Training Approach - Empty Your Cup
by Kirk Lawson

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There was martial artist who desired to be trained by a famed Master. At the time, the student had extensive fight experience and a background in martial arts training. He approached the Master, and after making the customary bows, asked to become a Disciple of the Master.

The prospective student began to talk about his experience and rambled on and on about the many fights he had won. The Master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, he poured the tea into student's cup. As the student watched, the cup slowly filled until it began to overflow, first on to the table and then on to the floor. Though trying to be respectful student could no longer contain himself and shouted, "Stop, stop! The cup is full. You can't get any more in."

The Master stopped pouring and said, "You are like this cup. You are full of ideas and opinions. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full. I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you must empty your cup."

OK, it's a hackneyed old saw and you've probably seen at least five different variations of it. The point is to discourage the student from egotism and and encourage receptive learning. But many people seem to believe it means they should give up what they've learned before in favor of something better, like Master Yoda admonishing that "You must unlearn what you have learned."

When I first learned to shoot pistol, my two-handed grip was typified by the non-dominant hand's thumb crossing over top of the dominant hand's thumb, in what is now thought of as a standard two-handed revolver grip but less appropriate for the two-handed semi-auto pistol grip. Later on I sought more training, and learned the modern thumbs-forward grip. My instructor told me, "If you haven't used this grip before, just try it. It works very well. You don't have to give up your old grip, but, while here, just try using this one and see how it works for you." He wasn't telling me to "empty my cup." He was asking me to place the old one to the side for a little while and giving me a new cup to fill. Then I could place the new cup beside the old and drink from which ever I needed. Instead of one cup, I had now had two. He was right. The grip does work well. But there are times when the crossed-thumbs grip makes more sense or just seems to work better. But I get to choose because now I have both in my tool kit.

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The modern world is, as it always has been, full of arguments and advocates for this or that latest method, training style, or technique. It is the eternal search for the simple answer, one size fits all, "best" solution. But real life is far more nuanced than the simple answer and one size doesn't always fit all.

In your firearms training, perhaps you are an advocate for the Isosceles Stance. Learn the Weaver and the other variations because there truly are times when something other than the Isosceles may "fit" the circumstances better. If you are an advocate of Point Shooting, learn the Front Sight method and the Flash Sight Picture method, as well as traditional Bulls Eye sighting, because there may be times when each are more appropriate. If you typically shoot with one eye closed, learn the both eyes open method because, yes, there may be times when it is more appropriate. The same goes for drills, footwork, movement, grips, one-hand vs two-hand, and other debates common to the subject. Don't "empty your cup." Get a new cup and drink whichever one best nourishes you. When you move to the role of teacher for someone else, you'll be able to tailor and customize the instruction for the student, helping them find what works best for them, instead of offering a one size fits all solution which might not fit their body, pre-training, or experience.

The same applies to your whole life. Keep learning and adding to what you know. Don't empty your cup. Add a new cup beside the old.