Learn and forget. Make the technique a part of your body before you move on.
Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, once said “Learn and forget. Make the technique a part of your body before you move on.” It’s one of the key principles I followed in my studies and well as in my life. Partly because I have poor memory for details, partly because it makes a lot of sense.
Why we want to forget
Learn and forget. How does that make sense and what do we mean by that?
The idea is not, to not pay attention at all or to be a lazy student. Rather the opposite. The idea is to practice a technique, a movement or a form until you can repeat it correctly. By that time you understand the representation and interpretation that was shown to you by your teacher.
At that point, you are either stuck or you can move on to the next level. In order to move on, you need to free yourself from the representation and interpretation you were shown and you have to recognize and understand the essence of what you’re doing. You then have to rediscover its representation within your own framework of experiences, philosophies and physical abilities.
You ‘forget’ what you were taught and you rediscover the underlying essence within your own framework. You make the technique ‘yours’.
Repeat a hundred times to make it stick
Before we can forget and rediscover in our own framework, we first have to sufficiently understand (and remember) what we’re doing, so that we have a basis to understand the core and evolve our understanding from there.
That is where we have to repeat a hundred times to make it stick. We need to take notes after class, to reflect on principles and new learnings and make the sit. We need to embrace active learning, asking questions and repeating what we learned within 48 hours to commit it to longterm memory. Ideally we teach what we learned to another person to test and solidify our understanding.
Learn and forget – rediscover the teachings for yourself, with your own abilities and constraints.