Sonny worked one on one with all his students. We in turn played with each other and we watched when Sonny worked with the others training that same day.
All these viewpoints create the whole picture -
- Working with the Maestro gave you a model to move with, a quality of movement to mirror. As you moved, he showed you your gaps and he showed you how to fix them.
- Flowing with fellow students gave you the opportunity to try out these new ideas with players closer to your level who might fall for the stratagems, the baits and the fakes ... and it also gave the opportunity to watch the tendencies and glitches of others.
- Watching from the side you got to see more of how things worked - The angles, the timing, the shifting of the edges of the range, the subtlety of motions and the way people reacted. You started to see the openings and the dangers and why things worked and why they did not.
If you only play with your teacher you can get caught up in trying to field incoming strikes and lose focus on the game as a whole ... And of course it is impossible to catch out the person who invented all the tricks in the book.
If you only play with others at your level, it is hard to improve as it's hard to find out all the stuff you don't know you don't know. You need someone to expand your imagination who can show it to you.
If you only watch, you can never truly own the movement or get a feel for the game in real time from the perspective that matters most ... the pointy end of the equation.
Agreed, most people can only get better by working with better people, as you say, and then solidify it by working with others.
Students often want to watch, but again as you say the lessons need to be expressed in the body.
I think you need all 3 to get the most efficient results.
I loved working with my teacher but of course nothing he taught me ever really worked on him as I was way too obvious, so the only real way to find out if I could pull it off myself was to make it work on others.
The 'watching' part is actually something I had forgotten, but is hugely valuable too. There are different things to notice as a third party that I don't think you can get as fast just in the 'doing'.
Of course video works here too, though for some reason watching other peoples' movement and how the teacher would note and use their weaknesses was perhaps even more valuable. Not sure, but maybe because you don't get so obsessed with watching yourself and how weird it looks :-P
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