I remember back in the late 1990s I was having a conversation with one of my cousins about a particular combination in shotokan karate that he was studying. He was explaining how, when it was westernized, there was a certain movement that was simplified because it was difficult to teach. It often required students to spend a great deal longer to learn the combination as a result of that one move and thus it was simplified. The reason it usually wasn’t a big deal was because the old maneuver was only relevant in one or two situations that the new maneuver didn’t cover. It was very much a case of diminishing returns for most students to learn the older form of the combination. My cousin, however, had an instructor who knew the older combination and was willing to work with him to learn it, too. My cousin’s view was simply, “I had the time and I wanted to learn the older, more traditional form. I wanted to be prepared for those one or two situations the new movement didn’t cover because if I ever sparred with someone who knew both, they would know the way to attack the new combination.” Someone like my cousin.
That reminds me of the following quote:
“He’d trade you and me and every other old sea dog in the Navy for one glass-eyed electronics technician.” – Billy Sunday, Men of Honor
How is that quote appropriate? A lot of times we get caught up in the new way to do things. Or we get fascinated with new tools or new people or new something or other. Instead of weighing things out appropriately, we become enamored with the newness and we value the new person, thing, tool, or technique over the old simply because it’s new. If you think about it, this is a key reason why adultery in marriage happens. The husband or wife meets someone new that is a lot more interesting and fascinating than the spouse back home. The newness factor leads one to believe he or she has “fallen in love” or that the new person connects or understands in a way the spouse can’t. Really, it’s all about newness. Or think about a child with a new toy. Typically that new toy has a short span where it’s the most important thing that child owns. However, within a short time it’s replaced by the next new toy or thing. The thing is, as we grow older we don’t tend to grow out of this response.
A lot of old techniques and tools are still around because over time they have proven themselves effective. They have outlasted the new upstarts time and time again. However, it can be tempting to put them aside for something that has the “new” factor. This can be a very foolish decision. Instead of just embracing newness, take the time to make a rational study of the new versus the old. Is the new really better? A lot of time new means relearning, for instance. Does the new provide enough of a gain to relearn? Are there special circumstances where the new is better than the old but there are others where the old is the best? How often do you encounter these situations? Which is therefore better for you? These are the types of questions we need to ask rather than defaulting to an assumption that new is always best, or if you’re one of those types that gravitate the opposite way, assuming that new can’t hold a candle to the old. Judge each comparison on the merits of the old versus the new. Then choose accordingly. Be intentional about your choice. Know why you’ve made the choice. And if you’ve chosen the old over the new, use the merits of that comparison to remind yourself why you stuck with the old (or went with the new).