Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Random Thoughts on Teaching

I'm going to be talking out loud here, just pondering, speculating.  

It's possible to complicate things by simplifying them.  A human is a human. Each piece of a dissected human is technically simpler than the whole human... but simplifying in that way doesn't really help you deal with the human.  Same for techniques and some of the fighting skills- some, like entries, are actually diluted by breaking them down into their component parts.  The spearhead is a structured motion- a single action that provides a "golden move": damages the threat; protects you from damage; betters your position; worsens his.  It can be taught as separate and distinct things that you do with your left arm, right arm, hips and feet... but it isn't easier to learn that way, or more versatile or more effective.  It is slower to learn AND you then have to unlearn the steps to make it a unified action, to make it work.

Does this complication work for anybody?  It is easier for the instructor, but only if he is just repeating what he was taught in the way he was taught, as if it was something he memorized, not something he understood.  It's not easier for the student. I can teach the unified move without a word of the student's language very quickly.  The break down can take half a day with native speakers.  Just odd.

All the best instructors are good at things that don't work.  Don't work for other people, I mean.  I've been very successful with small joint locks on big, aggressive threats.  For most people they are a low probability option.  JA hits people in ways that for most people who aren't genetic freaks would result in crippled hands (the exception to the big bone/little bone rule is an individual, not a system or technique).  MC has been highly successful with a technique that completely violates what we know about action/reaction times. (That's not that uncommon, with a lot of ring sense there are things you can see coming, but I don't count on that ability and try to avoid teaching techniques that require it.)

I think this whole concept of Awareness Based Training, the model that Mac and Sean and I set up for the agency really changes the whole concept of teaching. The assumptions are different, not the "I know something you don't know" that typifies the standard instructor/student relationship.  You do know. You know or have seen almost everything that you need. You maybe just didn't notice or didn't draw the connections or didn't give yourself permission to exploit your knowledge.  You know what a splint is for a broken arm, right? Intuitively, you know the principles that splinting works from... so you already know not to grip the wrist itself when you are trying to bend it. You already know.

If there can be fighting without fighting, why not teaching without teaching?


Steve Perry said...

Well, not to jump too hard on your metaphor -- which, of course, you knew I would -- but fighting without fighting is by definition a kind of zen oxymoron.

Eating without eating, breathing without breathing, and teaching without teaching -- they all kinda fall into the mountain-no-mountain zen realm ...

I think you might offer fighting without *thinking* (or maybe overthinking) and make your better.

Steve Perry said...

"point better," he says, leaving out a key word ...

Master Plan said...

I would wonder if teaching via breakdown+words doesn't get folks thinking verbally, when they should be thinking kinaesthetically. I would also wonder if it doesn't get them trying to "figure it out" (piece it together) rather than "trying it out" (feeling it work (internally)).

I also think it tends to make folks more comfortable to know the whole idea, or at least feel more comfortable.

I've had this issue in training folks to use computers. You say, "Just look at what I'm doing and do that", and they want to know what this button is or that menu or a bunch of other things, which are all good to know, but are not actually related to performing the task.

Fighting without fighting?

Is it a metaphor? There's not a "like" or other comparison, a metaphor makes on thing like another. Fighting w.o. fighting would be like controlling the initial conditions such that the fight doesn't happen. Avoiding the fight. That kind of thing. Yes\No? I don't think it's a metaphor tho, technically. I could be wrong of course.

Master Plan said...

OH, I suppose another way would be much like some of the examples used previous on the blog about scenario training, folks won't do what they're not told they can.

So if you say, move your arm, then move your leg, then obviously you shouldn't be moving anything else, because you've not been told that's allowed.

Also I think, depending on the group being trained, you've got a problem in that they expect to be trained by parts (which I dunno if I'd call "simplified" when "broken down" (double meaning!) is perhaps more accurate) lacking that format might work against them. If you think in a broken-to-parts fashion then going the other way might provoke similar issues. And then what if they lack the skills needed to "see" what is "actually" happening?

Plus of course "everybody" "knows" that "martial arts" are "hard" and "complicated" so how are they expected to just, like, do stuff right the first time? That can't be "good" or "right" martial arts can it? ;-)

Steve Perry said...

Well, I could have used "aphorism.," since it allows that the pithy truth offered is subjective, but this is also a stretch. Once cannot do a thing by not doing it, and so the concept is, on the face of it, not possible. A is not non-A.

Except in zen ...

A metaphor doesn't always have to be a simile (it was *like* something) or even a direct non-literal comparison -- the moon was a Chinese bowl is a metaphor, but as I understand it. It can be any figure of speech wherein you apply a phrase to something to which it is not literally applicable, so since "fighting without fighting" is an oxymoron, I stretched it a little to fit.

Every so often, Rory throws these out and then sits back to see what the response it. He likes stirring the pot to see what roils up, and I have fun roiling, so ...

Maybe I should have just acknowledged the Bruce Lee quote from ETD where he offers this in response to a query about what his art was.

But it was hooey when Bruce said it, too. (I like the Buckaroo Banzai quote better, since it is silly, but demonstrably true: "No matter where you go, there you are ...")

If we are talking about things we can't talk about, it gets very zen pretty quickly. One could do a move, grunt at a student to indicate that s/he could do it that way and not explain anything, I suppose, but that strikes me as taking an-already inefficient means of communication -- language -- and making it worse.

You can certainly over-talk and over-think kinesthetic things, and now and then, "Just do it." is the proper path, but you still have to offer those three words to get there ...

Teaching anybody anything is sometimes iffy on a good day. The notion that we should show rather than tell makes sense, but you are going to be using words to set it up no matter what ...

Scott said...

I had two very important Kungfu teachers who didn't speak a word of English. It was great training.

Time and time again I have experienced groups of non-English speakers learning from me more quickly than fluent speakers do. Many times I've been told a particular student in a group doesn't speak any English (yet), and that students learns the movements I'm teaching faster than the other students.

Now what is the lesson? My first thought, the obvious thought, is Shut Up Already, talking is confusing the students. But I've tried that, I've tested it many times. Still, the non-English speakers tend to learn kungfu faster.

Perhaps they are just paying more attention because they know they can't ask questions. Perhaps they are more motivated for some other reason.

ush said...

"Intuitively, you know the principles that splinting works from... so you already know not to grip the wrist itself when you are trying to bend it. You already know"

Thing is: do you inherently know this or did you learn somewhere along the line? Awareness is'nt just knowing something on some level it's ..well being aware of it, really.

Example: I've had to show people very basic things, thing's that I think are far harder to do wrong than to do right. For example, to swing an X pattern with a stick, easiest thing in the world right? Sometimes they get it horribly wrong. So wrong that I've had to stand back and figure out just what the hell it is they ARE doing that's making it so wrong. Which is enlightening in itself, because prior to that, I was not consciously aware of what "right" was other than I knew it when I saw it.

I've been exposed to one instructor who use's the concept of "guided learning" which is perhaps similar to what Rory's alluding to here

Mac said...

For me, the goal is to get the student to FEEL first, then to self-correct (THINK), then to feelthink. Then he or she can translate (to what Professor Remy Presas, may his spirit move ahead, said, "it's all the same", and innovate, thus create what works best for them. This, I believe, is the core of awareness-based training. To paraphrase the Tao Te Ching, knowing the opponent is smart, knowing yourself is wisdom. Will any of this help when the tweaker is advancing on you, knife in hand and death in his eyes?

Unknown said...

I agree with ush - sometimes they get it so wrong that you wonder how it could happen. I watched a Sgt on my depatrment , in attempting to do a forward Ukemi in an Aikido class, literally drive his shoulder into the mat. Vertically. As he lay writhing in pain, all the instructor could say was " I've never seen ANYONE do that before". That being said, I think it's only peripherally about the techniques...it's mostly about the training methods.