Sunday, October 4, 2009

Education Theory for Budo Transmission

The past week or so at the KyuRyu blog I have been looking at ideas about how we learn, teach and train in the martial arts. To be sure there are many differing ideas. First I gave a few critical analysis of Aikido kata, then I took a look at the goals of physical education - generalization of skill.

So here is some tidbits of education theory from an special education teacher that is obsessed with Budo - me! Take your seats the bell has rung!

Today I would like to write about the success/failure threshold in budo training. I define this threshold as the point where an artist's understanding of the principles fails them and they revert to power and strength and make poor choices in angles. Coming from an Aikido/Judo perspective this threshold is where blending and softness stops. After that we begin violation of the ideas central to our art form.

Yesterday I attended Chad Haas' judo class. He is a great ground technician. At the end of class we did 30 minutes of full power wrestling. It did not take me long to get the threshold. I locked my muscles, held people in physical strength, and constantly choose bad and inefficient angles to move. My technical skill failed my ideal. I still won most of the matches but I used power to achieve my results. A failure in my eyes.

Hussey Sensei wandered in after class to meet me for Aiki after Judo. I told him my frustrations of hitting the wall in mat work. So we went at it. Much to my amazement he demonstrated perfect aiki randori on the ground - no tensions, no clashing energy. Never could I get him to a point where he had to betray the ideals of the art form.

Sweet there is hope. He showed me ways to train where I could be successful and train to the ideals of the art form.

So now let's get to the meat of what I want to discuss today. How do we set up our training so we can train realistically yet still have success? Success is a key word here. We must design our lessons so students find success most of the time. Clashing and failure is OK, but the option for success must be present for a lesson to be successful.

If you are taking a forgien language class, you do not start in literature and poetry. You start with basic words and grammar. You constantly stretch yourself - to the point you can always be successful if you apply the skills and knowledge you have at this time in your training.

What does a poorly designed aiki class look like? Here is a film by a dojo violating the principles of this threshold style training I am trying to describe. Most of their films are like this. The whole time the students are put in a position where they cannot be successful. The circumstances are too challenging and they revert instantly to the failure threshold.

What is happening here is that are imprinting on each other here that this is aiki, this is what it should feel like. I feel like they are taking 2 big steps backwards here. Training under the threshold line in education is often referred to as the frustration level. Who wants to train at FRUSTRATION level? If the training always looks like this (and according to their other films it does) they need to slow down, reduce variables and return to a place they can find success. Once they do that they can build on success and increase difficulty riding that threshold line.

Yes be challenging to another! But every elementary school teacher knows you must make the student successful in the basics before they can succeed in advanced work.

Finally I would like to thank the above dojo for posting their work to be evaluated. KyuRyu means no ill will in criticism. It is my hopes we can all learn from each other no matter where we are on the path. Thanks and keep up the training!

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