Deep or Wide
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International
February 28, Long Island, USA
They say that a bee that takes honey from many flowers is the best bee, or something along those lines. The point being that it is good to taste from many sources. I have heard this from people who have studied from many martial arts instructors. The argument is that they are richer for having tasted from many master instructors. They do not want to be “limited” or confined to one source.
Fair enough but let us think beyond slogans. Imagine a person digging a well for water. He digs a little here and a little there but never goes deep enough to find the water he needs. Use the same reasoning for drilling for oil. If you do not go deep enough not only have you found no oil but you have pretty much wasted your time.
The Talmud, Jewish tradition, advises us, nay, behooves us to acquire a teacher and a friend. The idea is that you must invest in each. You must invest years in your training, and you must invest years in your friendship. I am currently visiting at the home of a friend I have known for over 35 years.
Depth matters. My friend Adam has been a student of Prof. Cohen for 37 years. The rabbis teach us that one should “hang out” with one’s teacher, one’s mentor, to pick up the subtleties that might be missed in class. Time matters.
So when I see a student, even if he is already teaching, attend many different seminars and train with many different teachers I have to wonder, what is he doing? This will most likely only confuse a person. To do this one must first have a very solid foundation in one art. Only then can something be gained by this outside study.
Study deep before you study wide. The Talmud teaches that a tree with branches wider than its roots will collapse while a tree with roots greater than its branches will thrive. Words to follow.
It is reasonable for a master in his field to study other fields, once he is at the correct level. My grandfather, Rabbi Issac Klein of blessed memory was a great scholar. He was fluent in 8 languages and published more than 10 books. His focus was on the Talmud and Jewish law but he also picked up a doctorate in Roman law. His personal library of over 10,000 books covered many subjects. Once I chanced upon a book in psychology, at the end of the book I saw his notes, “This book contains nothing new or insightful“. When you are a master of your field that covers a lot.
So before being the happy bee who jumps from flower flower tasting the honey perhaps it would be best to invest in one well and go deep. Go deep enough to reach the water. The water will quench your thirst.