I often compare the life of students to the act of making a weapon in a blacksmith’s shop. When looking at the bigger picture, it can be the period between admissions to graduation, and from a smaller picture it can be each and every course taken until graduation. Although nobody wants to admit it, it is essential for students to find something they are good at, that is, they need to be better at something than others, especially in an age of intense competition which can even mean something other than their major.
Embedded are two concepts when it comes to the question of what you excel in and what makes you stand out from the crowd. The first is ability, that is, what you excel in shows the high caliber of your talent. No matter what anyone says, they will not be able to say a word when they witness extraordinary talent. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to discover and develop your true ability? The second is individuality. In the past, living like other people was the norm because they thought it led to a higher chance of survival in the real world. However, this mentality is not acceptable in this day and age as it may lead to a third-class life. You will survive only if you are different from others, so isn’t it important to find at least one thing you can do better than another person?
Therefore, your talent becomes your weapon, a weapon that will protect you from a knockout punch that may come your way. More importantly, you have to be able to control and use your weapon effectively. It can be a knife or spear, a bow and arrow or a dagger, an ax or an iron mace. For instance, when I see an impressive piece of work I am inflicted with many kinds of wounds. At times, I am in a state of shock after being hit with a hard blow and at other times I have a slight cut which continues for a long time. Like this, the types of weapons represent individuality and the well-crafted weapon represents one’s talent.
Figuratively speaking, students that have just entered university do not yet possess these weapons. They each carry a chunk of iron which can be molded into any shape, and inherently these iron chunks all have the potential, talent, and individuality ready to burst at any given time.
The university is a blacksmith’s shop, and the blacksmith is not the professor but the students. The professor is there to help you make your weapon along the way. There are basically four steps in making a weapon. First, melt the iron. Second, mold the iron. Third, temper the iron on an anvil. Fourth, sharpen the blade.
The act of melting the iron is akin to letting go of all your inhibitions. It is the act of stepping up to the challenge. It is not clinging onto the shape of the iron chunk but molding it into any shape you desire, which is a very natural process. If it turns into a shape you don’t want, then you can temper the iron and change it as you see fit. The iron will eventually take shape after endless tempering and transform into a weapon of your choice. If the weapon has a dull blade and a broken tip, you may have to throw it away; you must be able to endure the whole process of hardening and sharpening the blade until you are ready to respond instantaneously to any given situation.
The act of molding the iron into shape is the stage of navigation and exploration. The act of tempering and sharpening the blade is the stage of polishing or perfecting one’s skills. Exploration is therefore the act of finding your ability and talent; a trial-and-error period. The polishing stage is achieved after repeated training until your body is accustomed to the whole process.
It is my hope that you will make your own weapon that is strong enough to protect you from any obstacles that lie ahead. In addition, our university will provide heat from the hearth so that you will be able to mold your chunk of iron enabling you to create a powerful weapon uniquely your own.
Translated by Julia Kim