Friday, August 8, 2014


One of the hardest things about being a teacher is that often you have forgotten how you learned things. You might remember some stuff, or the order in which things were taught, but it's often hard to pin point the moments when the light bulbs went off and why they did.
At that particular moment.
Not before.
But then.

There is no curriculum in Sonny's system, and though there kinda is for the Bagua I teach, there are no belts or levels to fall back on. No lists of 'Do 1 through 12 of these, 5 of those and 14 variations of this with a partner' for a pass or fail.

There are alignment principles and qualities of movement I am looking for. Integration, calmness of mind, and ability to control power. Some memorization of choreography, and an appreciation of range, angles, and timing in partner practice.

In Eskrima, there's also the ability to control and manipulate the weapon, maintain correct range, see openings, and above all else not to get hit!

Getting people to improve their proprioception and be able to do all these things takes time. I find myself thinking - 'How long did it take me this long to learn this'? But I can't remember, and perhaps in the end it is unimportant. Still I can't help but wonder if I am teaching in the best way I can for the student in front of me.

That was actually Sonny's game with himself - How to make people 'get it' as easily and quickly as possible, to get them to actually, truly 'see'.

Thing is, we all learn differently. We start from different places, with different skills, and glitches. We see movement, and move our bodies in different ways, and hear words in different ways too. So as a teacher I need to have a range of strategies to pass information and ideas to another brain, and the ability to see when the light bulbs DO go off. I think I have a fair range of these, though I do have a tendency to talk too much and overload people with too much information on occasion.

Sometimes, however, I have to accept the possibility that I am not the right person to be teaching a particular student. That because of who they are they can't hear what I am saying, that the dynamic is wrong somehow.

When this is the case, I have found it is best to have them train elsewhere for a while and see if this 'hearing impediment' improves when listening to a different voice.

What I have yet to ascertain is whether this impasse is actually a 'teaching impediment' that lies is me, or whether it is, actually, them.

Me, I can change, Them I most often cannot.


Unknown said...

I like how you listed all of those quality elements prior to naming Eskrima as your primary teaching art. Why? Because all of those elements can be applied in the instruction of virtually any style martial art. In fact, if I have all of those floating in my mind prior to training, I know I'm bound to have a great session. I wish for the term "Proprioception" to spread like a virus to students & teachers alike, as there is no better term to describe physical comprehension and mastery of skill. Look forward to reading more from you.

Jamal Granick, LMFT said...

I appreciate the light bulb moment metaphor as teaching tool. It occurs to me that, given mirror neurons, just by attending to those moments we are reinforcing the learning.

Anonymous said...

Since I couldn't remember how I learned things, I re analyzed it all and brought it under a new format and curriculum.

Essentially, using practical projects as a way to spark questions and thinking on the part of the student, and then using the particular individuals questions to scope in on a particular student's way of thinking and then apply certain fixes to it to lead it to the right line that we're trying to teach.

If they don't ask questions because nobody knows what is going on, then there's no connection and thus no fix. They can regurgitate the info, but they aren't really using it, they're just Obeying Authority. Soon as Authority is out of the room, they go helpless.

There's always that one person, top 10%, who are geniuses or for some other reason get it, and thus they ask all the questions. But everybody else is lost and trying to get it by listening to the answers, which isn't going to work. That's why I give everybody else things to do, so they start ignoring the questions other people ask and focus on their own project. Think for themselves, by themselves.

People tend to copy other people, especially if they feel clueless or helpless. That habit must be eradicated first and foremost before I can get them to think independently and learn.