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The Seed of Knowledge
External and Internal Developmental
Stages of Learning
by Eric Lamkin

The transmission of martial art knowledge from teacher to student is an ancient and time-honored tradition. But what happens to this wisdom when it reaches the ears of the student, and how does it affect his life as a whole?

In this essay, we will examine the growth of wisdom both externally. We will also discover how it acts as a unifying force for Body, Mind, and Spirit. But, before we embark upon our study, Let's examine the necessary foundation that is crucial to guarantee the proper transmission and reception of knowledge.

Foundation - The Preparation for Instruction

Before each class, the student must be prepared both physically and mentally. For physical preparation, the student arranges has schedule to ensure that each and every scheduled appointment for class is met. Sporadic and inconsistent study is a quick trip to a dead end. Lack of progress and frustration are characteristic of this type of training (or lack of it). Only consistent and regular practice will provide the necessary framework for development.

In addition to regular attendance, the student must also arrive in a timely manner. Arriving early will provide the student with the time necessary to physically ready himself (warm-up) and to begin mental preparation (often through meditation).

The good student approaches his training (regardless of his rank or skill) as if it were his first. That is, without prejudices or pre-conceived notions. Even if the instructor is explaining a rudiment such as a block, which the student may have learned years earlier, the good student drops all mental obstacles and approaches the lesson with a "beginner's mind."

The knowledge your instructor imparts to you is likened unto a seed, which once received, must be planted in fertile soil for there to be growth. If the student has properly prepared himself physically and mentally, he now has "fertile soil"; that is, a firm foundation upon which instruction may begin.

The Reception of Wisdom

When the teacher gives instruction on a block, for example; the student must reverently accept that knowledge and bury it deep within himself. But, merely planting this "seed of knowledge" is not enough. It must be tended to and cared for in order for there to be growth and the production of "fruit". Let's follow the life-cycle of one particular "Seed of Knowledge" ( a block) and examine the three stages of External and Internal Development - Physical, Mental, and Spiritual.

Stages of Development
External and Internal


If you listen attentively to your instructor and bury his wisdom deep within you, you enter the stage of External Physical Development. By listening to your instructor's explanation of the block, you will know the proper position, its reference to the self-centerline and so forth. But this external knowledge alone is not enough.

This Seed of Knowledge must be "watered" through the perspiration of practice. Eventually, through constant and mindful practice, the seed will take root and begin to grow. Once this occurs, you enter the stage of Internal Physical Development.

At the Internal Physical Development stage, you do not have to consciously command and place your arm in the proper position for the block. Your body instinctively delivers the block in the correct manner.

Once you arrive at this stage, you will be in Physical Harmony with the block.


As you receive further instruction from your teacher, you will learn how this block may be used, the circumstances surrounding its use, and its effects on the opponent. this stage is known as Internal Mental Development. But this knowledge will be of no use unless it is put to practice with a training partner acting the part of the attacker. Constant practice in this manner teaches timing, body position, balance, and calmness while under fire. Eventually, you will reach the stage of Internal Mental Development.

Internal Mental Development is characterized by the ability to block an opponent's strike instinctively without hesitation or losing the proper structure of the block. Once this is achieved, you are Physically and Mentally Harmonious with the block.


At this point in your training, you should begin an individual study of the block. Test the block in a variety of situations to discover its many uses. Occasionally, you may receive a sudden burst of insight giving you a deeper understanding of the block. At this point, you have reached the stage of External Spiritual Development.

Frequently, this "new knowledge" is already known to others including your instructor and the many instructors before him. But this should not discourage you! For it shows that you are on the right course. Besides, the only true knowledge is self knowledge. You can tell a person a thousand times that the paint is wet and he still has to touch it! The knowledge gained from others are facts, the knowledge gained from your own personal experiences and observations leads to Truth.

The highest level of development is Internal Spiritual Development. This stage is characterized by the application of the block or its concept into every avenue and facet of your life. At this point, the Body, Mind and Spirit are in Harmonious Accord with the block.


Once a plant has reached maturation, it must still be tended to. It may need occasional pruning; most importantly, it must be kept free of weeds. Likewise, once your piece of knowledge has reached full development, the work does not stop. It demands constant attention or it will fall into disrepair. A student once asked, "When does the learning stop?", to which his instructor replied, "When you die, then you begin again".

The Ultimate Aim

Gichin Funakoshi, the Father of Karate, once said, "If one will master a single block, he will master all of Karate-Do". Taking a single bit of wisdom to the point where you can use it in all parts of your life and to bring yourself in harmony in Body, Mind and Spirit is the ultimate aim of the martial arts. If you can, as Gichin Funakoshi said, accomplish this with a single block, imagine what awaits you when you master all of the fundamentals

Now imagine what awaits you when you master the art. Do this and you will master yourself.

You have been given the seed. What will you do with it?