The world is full of stupid people. A lot of them think they are smart, but it’s the thinking that’s the problem.

I’ve been told I’m smart. I got put in special classes for smart kids (which I rebelled my way right out of) and I qualified for Mensa membership, but couldn’t muster up the $25 membership fee. I was smart enough to waste all of my school years, eeking a barely passing grade by acing every exam and never, ever doing any homework. I never paid attention in class. It would have interfered with the book I was reading under my desk.

So I’m supposed to be smart. Many of the things I’ve done in life would support this theory, many more would argue against. I’ve always felt like it was a bit of a crock. I’ve known lots of really smart people. Hell, for most of my adult life, I’ve been surrounded by enough really smart people that I usually fall into the bottom percentage of brains in any given group I can recall.

All my so-called smarts have yielded me is a greater feeling of failure. I should have achieved more in my life. Or at least should have failed less. Smarts are supposed to result in success, or so I’ve had hammered over and over into my head. The Nine Worthies of London is a book of common sense, after all.

So I question intelligence. Or at least IQ as tested. What does it mean to be smart? Or at least, smarter?

The best explanation of high intelligence I’ve ever heard is that it is expressed by an ability to understand when the standard changes. When the average alters. I’ve come to accept this as an adequate explanation. Maybe it will help the pedants if I say that I’m talking about wisdom instead of IQ.  A nice nebulous concept, wisdom.

I will accept that I have a higher WQ (Wisdom Quotient) than the average person. The average person voted for Harper in the last election, after all. There are a number of people I know that are extremely well educated and otherwise fitting the definition of smart that nonetheless seem incapable of understanding context outside of their field. I find that baffling. I find the decisions many people make to be baffling. It’s like no one else is capable of looking up and seeing that the sky is filling with cloud, and that probably means rain.

Ido Portal did an interview recently where he talked about people coming to train with him. One of the remarks he made that rung true to me was that people often want to understand the context of his training, his school as it were. He rebels against this, seeing the desire for that understanding as a way of limiting potential. It’s a way of putting up a goal that undermines the experience.

It’s something I come up against with my teaching. I aim to put people through complex experiences. In my life I’ve found that the end goal is a nebulous thing that never occurs, and at best is different for every individual. The right chain of experiences can be a powerful force for individual improvement, and can be managed by a competent coach.

For someone like me, and a big chunk of my students, that’s fine. Context is learned and interpreted by each individual, and together we shape a path for ourselves.

Average is not a flaw, though. Teaching my way is great, but for the average student…they aren’t going to get value out of the training without context. To be a good teacher, you have to provide that context. It’s a struggle for me to do this. I lack the language or teacher training to re-phrase my understanding correctly. Fortunately, I have wise and well-learned partners to help me now.

I’m not a fan of natural talent. I think it makes you naturally short-sighted. An ability to see and understand context, the state of change, is something that you might have a natural talent for, but like speed or strength…anyone can train and improve their ability. I actually think this sort of training is, or should be, intrinsic in all martial arts teaching.

People forget, though. Laziness creeps in. When a shining light opens it’s mouth, everyone goes blind and forgets to see. If two mouths open, people will stumble to one side or the other, listening and reacting, but not understanding. Not seeing. At some point, maybe they forget they can even see.

You have to practice understanding. You have to work at remembering where people came from, what they have said and done in the past, and how that affects what they are saying now. Nothing said by anyone is above being weighed, measured and questioned. People are popular because they are liked, not because of what lies in their secret heart.

When you look down the length of your sword at your opponent…if you only see what you can or can’t do, you have failed as a martial artist. Your goal should always be to truly see and understand the person on the other end of your point.