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Feb 192014

Yesterday, I returned from a 17-day whirlwind of training with our leaders and students in the Philippines and Taiwan. The sensation of “time travel” still gets me when I consider the 14-hour time difference.

One of the remarkable things I witnessed on this trip that wasn’t karate related was a knife maker named Maestro Wu on the island of Kinmen, Taiwan. He makes knives out of bomb shells. There are so many shells on the island, compliments of mainland China circa 1958, that they are listed as a natural resource. Each shell can render 60 blades. We watched in awe as in minutes he cut a rectangle from the bombs exterior, fired, pounded, cut, shaped, sharpened, and polished the steel till it became a high quality kitchen implement.

Maestro Wu explains, “the hotter the fire, the more impurities (weaknesses) are brought out, then the pounding process makes the purer metal more dense and strong.” The highest quality blades are those that go through this process hundreds and thousands of times. Sometimes the sword metal is said to “scream” during this process.

In psychology, there is a term called “one trail learning”. Unlike most learning styles, this kind doesn’t take a long process of habit and reinforcement. The punishing results of an action are so severe that the subject never forgets the lesson. In labs, it can be an electric shock. In relationships, it can be the immediate loss of trust with a friend. In training, it could be an injury directly linked to a poor choice. The fire is hot, we take our pounding, and hopefully, we never forget the lesson.

May our darkest times and experiences make our character stronger and make us a bit shinier and far more effective.

P.S. Ironically, Chinese tourists often visit the workshop, purchase these knives, and return to China with a piece of one of their own bombs…but in a lovely gift box.


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