The Four Keys to Learning

Many years at Judo—first as a student and then as an honorary teacher in London—have given me some valuable lessons for life. I discovered that one can learn in four main ways—instruction, observation, inference and personal experience. My conclusion is that to know something thoroughly one must learn it in all these four ways. This applies to life in general, but we can see it in a model from Budo. Budo practice in a dojo training hall is like doing an experiment in a laboratory. If the correct result is clearly confirmed, one can recognize the same principle everywhere outside the laboratory, though not in such a clear form.

For instance, the principle of gravity is demonstrated in a laboratory, inside a vacuum. In the vacuum, a thread falls at the same rate as a stone. This does not happen in the world outside because of air resistance. But the same pull of gravity is still there. Once we have seen it in the laboratory, we can recognize it everywhere. The autumn leaves, blown high by the wind, seem to contradict gravity, but still we know that gravity is working on them. In the same way, in our Budo training in the practice hall, we can discover principles for our life outside. The dojo is a sort of laboratory: one of the things we can discover is how to learn.

To learn something positive we need these four methods— instruction, observation, inference and experience. They are all necessary, but not for a negative: ‘Don’t do that!’

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