Barak Article

Zen of Mastery
Saturday Apr 12, 2008 12:40 pm

Thoughts on Mastery - and trying new skills

Recently I was talking with a submissive who spoke about a newer Top she was playing with. The more we spoke about it, the more I thought about my journey as a Top. I remembered a conversation I had a little more than a year ago, after the first AIS anniversary party in January. I thought it would be quite apt, so here I am reposting it, with some minor tweaks:

I have an affinity for Zen Buddhism, so I will introduce this topic with one of my favorite Zen Fables - A rich man, fond of felines, asked a famous Zen ink painter to draw him a cat. The Master agreed and asked the man to come back in three months. When the man returned, he was put off, again and again, until a year had passed. Finally, at the man's request, the master drew out a brush and, with grace and ease, in a single fluid motion, drew a picture of a cat - the most marvelous image the man had ever seen. He was astonished; then he grew angry. "That drawing took you only thirty seconds! Why did you make me wait a year?" he demanded. Without a word, the master opened up a cabinet, and out fell thousands of drawings - of cats.

At certain levels of practice, a skill becomes so second nature to the person performing, it looks simple. This is something that newer people to the scene take for granted. They watch and see people performing intense, interesting, scary, amazing things with single tails, fire, needles, knives, rope, etcetera. From a newer player's point of view, it appears very simple and elegant. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, let me help illuminate what is not so apparent.

Those fluid motions, elegant ties, breaths of fire, smooth entries of the needles, look so simple because of the time and effort that we have spent practicing over and over and over and over, ad infinitum. Let me 'splain - no let me sum up.

Before I used a single tail whip on a human being, I sought assistance. I went to whip classes through CORDs/SORE and at national leather/SM events. I watched Tops who were very proficient, asking them for tips, and tricks. Then I stood in my living room, throwing the whip for an hour at a time, weeks on end, for months and months, until I could reliably hit a paper plate or pillow the size of a hand, at different intensities and with reliable effect.

In using needles, it looks easy because I have been pushing needles through human skin for well over a decade. I didn't start by sticking them in human skin, I started with an orange. Orange peel has similar characteristics to flesh, and after learning the basic technique from a book, I went at oranges with gusto. From there, I used myself as a first crash test dolly. After it wasn't so bad for me, I talked my friends into it. Then over the course of time, I got more skill, and more practice.

What I am saying is that the beauty and sensuality of using specific toys comes from practice. That is the part that not many people see. I am still learning in my path as a Top and Dominant, and there are many things that I do not have a level of mastery with. Those things won't be publicly seen until I feel content that my level of skill will not permanently damage another human being. That is the key. If there is a type of play you are interested in, find someone who does it well and watch them play. Make sure as you view, they have a level of skill that is admirable. Honor them by asking them to point you in the right direction, to recommend books that will help, or if they are willing, show you some tricks to hone your techniques. Then practice, practice, practice!!

Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something. It is honest, and will get you so much more respect in the long run. Also, if you are given some advise that seems reasonable - pay attention to it, try it out, and if it works, integrate it into your practice/play.

Moreover - pay attention to the possibility of Top's disease. This is a problem for many newer (and some more experienced) Tops. This disorder refers to D-Types who have read some books, listened a little and now think that they know all about the subject. It akin to the old adage that "A little knowledge is really dangerous.". It's true. Always remember to keep open to feedback from your bottoms, and from fellow Tops.

I used to have a boss that said, "if someone calls you a horse, you can tell 'em to fuck off. But if three or four people say you are a horse, best check a mirror and look for a tail.". What do I mean? If there is some criticism from one person, it might just be that person, but if it comes from multiple sources? The common denominator might just be you.

Either way, in my opinion (however skewed it may be) it is best to continue to self-monitor, and to "download" with your bottoms (Or your tops) in some vanilla space - to get a measure of where we are with our skills. Could we be hitting to hard to fast? not enough warm-up? too stingy without enough thud? Are we communicating well enough? Was there enough negotiation? Was there any? Any other thoughts, feelings or concerns?

It is my hope that anyone who bottoms to me will give me the honest review of our play, so I can continue to grow and learn as a Top.

repost from 2007

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