There is a zen saying about learning that states:
“When you go to a house you must go through the gate first; arriving at the gate is an indication that you have arrived at the house. Going through the gate, you enter the house and meet the host. Learning is the gate and not the house. Learning is the gate to attaining the way.”
Learning is not the same as understanding or attainment. Just because one has a bit of new information doesn’t mean one understands it. In the martial arts this seems to be very important as some can confuse the gate for the house. Or they confuse learning as knowing and take the bit of information as understanding.
Taking the gate to be training and the study of a martial art, and the house as understanding and being able to put into practice what one has learned, then meeting the host would be mastery of the art or the way. But in order to meet the host you must first walk through the gate and enter the house.
There are no short cuts to mastery, you must go through the gate, enter the house, and meet the host there is no other way.

Don’t Become an Imitation Budoka

Maintaining a daily practice is important. Every great martial artist not only advocates it, but has lived it by example. Martial arts mastery is a never ending journey, it doesn’t begin or end in the dojo it begins the moment you are determined to improve yourself and make the appropriate steps towards that end. The journey ends the moment you think you are good enough, or in the moment you make excuses for not practicing.

As soon as you decide not to practice or begin to make excuses why you don’t practice, is the moment you must realize your journey has ended. This is not the same as taking a rest or resting for the sake of practice. Baring injuries, if you go weeks on end without stepping foot in a dojo, or working on the foundations of budo is the moment you have quit following the way.

Those who don’t practice and only talk about mastery are merely telling their own stories and writing their own lines. They will become imitation budoka and won’t ever become the real thing. Imitation plants don’t grow nor do they bear fruit, imitation budoka are worse as they can more easily trick people with their imitation fruit. But, in the end their fruit will only leave a bad taste in the mouth once people taste the real thing. Don’t become an imitation budoka, become the real thing.