Learning How to
By Master C. Terrigno - 6th Dan
Editor, Tang Soo Do World
There's a saying that
goes, "there are no bad students - only bad teachers."
That may be true, but to make it more complete, I would add the
other saying, "when the student is ready, the
teacher will appear." By that I mean that learning is a two-way
affair and students must take responsibility for their training
and be actively engaged in the process. This applies
not only to the practice of martial arts, but to everything we
experience. So, the first step in self-improvement is to readjust
our thinking on how we
Confucious said: "I hear
and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
Every day we are bombarded with
thousands of pieces of information. To protect against information
overload our brains weed out what is unimportant. It's
called filtering or selective memory, and we weren't born with it - we evolved to it.
Filtered information is discarded almost immediately after it is heard. Unfortunately, we've
become so good at it that often, even the good information gets
filtered out. Being introduced to someone and then forgetting their
name a few moments later is a perfect example. To improve our listening
skills we need to be aware of the filtering process and make mental
notes of what to keep.
During a class or seminar an instructor will talk about
many things and offer suggestions and critiques. Some may be directed to certain
individuals, but to guard against over-correcting one person, most will
be made to the
group as a whole. Since people tend to listen more closely to what is
directed to them personally, they may pay only slight attention to the
rest. Consequently, they miss information that may have been specifically meant
for them all along.
As with listening, we also
filter out information visually. When watching the demonstration of a technique,
it is useful to focus your attention on the individual parts, not just the whole scene. In
other words, "see" the details of each movement.
Was the foot turned? How high was the knee? Where were the hands in
relation to the body?, etc. Seeing in this way helps develop a
mental image library that can later be accessed as a reference for
that specific technique and others as well. As a result, reconstructing the big picture
is much easier once you know what the parts look
Furthermore, try to understand the principle of a
technique first. For example, in self-defense,
moving in small circles increases the speed and
effectiveness of certain joint locks and throws. In
kicking, thrusting or rotating the hip adds power.
Armed with that information, bridge the gap between
theory and practice by seeing it in action when
demonstrated or in your mind when practiced.
Everyone knows when
something feels right and when it doesn't.
A technique poorly done may throw you off balance or actually hurt. Although you may not
realize that your head was too far forward or your feet too close
together, if pointed out
by your instructor, then try to "feel" where your head or feet
are the next time
you're off balance or in pain. Similarly, when you nail a technique perfectly, feel
where the body parts were and try to duplicate it each time. This is
constructive muscle memory. I say "constructive" because with enough
mindless repetition, you can easily create incorrect muscle memory.
Don't take it
want to feel like we're "getting it" or we
know what we're doing. When we're
corrected often for the same technique it usually
means that we have not yet understood it or
internalized it. Rather than taking it personally
and feeling like you're being "picked on" or
signaled out, take it as a compliment that your
instructor cares enough about you to offer a
constant reminder. When we think we know more than
we do, learning stops dead in its tracks.
We are all
Students and we are all Teachers
instructors, we should remember that we also learn
from our students. Our students tell us many things
about themselves and what they need from us in their
training. They do this in a variety of ways, not
just with words. To become better teachers we need to
employ all of the same concepts above in our relationship