Friday, May 07, 2010

Two Little Things

Long talks with Kris, Edwin and Maija about teaching methodology. Good, focused stuff. Kris talked about attaching the new information to the vehicle. You put on your gi, you get in front of the class, everyone bows in.

That's an icon or an archetype. There are a million little assumed things that go with it. You don't have to say what you are teaching. It's martial arts. As if the words defined anything. Kris rides the archetype, breaking little things down, changing patterns, bringing in information that rarely finds its way into a dojo. But never so much or so fast that the students lose touch with the pattern, the expectation.

He sneaks in the important lessons, and the students learn it without ever feeling they are on alien ground.

Maija quoted her late instructor: "No drills, no style. I am teaching you to see." It warmed my heart.

Edwin, with his expertise in system design ,asked the right questions, I think.

A student is/has three things.
1) Attributes. People differ in size and strength and speed. But they also differ mentally and emotionally. Aggressiveness and fear, tolerance for uncertainty, ability or inability to see things as they are. Many ways to be different.
2) Training. At some level everyone has been taught things. Even if they have no formal training, each student has an idea of what fighting is.
Ideally, the training would be based on the student's attributes. Knife fighting is a bad choice for a gentle soul who can't abide messiness and liquid spills.
3) Experience. Maybe a lot, maybe a little... and many take training as experience. It's not the same. Training falsely interpreted as experience can be a deadly trap.

In the end, I'm only trying to offer two things:
1) An analysis of the problem. This gets broad very quickly. Violence dynamics, how bad things really happen, is crucial. Knowing "how to defend yourself" if you have no idea what you are defending yourself from doesn't make any sense at all.
But there's more. Often, maybe usually, the battle isn't lost physically but mentally. The glitches and freezes and fears and the emotional and social context are just as important to making yourself act as what the threat does. The physical part is often simple. Making yourself do the simple thing in a frozen fog of doubt... that's less simple.
2) A way to evaluate yourself. Does this work? Is it set up to be applied to the real problem? Can it be more efficient? What about myself? What makes me hesitate? What could I not live with? Will this send me to prison? Am I okay with that? Under what circumstances? What is the price of admission on this ride?

So I have nothing to replace a martial system. Most systems work just fine if they are trained with respect to the real problem and the attributes of the students anyway. The body mechanics usually work better than the explanations some instructors come up with. There are some styles that work way better with real assaults than they will ever work with sparring, which shouldn't surprise anybody, since that's where they came from.

The physical skills are easy, and the principles are quickly and simply understood. Practicing and applying them takes considerably longer, but I'm not convinced that the constant presence of an instructor is really useful. At some point, if the sensei is there every day and the absolute authority on what is good or bad... it's basically a teat for the brain. No reason to learn to feed yourself.

That's addictive and counter-productive. Not something I want for my students or, for that matter, anybody.

Getting together every so often so that you can show me what you've discovered and I can show you what I see? We both grow then.


Tiff said...

Good conclusion. :}

DojoScore said...

Getting together every so often so that you can show me what you've discovered and I can show you what I see? We both grow then.

That is a great idea, and it's why we founded DojoScore: a free service that helps martial artists find both formal instruction, and informal, independent practice partners.

Lee said...

Much like a mentorship; of which we all need at different parts of the growth process. This coming from a student of life and it's myriad of "training" oppurtunities.

jks9199 said...

Being lazy; I posted this under a different entry. Fits here, too...

There does come a time when the student must stop looking outside for answers, whether the lessons are in martial arts, or something else. That doesn't mean that outside input isn't useful, or that teachers can't still add to the learning -- but the search and understanding must come from within, rather than outside.

In the early stages of training, everything comes from outside. The teacher shows the movement, and the application, and the student copies it.

In the middle stages of training, the student begins to find different applications and, when shown one technique, can see many more. But the student still looks to the teacher for validation and direction.

In the later stages of training, the student finds the answers for themselves, and doesn't need that validation or direction. The student has taken the responsibility for their own learning. Advice and input from teachers is accepted and useful... but it's not demanded or relied upon.

Now... to add on...

Lots of people out there never move beyond the first stage, for lots of different reasons. Sometimes, they're happy to simply go to class, and "do their thing." Too many teachers aren't willing to see their students surpass them or willing to admit that there is a limit to their own training... so their students never move on. Or they're working from a flawed premise to begin with...

A very few teachers routinely guide their students to surpass them...

Andrew said...

@ jks9199

What you are talking about is called Shu Ha Ri (in Japanese), and any instructor worth their salt knows it from experience, if not by name.

My problem as an instructor is not teaching my students to surpass me, but finding those who are willing to put in the work to do so.

I have a handful that will, and count my blessings for them. However, they are an exceedingly rare breed. I wonder sometimes, when they are the teacher, if they will be able to find students like themselves.

Reading Rory's posts offers some hope, but they also bath in harsh light how sad a people we are when we must fear protecting ourselves against violence.