Had the pleasure the other day of meeting an martial arts teacher of the older generation, plenty of skill, and unusual in the fact that he is still highly motivated to refine and improve what he has. Always discontent with the level he is at, he is constantly looking for that 'extra edge' as he put it.
He has had a great deal of real life experience by all accounts, at least in his younger days, and was never afraid to fight. Still now (into his 70s I think) he would be a tough proposition - strong, efficient, and ruthless.
He said that for him fighting is easy, as he knows the 'flavor' of it. He said that in his mind, there really is only one 'dish', and like a high end chef, he can understand the combination of ingredients that go into the recipe, and knows when the combination is right. He only has to recall the flavor of the 'dish' to fight .....
But, how does he pass that 'dish' on? .. In fact, not really even the dish, but the flavor of the dish ....?
From a student's point of view, can you find the flavor of the dish from learning about it's individual ingredients .... Or do you need to cook and experiment with ingredients yourself?
Are some ingredients more vital than others?
Perhaps the 'dish' is different for every individual, though there is the possibility that they are all versions of the same recipe ..... ?
I don't know, as I can't taste what he tastes.
Maybe the real question is, what ARE the basic flavors in a martial context? Are they techniques? Are they ways of moving the body through space? Power acceleration? Mental clarity? Adaptability? What?
And ... Is it useful to 'taste' them individually? Can one create a 'dish' from that experience? Or is it their inter relatedness and context that is much more important - How cardamom effects sugar and coffee, as opposed to what it does with cumin and coriander in curry paste, for instance?
And for those that have never tasted cardamom, can you really describe it in words? Or is it better to head down to your local Turkish or Indian restaurant .... or Russian bakery for that matter ...... and taste for yourself ...?
.... And lastly, what would the martial equivalent of Turkish coffee look like .....?
(Apologies for the punt into left field, but I just watched a couple documentaries on Richard Feynman the physicist. Amazing chap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXtnYnoutKk It's a long documentary and totally worthwhile, but if you don't have the time, may I suggest minutes 15 through 22 )