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After the plethora of Zen-related titles in recent years, Zen and the Art of Table Tennis seeks to examine links which up to now have been largely ignored – the.
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I'm rating this with respect to improvement of playing table tennis. There is nearly nothing in this book to accomplish that. As stated, it reviews other books on zen, history of table tennis, and covers some attributed negatives of zen. In those respects it may be a useful book. One person found this helpful. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime.
This writeup assumes that you have already seen Ping Pong, and will talk about some basics of Zen as well as exploring the characters in Ping Pong and what they have to add. I can't help but think that Ping Pong has more nuance to it than certain communities give it credit for - I often hear people say things like "I'm totally Peco," and otherwise latching onto specific characters' narratives in some way.
This, I think, misses a lot of the reason why Ping Pong is so interesting, and sidesteps a great deal of the tangible, learnable things that can be taken away from this story.
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One of the most difficult points to grasp about Zen is this idea of "not thinking. Picture the following — you are Peco, and you are playing a table tennis match against Kazama. He hits the ball crosscourt, and you think "he hit the ball crosscourt, so I'm going to return the ball down the line. As a fun exercise, try reading aloud the sentence "he hit the ball crosscourt, so I'm going to return the ball down the line" to yourself, as fast as you can.
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Think about how much time it takes to say that complete thought aloud, and how much time you have, mid-match, to make such a decision. Maybe this can shorten the time to say it somewhat, but it still kind of takes a long time. In Computing, there's this idea of Bandwidth , which put simply is the amount of information possible to transfer over some medium in a given amount of time. Consider the bandwidth of the English Language - in the amount of time you have to react to Kazama's attack, how much information can you process with words?
With the power of science, we've actually managed to demonstrate that when you think or read words in your head, you actually make movements in your larynx to form those words. This silent speech, or subvocalization , is just how we manage our thoughts most of the time. It's a good part of how we store things in short-term working memory, via the phonological loop. This whole idea of "purposelessness" I think becomes quite a bit easier to understand with this knowledge.
Thinking words during your actions means that you have a buffer zone in between your perception and your action. Your thoughts should come in the form of whatever action you're performing, your inner "language" should be in entire actions of your skill. English doesn't have the information density to allow you to use it for these highly specialized tasks. As such, your thoughts when processing information quickly can't be in English, due to subvocalization. You don't have time to think "Cross court left? I'll do a drive here" because by the time you get to "left" the entire action has already completed.
Daisetz uses swordsmanship to concisely illustrate this idea: While technical training is of great importance, it is after all something artificially, consciously, calculatingly added and acquired. Unless the mind that avails itself of the technical skill somehow attunes itself to a state of the utmost fluidity or mobility, anything acquired or superimposed lacks spontaneity of natural growth. In this way "conscious thought" is the enemy of your goal simply because with any degree of mastery your thoughts should not be in words but in actions.
You should literally think in the language of your task, and let the decisions come to you rather than forcing things in this way. Put another way, "Zen is not necessarily against words, but it is well aware of the fact that they are always liable to detach themselves from realities and turn into conceptions. And this conceptualization is what Zen is against… Zen insists on handling the thing itself and not an empty abstraction.
On a surface level, just think about the idea of "Forehand": We move around in three dimensions, and the conception of "Forehand" is just a broad class of things close enough to the same to refer to as a single category. But there are many possible forehands, with many possible paths, and thinking about it with language you're presented with this problem: Do you come up with a different word for each possible forehand at the cost of coming up with countless words or do you create broader categories at the cost of imprecision?
Zen sidesteps this by sidestepping language altogether. This, I think, is a lot of the non-mystic-mysticism that is everywhere in Zen — it's not so much that you can know something unknowable , as that would be literally impossible. But rather that you come to know something that cannot be precisely described by language. Zen deals with the elements of consciousness that cannot simply be taught but must be shown , which is why it's usually referred to in the language of "Training" rather than "Teaching". Satori , or Enlightenment, "must be the outgrowth of one's inner life and not a verbal implantation brought from the outside" ZAJC pp.
It's obvious how this can be applied to sport, or any physical skill - You cannot be enlightened by Zen through words any more than you can be taught proper running form by reading instructions. In this way I think a lot of people misinterpret Zen as being anti-intellectual or anti-science, but I don't think under this lens it shares any of the same qualities with Woo. Zen is less of a religion and more of a technique used to view things "directly" insofar as our senses would allow , rather than making them pass through a conscious reality-mapping process.
When you begin to think, you miss the point" zajc pp. As an exploration of this sort, you notice throughout the story that different characters "get it" to different degrees, struggle with different things, and overall have pretty different experiences that all lead them down various paths. Almost all of the characters struggle with a different specific philosophical idea, and their stories are each reflective of overcoming that obstacle.
I think the easiest way to explain this is to explore each character individually, and, essentially, walk through the story several times through the eyes of each of them. Peco's journey is the most straightforward, and is the easiest to grasp from a philosophical perspective. Peco is on the quest for enlightenment, and the concept of "the hero" represents enlightenment itself. The parallels between this "hero" and satori are self-suggesting: Peco is the character with the most dramatic character development of all the characters, going from a relatively weak and obnoxious braggart to a focused, passionate player among the best in the world.
As such, you get to clearly see his entire journey from start to finish - a journey illustrative of a wide sampling of concepts in East Asian philosophy. I'm going to ask a question that may have not occurred to you when you watched Ping Pong for the first time.
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Rewatch the scene where Peco plays Kong for the first time:. It's an interesting question, in hindsight. It's clear enough why he lost - Kong is in a league of his own and just completely and utterly outclasses Peco. But ask yourself what he really did wrong in this scene and it starts to become a little hazy.
Peco correctly identifies everything that Kong is doing to defeat him, and tries to adapt to them after literally every point. Peco is paying attention, he's playing seriously, he's thinking , and more than anything else he seems to be demonstrating that he's actually a pretty decent player.
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Most people just watch this scene and think something along the lines of "Peco realizes that he sucks at Ping Pong" but that, I think, sort of misses the point. Notice, specifically, that everything Peco does is narrated, out loud, to himself. All of his observations, all of his decisions, all of his predictions are said, literally, in his head as complete sentences notice especially him dragging out the sentence "year special" to be in sync with his actual swing, which ends up missing horribly.
A much more extreme example of this is the Beach Guy, who plays against Smile ep 3. He writes out a plan, fully detailed, with a discrete endpoint where he simply doesn't have any idea what to do afterwards, and once he gets to that point he crumbles and starts thinking about how gloomy the world is. It's easy to point at Beach Guy and laugh at the absurdity of his actions, but his actions aren't much different from Peco's — they're just presented in a more funny way. The beginning of PPTA, from Peco's perspective, is essentially his delusional self-obsession slowly but surely getting farther and farther from reality, going from a brazenly overconfident self-proclaimed ping pong prodigy to on the precipice of quitting the sport after losing to the guy who got crushed by Smile as if that had any bearing on his value as a player.
When Peco dramatically snaps out of his delusions, he takes what ends up being a remarkably straight path towards mastery of the sport. Peco was on the verge of quitting table tennis forever, even after Sakuma saves his life and tells him not to quit. He is like this up until he sees the old picture of Smile, leading to an outburst where he shouts to Obaba. From this point forwards Peco becomes the embodiment of Beginner's Mind, or Shoshin. He shows up to the training center wearing shoes with the word "Basics" on them and ends up completely discarding his old habits, completely adopting a new style.
Adjectives commonly attached to Shoshin seem to fit Peco quite well - "openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even at the advanced level.
This part of the story serves as Peco's awakening. He hasn't quite reached enlightenment - he's no better at ping pong now than he was moments before, after all. But he's seen the path he needs to take, he's experienced this " Kenshou ", literally "seeing essence". He's not yet a master, but he's started walking on the path that will let him slowly and consistently accumulate bits and pieces of masterness.
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