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What I Learned About Learning from Tea Ceremony

I've been studying Japanese tea ceremony for a little over a year now. The way you learn is by watching people who are better than you, trying to imitate them, and then receiving corrections from your teacher.

There are dozens of types of tea ceremony, but the simple ones you do as a beginner last for about 15-25 minutes, depending on how many guests you have and how quick you are. In that time you perform dozens of steps, and most of those steps have a lot of nuance to them, so you may have gotten a certain amount of water from one container to another, but you may have done it all wrong.

In that way, it reminds me a lot of ballet. There is a precisely correct way of doing everything, and even if you do it for years there is still room for improvement on even the most rudimentary movements.

At first I thought that I was great at it, because I received very few corrections. Then as I got better I realized that teachers usually only correct a couple of the biggest mistakes so that you have something to focus on. Like so many other subjects, you constantly realize just how incompetent you were just a few weeks ago.

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