The “cup” portion of our name and logo refers to our participants being a Cup: a full cup, and empty cup, and whole cup, a broken cup, a repaired cup.


This image comes from the ancient story about a martial arts master teaching a student that they must empty themselves to truly learn. There are many versions of this story, and many more deeper meanings to find. But here is one version of that story:


…. Some weeks later a friend arranged for me to meet Bruce [Lee], from whom I hoped to take private lessons. Bruce was highly selective about the students he chose to teach, and this morning was to be a kind of audition for me.

Since he gave only private lessons and had no formal studio, the meeting was at my home. He arrived promptly and I went out into the front yard to meet him. At first glance he appeared even smaller than he looked on stage. He was wearing snug-fitting, full length athletic pants and a green tank top shirt that revealed rippling muscles. He was smiling as we shook hands, but he quickly got to the point. “why do you want to study we me?” he asked. “Because I was impressed with your demonstration and because I’ve heard you are the best.” You’ve studied other martial arts?” he asked. “For a long time,” I answered, “but I stopped some time ago and now I want to start over again.”

Bruce nodded and asked me to demonstrate some of the techniques I already knew. We went out to my driveway and he watched intently as I went through the various katas [forms], or exercises, from other disciplines. Then he asked me to execute some basic kicks, blocks, and punches on a bag hanging from a rafter of the garage. “Do you realize you will have to unlearn all you have learned and start over again?” he asked. “No.” I said.

Bruce smiled and placed his hang lightly on my shoulder. “Let me tell you a story my sifu [teacher] told me,” he said. “It is about the Japanese Zen master who received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. It was obvious to the master from the start of the conversation that the professor was not so much interested in learning about Zen as he was in impressing the master with his own opinions and knowledge. The master listened patiently and finally suggested they have tea. The master poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept pouring. The professor watched the cup overflowing until he could no longer restrain himself. ‘The cup is overfull, no more will go in.’ ‘Like this cup,’ the master said, ‘you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?'”

bruce-lee-emptynessBruce studied my face. “You understand the point?” “Yes,” I said, “you want me to empty my mind of past knowledge and old habits so that i will be open to new learning.” “Precisely,” said Bruce. “And now we are ready to begin your first lesson.”

This does not mean that Bruce prevented me from applying a critical mind to his teaching. In fact, he welcomed discussion, even argument. But when challenged too long on a point his reply was always, “At least empty your cup and try.”

Later I learned that Bruce practiced what he taught…. He also studied other styles of martial arts, taking from all of them whatever he thought useful. Although considered one of the best martial artists of his time, he was always learning, always in a constant process of change and improvement. He truly kept his cup empty.

With half a century of life experiences behind me, I sometimes get impatient with a new idea or technique. But when I feel impatient or act dogmatically self-assured, I remind myself of the lesson Bruce taught me, and I try to empty my cup to make room for new methods and ideas.

(Joe Hyams, Zen In The Martial Arts, Bantam Books: New York, NY, 1979, pages 8-12)

You may view a visual representation of the same story titled THE ZEN MASTER AND THE SCHOLAR – THE OVERFLOWING TEA CUP.


“Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with precious metals. The process treats the breakage and repair as part of the unique history of an object; rather than something to disguise or hide. Personally, I think it’s healthy to think of our own breakages and repairs in the same way. To consider our physical, mental and emotional scars as part of our history and things of value. The scar holds the shattered pieces together into a new and beautiful whole. They tell a unique story. The repairs increase the value of the object. A broken object is rarely as “good as new” if the aim is to pretend the damage never happened. However, when we approach things with a “Kintsugi mindset”, then the repair makes the object BETTER than new. #iainabernethy #karate #kata #bunkai#practicalkatabunkai #practicalkarate #karatejutsu #karatedo #martialarts#martialartist”

– Iain Abernethy

“Dear Friends, Celebrate your brokenness, your unique history. You are beautiful! In Japan broken vessels are not discarded, but repaired through Kintsugi. Repairing with gold and lacquer celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.”

–  Eric Olaf Olsen

The YMCA where we used to  teach and train had a white board. Everyday, there is a daily thought. This one reminds us that we should start each day fresh and new. We hinder ourselves when we bring yesterday’s junk into today’s opportunities. This compounds everyday we bring the past’s baggage on today’s trip. The journey gets bogged down more and more each day. 

Another day, I picked up my new copy of Black Belt Magazine (Feb/Mar 2015). There was an article titled “Stuff Your Dojo Doesn’t Need”, by Dave Lowry. Lowry states that a dojo should be as bear and sparse as possible, to maximize the training that occurs in the space. He contends the current practice of having a lot of posters, and pictures, and statues, and fountains, and trophies, and whatever else we put in, are distracting to the process. We need to clear the space, so that our minds may be empty from distractions, so that we can learn. Even the cup of the dojo needs to be empty.

I once saw an interview of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on Late Night with David Letterman. Letterman asked Tyler what advice he gave to contestants on American Idol. Tyler said, “I just tell them that if they want to get to the other side, they have to leave this shore.” We have to take this risk of pouring out the tea that we are comfortable with from our cup, if we want to taste something new. It is a risk. But we can reach the other side and learn along the way. So let’s pour out our cups and see what this journey of life has in store. We’ll learn from each other, and transform the world along the way.

This is the “Cup” portion of Earth and Cup. We hope people will come as empty cups; to be willing to be transformed in body, mind and soul. And we will come as empty cups as well. Desiring to be transformed by our encounters with others.

We should begin everyday with an empty cup. Don’t let yesterday’s tea block today’s flavor. We should enter every experience in life as an empty cup. We have to be open to learning from every person, every experience, every moment of our lives. Each second is a chance to have our cup filled with something new.


pour-empty-cupWe realize that we journey through life like fragile cups, susceptible to cracks, missing pieces and breaking entirely. We acknowledge our frailty. We also understand transformation happens when we empty our cups, to be re-filled with a different approach. We embrace our brokenness as the very thing that makes us unique. All humanity shares a common journey that unites us as inhabitants on this earth. We hold much more in common than we do in difference. We ask others to journey with us, as we constantly empty our cups, to find transforming directions to daily life.