Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Learning how to learn

Many students dissemble their subconscious fears as a way to deflect attention from their perceived self-limitations. No matter what details differentiate them from any other student, it is a similar process. Consequently, I try to get people to focus on the specifics of what I am asking them to do RIGHT NOW as opposed to listening to them go into their past personal history to explain why they cannot listen or pay attention to what I am asking them to concentrate on in that moment.

Here's a rough analogy - If you were crossing the street and a car were coming and I said "Look out!" I would hope you would pay attention and not want to discuss the reasons you could not look. Sometimes you just have to let go and do what is required.

I am not arguing or being egotistical or harsh. I am simply being direct in communicating a set of instructions. What I am doing is asking the student to give up their personal ego so they can hear me. I am simply giving directions for putting together a puzzle, which in this case is the sequencing of a particular move they need to understand in order to comprehend the whole of the system.

Now if the student has questions on aspects of the movement, or has trouble grasping a nuance or needs more information to understand the underlying concept, that is different. I welcome such questions. When people begin talking about something that is tangential to this understanding, or irrelevant to what is being taught insofar as advancing their grasp of what I am trying to explain, that is a waste of time and energy. If someone says they have a bad back or their knee hurts, this is a specific issue that we can figure out how to adjust without aggravating the injury. Almost always the problem is how they are doing the move and not the proper movement as it should be. Everyone has to adjust their own body mechanics, but that takes making the effort. Telling me they can't do something because of an issue is only saying they are not willing to take the time to work it out. Excuses never promote learning, only postpone or prevent it, and it's the same for martial arts, music or math.

All movement in this art can be related to natural moves most people already do, but because the context is new and different, it feels strange. A step may seem awkward, but if I can get you to do it in another context (such as just walking) it enters the realm of possibility. I will bust my butt to help someone work through a problem, but I won't spend valuable class time rationalizing for them why they need to work through an obstacle. We all have things with which we struggle, and it is the nature of learning to have to work to overcome these. Our only choice is whether to make the attempt, and on that depends our success or failure.

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