any of the traditional forms of Oriental [um…I think we were looking for a better word here] self-defense or combat that utilize physical skill and coordination.
From Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.
We think too much.
But we also think too little.
The thing is we think at the wrong times and in the wrong places.
And we fail to think at other times and places.
Overall the over-thinking is the greatest problem for us right now.
Though under-thinking can be quite a bit of an issue, too.
What the heck am I talking about? Well, here it is. You see.
Language is a martial art.
Language is not like a martial art.
Language is a martial art.
But where’s the self-defense or combat? Well, I’ll save you the semantic hair-splitting of discussing the price of illiteracy in a text-centric society. The part we want to focus on is the:
“physical skill and coordination”.
You have been tricked.
You have been misled.
By your own skill. Your own genius. Your own amazingness.
Language is martial art. And you are master of at least one language (you’re reading it right now). When it comes to the language you’re reading right now, you’re wearing a belt blacker than Malcolm X’s soul.
And it is this black belt that is screwing you over.
Malcolm X is screwing with your mind.
Because you are now so amazing at the language you are reading right now — your English is so amazing…that you now think in it.
You THINK in a martial art. That’s like…that’s like reading so much machine code that you write people emails in binary. That’s you right now.
But here’s the deal. Language is not thinking. Not initially, at least.
It is a martial art.
It is about physical skill and coordination.
That language is also a (the) tool for intellectual discourse blinds us to the fact that its acquisition and use are not fundamentally intellectual exercises.
This is why even stupid people (← the shot…it is so cheap 😀 ) can have good language skills.
This is why kids can perfectly recite ancient texts.
Language is a martial art. A sport. It is about physical things. Physically showing up. Physically staying there. Physically experiencing. Physically acting.
Fundamentally, language comes down two things.
1. Vibrations of the air. We usually call this “sound”.
2. Sight. I couldn’t think of a cooler way to put it.
Sound and sight.
No thinking. No worrying. No deadlines. No pride. No shame. Just sound and sight.
What are the organs of sound and sight?
Ears and eyes and (later — having built up your ear and eye skills) mouth. There’s a reason we call a language a “tongue”, rather than a “mind”.
If you want to “own” a language, if you want to “become” a language, and even if you’re just a beginner and it all seems impossible, or you’re an intermediate and it all seems interminable, or your advanced and it all seems (what does it seem like? unimprovable?)…You don’t need fear, and you don’t need worry and you don’t even need complex, newfangled methods.
All you need are sight and sound. All you need are your ears and eyes.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t yet understand what you’re listening to. No one starts out knowing anything. It doesn’t matter if you don’t yet understand what you’re reading.
Just focus on what goes into your eyes and ears. Just make sure that to the greatest extent humanly possible, EVERYTHING that goes into your eyes and ears is in the language you want to acquire.
You don’t have to think, you just have to be.
You don’t have to listen, you just have to hear.
You don’t have to read, you just have to see.
So if you are in doubt, if you are in fear, if you are trapped in cyclical, compulsive thinking, if you just don’t know what to do, if you are confused by criticism and contradiction and conflicting advice, then stop using your mind – it clearly isn’t ready yet. Instead, just use your body.
This is what the immersion environment is about.
It is not about moderation; it is not about tricks.
At its core, it is about burning all the ships.
It is about the physical act of placing and keeping your body in the situation it needs to be in.
There’s a reason people spend all that time practicing katas (check out these wooden dummy “SRS” videos). There’s a reason people who spend all their time arguing instead never seem to get anywhere (hint: the Internets are full of these people).
If there is only Japanese stuff in your life, then you will only do Japanese stuff. And if you keep living like that, then the Japanese will eventually get in your head. And stay there. Whether you like it or not.
Have fun, have laughs, screw around. Just do it all in Japanese. That’s the only language there is for you to do anything in anyway, right? You’re using Characterizer right now, right?
I don’t quite know how to put this into words; I don’t quite know how to get his across to you; it’s all so clear in my head and so weaksauce on the monitor. But I can at least say this: when you take care of the physical, the mental eventually starts to take care of itself (and probably vice versa).
You don’t have to control all the variables in order to achieve control of the entire situation. Like a row of dominoes, you only have to topple one, to topple them all. All you have to do is put your body into Japanese — if you just keep your body there, Japanese will then put itself into your mind. I am repeating, restating and reiterating for a reason.
Control where your body is and what is experiencing, and the rest shall fall into place. Leave your mind alone for now. It’ll catch up with you later.
Thanks for reading this rant. If you want more (and better-written 😀 ) info, you can check out the three books that inspired this article: