point about not knowing things. The story in a nutshell is about how Wykeham-Musgrave at the age of 15 survived the sinking of 3 ships in the space of one hour.

Initially, Wykeham-Musgrave’s own ship, HMS Aboukir, sank. Then he was rescued by HMS Hogue, only to have the second ship sank before he even had a chance to dry off. The third ship that rescued him, HMS Cressy, suffered the same fate. All dished out by one German submarine, the U9.

Before this incident, English admirals looked down on what they said was a useless toy. After 22 September 1914 they woke up to find that they did not really know how deadly the tiny submarine really was, how they had badly underestimated the threat and with it the big cruisers which until that time were relied on to win the war could no longer relied on to do so, their vulnerability exposed in a single morning resulting in the loss of 1,450 lives.

Just as interesting was that the Germans had also underestimated the deadliness of submarines which was just as well. Otherwise, the outcome of the First World War could have turned out differently.

You can read more about this incident here.

Not knowing that I did not know what I did not know was fortunately something that did not happen to me. One example of this – at a certain time I was learning Dong style Tai Chi, a great style with an impressive lineage. My ability to push hands had improved a lot; I even managed to handle someone much stronger and experienced than me. So I knew what I knew.

However, something bothered me. If the push hands I had learned was good then how come when I tried to use it against my Wing Chun senior it did not work. What was it that was wrong with the approach? A die-hard practitioner would not dare to question the teaching but I was not one to follow something blindly.

However, things could have turned out differently if I had not questioned my learning. I would not have known that the approach that I was learning would not have worked against an opponent who was not letting me push him. I would not have known that speed and power can be mutually exclusive. So many little things I did not know.

Thus, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you don’t know things. There are many things I do not know. I make it a point to find out what it is that I don’t know. Then I try to learn about them, find out how it could work against me, then work to patch the vulnerability. This is how anyone can improve their push hands game.

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