The Fountain

The quality of one’s education depends largely on its source. Sometimes putting increased effort into learning something is not nearly as effective as just improving the source from which you are learning in the first place. 

I have learned Jiu Jitsu from third generation Black Belts, been placed in front of teachers who declared ice cream to be health food and just about everything in between. This process has taught me a good deal in the way of identifying true knowledge. I know where to learn it and I know when it is best to guide others past myself and directly towards it. 

The sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was founded by two brothers named Carlos and Helio Gracie. The Gracie family developed the system. Eventually Helio’s sons, along with the Machado Brothers, brought the sport to the U.S. 

From there, the sport has been proliferating at pace with the rising popularity of MMA and the UFC. 

I spent Saturday of this weekend training at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seminar with a man named Amilcar “Mica” Cipili.

Mica was trained by Pedro Sauer, who was a student of Helio Gracie. Later, Mica earned his Black Belt from Rigan Machado, who is another second-generation Jiu Jitsu expert.

This means that he is only three generations away from the origin of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

It was in explaining this to our small class that Mica introduced me to an important concept. 

He said, “The closer to the fountain, the more pure the water.” 

With each step away from the source taken by a body of knowledge, there will be an element of dilution and contamination. 

Almost everyone at some point during their childhood played the game in which a phrase is whispered into the ear of the schoolmate next to you and that phrase is repeated in a circle of whispers from student to student until it comes back around. By the time the phrase makes it back, “Mrs. Hanson’s dog is named Blue” will have mysteriously turned into something like “Mrs. Hanson is having blue cheese for lunch.” 

The same phenomenon occurs with the transfer of any other sort of information. The difference between learning Jiu Jitsu with some buddies who are copying moves they’ve seen on tv and learning it from an expert with tens of thousands of hours of training under the direction of someone like a Gracie or Machado is huge. 

The process of learning; of transferring knowledge, is essentially making a copy of a copy. The quality of the end product will depend on how many copies away from the original it is. 

At some point, those who have mastered a field will gain an understanding of it sufficient to allow the addition of things uniquely their own. This is what the Gracie family did in developing the Brazilian style of Jiu Jitsu, which had been a Japanese art based around strength and power. The Gracies adapted it to take advantage of leverage in order to benefit a smaller fighter. 

Most likely, you are not at this point. In whatever you are pursuing in life, if you are not yet a world recognized expert you are still drinking from the fountain of someone else’s knowledge. 

Consider for a moment how far away you are from the source of that knowledge. How pure is it? The answer to this question will directly affect the rate of and eventual limit to the progress you make. 

Are you learning directly from the best in your field? Do you even know how to identify who the best is? 

Another corollary that can be made here is in that I license the Precision Nutrition System, created by Dr. John Berardi and his team. Nutrition is just as, if not more important than physical training to the results that my clients eventually achieve. 

I have a solid understanding of nutritional principles and am capable of guiding a person through the process of integrating sound nutritional practices into their lifestyle.

However, what I teach is effectively the knowledge I have accumulated from studying the work of and conversing with Dr. Berardi and those of his caliber. I am a step away from that fountain. 

My ultimate goal in anything surrounding my clients is to get them the best results possible. This is why I connect them directly with Precision Nutrition. It is as close to the fountain as I can get them. If I am not the source of the knowledge, I seek out that source directly. 

If you are in a position of teaching or training anyone it is your responsibility to become the path to knowledge for your students. The source of your knowledge will become apparent in the quality of your teaching

I once had a teacher in elementary school who was explaining how the USDA food pyramid works. Milk is an important “food group” on the pyramid and this teacher instructed us that ice cream is derived from milk and therefore a large bowl of ice cream per day would be a good way to ensure that we got enough milk in our diets. 

Almost an entire class of children went home that day trusting in the knowledge that ice cream was a healthy dietary staple. This is what happens when knowledge becomes diluted and contaminated to the point that it becomes poisonous. 

What about you? Consider the things in your life that you are presently learning and other things that you may be teaching. How close to the fountain are you in each of these areas? How could you improve on that?

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