The Way of the Tester: 2. The Way is in training.

Another principle of Musashi’s Way of Strategy, again this one looks obvious.

2. The Way is in training.

When applied to a physical discipline, this is obvious. My father was an Army drill sergeant for a number of years, and his mantra of the three stages of training was “Explanation; demonstration; and practice with the squad, practice with the squadpractice with the squad…” And for physical disciplines, repeated movements become ingrained. Muscle memory takes over. So it was with swordplay. If you watch any proper Japanese samurai drama, you will see set movements with the sword which the adept swordsmaster will put together to create fluid combat moves. Even today, these movements are practised in the martial art of kendo, which replicates the artistry of the swordsmaster with non-lethal batons (though those who practice it may dispute that ‘non-lethal’ bit, and indeed Musashi himself achieved a number of duel victories with wooden swords).

We experience muscle memory daily in the regular movements we repeat in our everyday lives. If we drive, then the motion of operating the controls of the car is part of our muscle memory. My partner has taken up ballet, something she was never able to do as a child, and bemoans the fact that she has started it far, far too late in life to become as good at it as professionals. Professional ballet dancers start at around the age of three. You only have to see professional dancers walk to know that they have a way of moving that is different to yours or mine. This is what Musashi would call “The Way of the Dancer”.

In Buddhist philosophy, the concept of “the Way” has special importance. It is sometimes described using the word tao; and it is used to describe something that (in this case) a person does because it is an integral part of their being. It is the Way of the dancer to walk in a particular way, to stand in a particular way, and to dance in a particular way. They have had to train in the discipline of dance, but that training only taught them the mechanics of dance, the set movements and positions in ballet that are part of the art. They are able to learn it because it is part of their Way, but they do it because they cannot do anything other.

In this, it is different to kung fu. You may have heard the quotation, “This is my kung fu and it is strong.” Kung fu means “a learned discipline”. You might think that to be little different from the tao, but there is a subtle difference between the two. Someone can become adept at a skill through repeated training; this is kung fu. But even the most skilled practitioner will not have the fluidity or ease with a physical skill as someone for whom that is their Way. If dance is your Way, then dance will inform your every movement. It will come naturally to such a dancer; they will not need to think about dancing.

We see the Way in all sorts of abilities; in mathematics, in languages, in the arts, in music. Some people never achieve a natural ability with a skill, no matter how good they get at it; for them, the skill is their kung fu. I once had a colleague, a lawyer, who was always full of energy and music. He sang, whistled and hummed all day. “If you puncture Alan,” said another colleague, “music would pour out of him.” The law was his kung fu, but music was his Way.

Sometimes, we do not know our Way until we happen across it. “The Way is in training” points to this. The training can reveal our Way to us. Many testers have written about the qualities a tester needs – attention to detail, persistence and curiosity are three of them. A person with those qualities may well find that testing is their Way.


One thought on “The Way of the Tester: 2. The Way is in training.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s