Tag Archives: Empty Full Cups

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 5 • Yin ☯ Yang of Empty vs. Full Cups

Entering a new dojo or training facility requires humility and respect. Maybe the instructor is young or small in stature – don’t judge a book by its cover. You are a guest in their gym. Respecting a new gym requires courage and confidence. You are admitting to everyone that you don’t know something, but are willing to spend the time and effort to listen and learn.

Learning is about checking your ego at the door.
What kind of student are you?

There are three types of students:

  • Empty-Cups • These are students who have the complete courage to enter a new facility and learn a new craft. They want to learn new techniques and new degrees of freedom. They ware willing to have the instructor fill their cup with knowledge and experience. These students are the easiest to teach because they absorb information like a sponge. Techniques they learn are not only be adopted for that session but will be treated as their personal “laws” to be adopted as part of their training repertoire  – from that point onward.
  • Full-Cups • At the opposite end of the spectrum are students who enter a new gym with big egos, or their personality is overshadowed by insecurity. They don’t have the courage or willingness to lower their guard and learn something new. Their cup may be full from another discipline or gym. So what is their motivation? Maybe they want to “fight-out” their daily frustrations on unsuspecting students, or prove their toughness in a new gym. Maybe they have low self-esteem and don’t have the confidence to lower their guard and admit they don’t know something. These students are the most challenging to teach because the artificial barriers they have created must be broken down first before teaching can begin.
  • Cups-with-Holes • These are students who listen to the instructor for a brief moment and forget or discount what you told them, once you leave. They don’t have the patience or interest to adopt a new technique for longer than the teacher is giving them attention. They treat the instructor’s guidance as temporary. This may be due to a lack of respect for the gym or instructor. Other times it may be due to not realizing that what they are being told is “law” that needs to be adopted from that day forward.

The best students are Empty-Cups – it is enough to tell them once, and the instructor’s mission is accomplished.

As an instructor, I try to understand the type of student standing across from me. If they are a Full-Cup student, my time is ill spent. If they are a Cup-with-Holes then I try to explain that what I am teaching is not temporary – it’s “law”. They should adopt that law from that point onward – at least until something better comes along. Cup-with-Holes students require a lot of patience because they need to be told repetitively what is correct before they finally realize the importance of what you are teaching them.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

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