Monday, February 07, 2005

February 7, 2005 - Learning outside of class

While my friend Onimitsu2004 agonizes over asking a girl out, I am racked by far more important decisions, like should I use Italian spices on my fish tonight or make it teriyaki? Either way, I'll be eating it alone...woe is me and darkness covers the pit of my soul. NOT! This isn't one of those stupid goth blogs where people compete how often they can use dark and dreary words in a pitiful imitation of something that may resemble poetry. Or just crap. Hah!

And back to more important stuff, like my rambling thoughts on martial arts.

One thing I've noticed about people is how much many of them brag about how they go to martial arts class X days a week. I think it is great to be able to attend class as much as possible. However, unless you have the time to practice by yourself, you're not really getting the necessary free space for your own development. Don't get me wrong. I love going to class and having the opportunity to discuss concepts and techniques as well as train with my instructor and other students.

I think there is a certain danger in that going to class as many times as some of these people because it makes it less likely that they will train on their own. Not training on your own is disadvantageous. For one, the "class" environment has a tendency to change the dynamics of your training. When there are other people doing kata with you, you have to change your pace to match a consensual tempo. The presence of other people when you are doing sparring or what have you adds that extra layer of analysis to all your sensory inputs. That isn't a bad thing, but sometimes you really need to focus on yourself, especially in regards to biomechanics. When an instructor is there pointing out your faults or explaining things to you, it relieves some of the burden of self-discovery. These are all good things in their context. However, I think it is much more difficult to grow as a martial artist if you are almost always only in the class setting.

I acknowledge the existence of those that train 4-5 days a week and workout much on their own. On the other hand, there are a lot of people that don't fit this model. Most people practice only when they go to "practice". My opinion is that class is only for the learning of new material, the correction of mistakes and the discussion of ideas and concepts. Many people short-change their learning by using class time to go through the necessary repetitions of kata, drills, or whatever they train in. Again, my gripe is with emphasis here. Repetitions and drills aren't a bad thing in class. It's for the sake of correction, discussion and letting the instructor know where you stand. But never, never should it be used primarily for the purpose of getting the material down-pat. That's just a bonus. The building up of repetitions for training in whatever you do should be done outside of class, in my opinion. You may do some things incorrectly, but that's what class is for: to correct those mistakes. Class time is often too short to go through every single thing with corrections as it is, let alone struggling to do something that could've saved precious time (yours, your instructor's, your fellow students').

Getting as much done outside of class ensures the most gets done during class. It's very simple and quite obvious, but many don't do this? Why not? The answer to that lies in busy schedules, conflicting obligations, etc. I understand that. But to those people that go to class 5-6 days a week, I dare suggest it would be better to skip class one night and work out on your own. An added benefit to this is that it really forces you to think about what you're doing. Well, ideally anyway. Once you do that, you'd be surprised what you can learn and come up with on your own. Having an instructor tell you everything and correct everything is nice. But it doesn't mean you're learning. It just means you're copying. At some point or another, you have to start taking those conceptual leaps on your own. It's something most people acknowledge and espouse, but actually don't do rather often. You probably won't discover anything that hasn't ever been discovered before. There's very little that's new under the sun when it comes to martial arts by now. However, most masters didn't become great by simply getting everything from an instructor. There really isn't that much time. They had to figure stuff out on their own. I was once told by Kyoshi Doug Perry, the head of my system for North America that out of all the martial arts knowledge he has, only 10 % of it was shown directly to him. The rest he had to figure out himself. Now math isn't necessarily my strongest suit, but I figure that's 90% he had to figure out on his own. That's quite a bit. I for one am very envious of just 10% of what he knows.

So what does this all mean? It means you got to start thinking for yourself. I don't care what rank you are, but if you're just a carbon-copy martial artist, you really have to turn yourself around. Sure, it's awfully hard to drive down a street without any lights to show the way. But if you're just in the passenger seat, you're not really driving, are you?

No comments: