Monday, November 28, 2011

Baseball, go and fundamentals

From Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go by Toshiro Kageyama. I think this concept can be applied to many aspects of life.

Each spring sees the opening of another baseball season. This is one of my favorite spectator sports, but every year there is one thing that bothers me about it. That is the way that semi-professional, university, and sometimes even highschool stars enter the professional leagues and immediately display a skill that puts their veteran teammates to shame. 
There hardly seems to be any difference at all between amateurs and professionals. Amateurs play for pure enjoyment, while professionals play to make a living. The difference between them ought to be much greater. 
In every confrontation with a real American professional team it seems that what we need to learn from them, besides their technique of course, is how uniformly faithful their players are to the fundamentals. Faithfulness to fundamentals seems to be a common thread linking professionalism in all areas. If we consider the American professionals as the real professionals in baseball, then I think we have to consider their Japanese counterparts, who tend to pass over the fundamentals, as nothing more than advanced amateurs. 
The reason for the lack of polish in Japanese baseball is probably just the short history it has in this country. Each year, when the visiting American team makes its tour, I sense an improvement on the Japanese side, so that in another few decades, or another century perhaps, when the necessary progress in technique and mental attitude has been made, I expect to see a world championship spanning the Pacific. I feel certain that no racial physical inferiority consigns us to second place. 
The opposite case, where the difference between amateur and professional is most striking, is Japanese sumo wrestling. There even the collegiate grand champion has to enter the professional ranks in the third division down from the top and work his way up while being treated like any other raw recruit. Collegiate wrestlers lack nothing in body, weight, or strength, and they are gifted with the advantage of intelligence. The potential is there, all right, but on the other side there seems to be what can only be termed a thick barrier between amateur and professional, built by a long tradition among professionals of almost superhuman effort. It takes more than just bodily size and strength to become a professional sumo wrestler.
In the world of go also, a long tradition of intellectual combat has distilled the professional into something that an amateur can never hope to become. A professional has undergone elite training in competition from childhood; he has learned to view every other person as an opponent to be beaten down and crushed. His mental, physical, and emotional strength all have to be fully developed. If he lets up anywhere, it will show in his performance on the board and he will fail the professional test. The realm of competition is stark. 
No professional regrets the time he has had to spend studying. "I've never spent a minute studying in my life," declares Yamabe, 9-dan. Let two professionals get into a post game analysis, however, and they will go on endlessly, completely forgetting about time. Who will say that is not studying? 
The way young players have taken over the game can only be called terrifying. The time they spend studying every day defies the imagination. 
Professionals do this unquestioningly. Even a gemstone has to be polished. "A man is always moving either forward or backward," says Kano, 9-dan. "He never stands still." This should be every go player's motto, and he should keep piling effort on top of effort no matter what his age. He can be confident of always making progress.
And now, a lecture from Dywin on orthodox opening (make sure to increase the quality to at least 480p):

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is the photo above of Kageyama himself? It would be nice to know what the person I've been learning Go from looks like. I love his book.