Monday, January 29, 2007

Learning by looking forward, and backward...

I was debating whether to edit this out but then this blog wouldn't really be my thoughts as I truly see them. I've had this growing theory of how things get taught and it consists of two parts. First off, people much better than me having an insight into inner workings of movement I can't fathom yet so I just do as they tell me or I see them doing hoping to understand or finding understanding in it, at least partially. Secondly, the people who teach me, looking towards the people that taught them the same way. I wonder if they see something they don't understand and just attempt to find meaning in it too. For instance, when I was asking about the getting behind the arm in Nijusan, I was wondering if Karl or Henry said to do that for all of the movements or if that was extrapolated by the mid ranks and being taught that way because that's how they saw it. Later, the upper echelons looking at the mid ranks and seeing what they're doing and deciding "well if they want to get behind the arm ALL the time, the lets concentrate on teaching them that" and the mid ranks looking forward, seeing more taught on getting behind the arm and being validated. I'm getting at a cycle. While things can and are learned greatly from this, does misinformation travel that way too? Pat once told me bad Judo came from Japanese purposefully teaching bad Judo to Americans. Later Japanese kids wanted to be like Americans so they mimicked our culture and with it our bad Judo. Then, when America looked back at Japan we saw those kids doing bad Judo and therefore thought we were doing it right. There are only so many hours one can teach, so what determines when something old gets thrown out in favor of something new? I think occasionally Pat finds such a deep understanding of something that it's lost in translation when he tries to teach it to lower belts...I know a few were on me :) I think there needs to be a bridge to span the gap of old an new. For instance, we don't teach the three steps anymore in Honasu and Junana (now Nijusan) in favor of fluidity. I know I couldn't do it fluidly if I didn't learn it in those steps in the first place. I know Pat and them learned in steps initially and now that it's not taught anymore it occasionally brings up interesting situations when I try to discuss a certain step with Andy. I'll call out which step, and he's asking which chain it comes from. After talking about this with Bryce, we came up with the idea that maybe they should both still be in the curriculum somewhere. Teach Honasu the steps way to white belts. Then at yellow teach the fluid way of Honasu, and 1-5 of Junana the linear way. At green, 6-10 of Junana the linear way, 1-5 of Nijusan the fluid way. This way students get both, younger students come into class, looking ahead at higher belts they see how fluid it'll become but it's in a language easier to grasp initially for them. Opinions?

1 comment:

Patrick Parker said...

Interesting. thanks for posting that. Of course every instructor will understand the art differently and will teach it accordingly. And in any communication process there will be both signal (information) and noise (misinformation) that passes between the sender and receiver.

Aiki is a particularly wierd topic. It was invented in a different culture, evolved a jargon in a different language, and was taught in a very holistic, intuitive manner for the first generation. A lot of those students have since said that they didnt really understand what Osensei was getting at a lot of the time (but they learned it nonetheless). Later, Tomiki tried to systemetize it using kata (models). any model is incomplete - but that's it's advantage. it is bite-sized and more understandable than the whole. You learn a portion or an aspect of aiki in tegatana, another in hanasu, another in nijusan, etc... later they sorta blend togather into someting resembling the whole of aiki.

in the nijusan model, as you said, I'm teaching to always walk behind the arm. I don't know that this is exactly, explicitly what Karl et al have said but it is definately the gist of the thing. Check out the short clips of karl doing nijusan on Google video and you'll see this idea come up all the time. check out his tapes (kicatcher for instance) and youll see the same thing. so, while i dont know if that is Kata (with a capital K) or if it is my interpretation, it is an understandible, workable model of what is happening.

regarding hanasu. The three-step thing is another good example of what you are talking about. Though I was explicitly taught this by some of my teachers and though i've taught it this way in the past, there came a point where some of the noise in that model seemed to overpower the signal. While the three step thing is a good learning tool, not everything in the world works that way. For instance, that and a couple more things (like same-hand-same-foot)seemed to make randori harder to learn rather than easier. So, my teaching of hanasu has shifted a little bit while adhering to the principles.

The three-step thing does have some value, and if you want to work on hanasu using that model then that is cool. What you mention (having yellow belts do it one way and change it as they advance) is _sorta_ what i do. I tend to teach it in more 'kata mode' to yellowbelts and then use it as a warmup for everyone at the beginning of every class and work on the flow in the chains. So, hanasu _kata_ is an important part of the learning of yellow and green belts but then I de-emphasize the importance of the _kata_ itself and use it as an intro into the chains (which is a more robust model of aiki.

I like your blog and your thoughtful work on this aiki thing that we are learning. I also like your reminding me of ancient remarks that i've made and examples tht i've used. I've found that often instructors never know which of their passing comments make the greatest impact on their students.