- Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The Professor started talking to Nan-in trying to impress him with his interpretation of Zen. Nan-in suggested they have some tea.
- Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
- The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
- "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
- Reprinted from wikipedia
2. Know the forum for asking questionsEvery school is different in how you are allowed to ask questions. For example, in traditional Japanese system, students don't ask the instructors any questions. If they need to, they'll correct you. In my opinion, that leads to a slower learning process, but it makes the student internalize the small issues first, before they get to the bigger issues. In our school, we demonstrate a technique a couple of times, ask for any questions, and then the students practice the technique. Most of the time, this is when questions actually arise. In our case, our system is, the student asking the question goes to the instructor (rather than calling them over). The instructor also walks around and corrects things, or answer questions as the students practice.
3. There is always more to learnAt some point, you will start to see techniques repeat themselves. Don't fall victim to the "I know
this one" line of reasoning. You can always learn more from a technique. Look at the details. I've been doing aikido for 12-15 years (I'm not quite sure myself) and even when I see something as simple as ikkyu, I still can catch details about how another person does the technique.
4. Do your homeworkI heard a good line about martial arts classes. I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like this "You're here to learn, you can practice at home." Use your time in the dojo wisely. You have such a short time with instructors who have more skill than you do, why would you want to spend it practicing things you can do at home? Unless you're getting your movement's critiqued, in which case, it is valuable time spent.
All in all, keep an open mind, be sincere in your training, be polite, and follow the culture of your dojo.