Learning Through Triangulation

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Posted by admin | Posted in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Spiritual | Posted on 18-09-2009

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It’s only been two years since I have taken up a martial art.  I’ve seen plenty of blogs written by 15th degree black belts, and although I can directly see how useful they are, some of the concepts they write about are so abstract to someone at my level that I often struggle to understand their thoughts.  I started blogging for an entirely different reason—a spiritual reason—but as I have progressed on my path, I have come to realize that the three aspects of my journey—physical, mental, and spiritual—are so intertwined that concepts from one easily apply to the other two.

The particular martial art I practice is Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, a system comprising of nine different schools, the details of which are so easily found on the Internet that I see no point discussing them here any further.

After two years of training, I have finally realized that I am not being taught a martial art; I am being taught a martial science.  All the techniques and basics I am being taught are effective because they are based on physics.  My sensei, through his own “art,” is transmitting to me the science of Budo Taijutsu.  What I personally develop from the science that I learn will become my own individual art, the “tenth” school of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

The problem is, how do I discern between my instructor’s art and the science he is trying to transmit to me?

Although it took me quite some time to realize it, the answer had been in front of me for quite some time.

As an aspiring mountaineer—even in my distant past as a sailor—I have learned to determine my (roughly) exact position on a map (or chart) by triangulation, taking bearing from at least two points as dissimilar as possible, preferably three.

By taking bearings from at least 2 (preferably 3) dissimilar points, we can approximate our position.
By taking bearings from at least 2 (preferably 3) dissimilar points, we can approximate our position.

A year into my martial arts training, my real job required that I travel to and remain at my customer’s site for two weeks.  Instead of taking a two week break in my training, I searched for and found a Bujinkan dojo in Minneapolis, the city I was going to be at.  (Being an international organization, Bujinkan members can train in any Bujinkan dojo worldwide.)

Training in a different dojo during those two weeks provided me the opportunity to “intersect” my instructor’s “art” with the “art” of another instructor.  Just like in navigation, such an intersection of bearings or “perspectives” allowed me to pinpoint the science of the technique.  This is done by focusing on the similarities of the perspectives instead of the differences.

Venn diagrams use "spaces" to represent "sets" or "perspectives."  The intersection of the spaces is the where the core of the concept lies.
Venn diagrams use “spaces” to represent “sets” or “perspectives.” The intersection of the spaces is the where the core of the concept lies.

By intersecting the differing perspectives, I was able to understand the science not only better, but faster as well.  Direct feedback from my instructor confirms that the multiple perspectives I have studied have indeed accelerated improvement in my technique.

However, in order for a concept to be true, it must be universal, by which I mean that should hold true regardless of application, conditions, or environment.  (I refer to this as “universality,” but I tend to make up words…)

What if we were to apply this concept of learning through triangulation to religion?  If instead of looking at the differences between religions, we instead found the similarities, we might find that they do not differ that much at all.

But religion is too easy.  Let’s take a harder look at ourselves and the opinions we hold to be true.  If we were to intersect our perspectives and opinions with those of others—especially with those with whom we seem to disagree the most—what would we learn?