I always wondered what this phrase meant, and I believe BBM and I have reached a modicum of understanding of what it means through years of conversations and sharing experiences from different contexts.
I have a broad background in education, and BBM has over 40 years of teaching martial arts. One of his old students returned this week and complained that BBM is much softer on the current students. Whereas we see it differently.
The culmination of years’ of experience is that we can more quickly cut to the chaste. One new student was working as a large machine operator, earth moving machinery, demolition machines, etc. When describing how the upper leg moves, and then the lower leg follows, BBM related it to how the heavy loads are moved by the crane. The knee is crucial to the mechanics of the kick. Immediately the student grasped the idea.
Another new student was a baker. When describing the hip movement behind punches, BBM asked whether the baker used only his arms when kneading bread, or did he sway his hips to get some grunt behind the motion? Of course, BBM has made many loaves of bread and pizza dough himself.
Over the years of conversations, we have come to believe that there is truly nothing new under the sun. We believe that an expert in any field, if they genuinely care about the students’ grasp of the ideas, would be able to relate the substance, by knowing what they can relate to within the student’s life context.
Which brings us back to the boat. Of course BBM can build a boat. He knows how to use tools. He knows how to read and listen to others’ ideas. And, most importantly, he knows how to analyse information from different sources in light of his unique objectives.
He wanted a boat which had flexibility. So, he read about the experiences of others. The caulking (‘corking’?) was to be cotton tamped between the slats of wood. One book’s author had no money, and so the cotton was worn out jeans cut into strips. This lasted many years. In fact, it was reported in the news this past year that that particular boat was renovated, and they pulled the original old jeans out of the seams.
The pitch that went over the cotton in the seams had to be watertight yet flexible, so BBM found information on approximate amounts of bitumen, tallow and cement to mix – trial and error from there. Practice runs on other wood to measure drying times, etc.
Any time BBM came across a method he didn’t understand, he would mull it over until he could relate it to something within his experience. At that point he could distil the information down to core elements and understand why the method worked. Then, he could modify the method to suit his unique needs.