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Andrew Sheldon-...
Andrew Sheldon-Thomson's picture
How to learn faster

Hi,

I found this video which looks at how people train.

 

It suggests drilling techniques over and over to mastery and following a structured progression.   Increasingly this is how I feel I should train but more often than not, it is not how I actually train.   Typically I never feel I enough reps on any one drill before we move on to something else.   Or we spend nearly all our time on solo exercises.   Considering we do an activity that is primarily about dealing with other people this makes little sense to me.

What are the peoples thoughts on the fastest way to learn techniques?

Andrew

(also how do I embed videos on this forum?)

Anf
Anf's picture

I agree. To the extent that I left a club that fits your description.

It is my opinion that it is better to become very good at a small number of things that 'grade worthy' at a large number.

In my lifetime to date, I have had to physically defend myself a few times. Only one of those times was more than a casual skirmish (ie one time was genuinely life threatening). I was able to pull off a technique and escape because I had relentlessly drilled that one technique against varying levels of resistance over several weeks.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I’ve not had time to watch the full video, but I’ve liked what I have seen so far! I like the differential he makes between knowing something and being exposed to something. Way too many people “technique collect” and don’t put the time in to truly internalise something. They do it a few times and then claim they “know it.” The mistake of failing to keep working the fundamentals is a common mistake too.

I did a podcast on some of these topics in 2010:

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/knowledge-not-power-podcast

I look forward to watching more later.

All the best,

Iain

Andrew Sheldon-Thomson wrote:
how do I embed videos on this forum?

Just post the link and the “admin fairies” will sort it the next time they are online :-)                                                                                     

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
like the differential he makes between knowing something and being exposed to something.

I divide techniques into...

Techniques I am "aware of". These will be techniques I recognise or can identify but can't actually perform yet. I may have never even been taught or practiced them in most cases.

Techniques I can "approximate". These are techniques I can can physically imitate in a rough form.

Techniques I can "do". These are techniques I can physically perform.

Techniques I can "use". These are techniques I can achieve some measure of success with (within drills, sparring, or your crucible of choice).

Techniques I can "rely on". These are techniques I can achieve consistent success with.

Techniques that are in my minimal "this is serious" personal toolkit.

Each layer contains less techniques that the preceeding layer until I end up with about 4 techniques (or even 1 pre-emptive technique!) in the last category. Too many people think they have a load of techniques in one category when they haven't moved on from simply being able to imitate them in a rough fashion.

IMHO training is a process of trying to move techniquqes through this "aware of it/imitate it/do it/use it/rely on it/own it" hierarchy.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

PASmith wrote:
I divide techniques into...

Techniques I am "aware of". These will be techniques I recognise or can identify but can't actually perform yet. I may have never even been taught or practiced them in most cases.

Techniques I can "approximate". These are techniques I can can physically imitate in a rough form.

Techniques I can "do". These are techniques I can physically perform.

Techniques I can "use". These are techniques I can achieve some measure of success with (within drills, sparring, or your crucible of choice).

Techniques I can "rely on". These are techniques I can achieve consistent success with.

Techniques that are in my minimal "this is serious" personal toolkit.

Each layer contains less techniques that the preceeding layer until I end up with about 4 techniques (or even 1 pre-emptive technique!) in the last category.

That’s a very succinct way of encapsulating the gradation under discussion.

PASmith wrote:
Too many people think they have a load of techniques in one category when they haven't moved on from simply being able to imitate them in a rough fashion.

Absolutely. “Technique collecting” is an issue. I also think some who would also class themselves as “pragmatic traditionalists” unintentionally fall foul of this too. A sub-section of our community sees 3K people endlessly refine the basics – against arbitrary standards and without meaningful testing – and they deem the practise “impractical” and hence reject it wholesale. This “baby out with the bath water” thinking sees the vital importance of good basics overlooked in error. What they should do is endlessly refine the basics, against the standard of demonstrable function and with tests of that functionality. That will ensure solid and applicable skills. Spending lots of time on the basics is vital.

I’ve held off sharing this overused quotation, but I now can’t contain myself :-)

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

All the best,

Iain

Anf
Anf's picture
Iain Abernethy wrote:

A sub-section of our community sees 3K people endlessly refine the basics – against arbitrary standards and without meaningful testing – and they deem the practise “impractical” and hence reject it wholesale. This “baby out with the bath water” thinking sees the vital importance of good basics overlooked in error.

I am in that sub section. I hear what you say, but to give a different perspective, with the benefit of experience it is easy to spot 3k, and it's associated shortcomings. With less experience of that style it can take some time before one realises the 'knowledge' is not coming. That's when one reluctantly concedes that one may have wasted a lot of time and effort. If you can throw what you think is an awesome kick, but the rules of the club protect you from any possible come back, and yet you can see from other techniques taught in the very same place that there are many counters, often 'too dangerous to practice', then inevitably doubt will creep in. Once you doubt one thing and are unable to test it, it casts doubt on all of it. Once that happens, then it is easy to view all martial arts with skepticism.

Quote:

What they should do is endlessly refine the basics, against the standard of demonstrable function and with tests of that functionality. That will ensure solid and applicable skills. Spending lots of time on the basics is vital.

If you surround yourself with capable pragmatic martial artists then you can test everything you think you know. Then you can refine what works, and if you choose, chuck out what will never work (or tweak it so it does). Truth is most of us don't have that opportunity. Most of us, between full time work and family commitments, get a few hours per week to train. Of course we can find like minded individuals to train with, but they're in the same clubs and face the same challenges. Worse, many in those clubs are happy to collect techniques and belts, and have no interest in giving up more of their time to get together outside of class to play/experiment/test. So we're kind of limited really, hence the frustration.

Andrew Sheldon-...
Andrew Sheldon-Thomson's picture

Yes.  I think pressure testing techniques is important.   It is one of the reason BJJ or wrestling practitioners seem to get good really quickly.   They are testing everything and correct instantly.   They also abondon things that don't work as it is clear what is failing them.   

It also allows you to develop the sense of when to use to techniques.   This is important as often I know how to do an application but I have not idea of how to get in position to acutally use it!

deltabluesman
deltabluesman's picture

I enjoyed the video and thought it contained a lot of valuable lessons.  The only thing I will add is that an important key to learning faster is injury prevention and avoidance.  Staying healthy and mobile is very important.  You see a lot of people who grind and grind away in the hope of getting better fast, only to hurt themselves and spend several demoralizing months off the mats.

I've certainly seen major differences among schools in terms of how quickly students progress.  Some of it depends on the mix of students, but I think curriculum design is a significant element.  For example, there is a local mixed martial arts school that offers an MMA class 2 to 3 times per week.  Even though their students are only training 2 or 3 days a week, they make progress faster than at any other school I've seen.  Yes, there's a selection effect, but I think a lot of it boils down to curriculum design.  They spent a lot of time designing a lean curriculum that is tightly focused on covering the fundamentals of their sport.  Each class has this structure:

5 minutes of warm-up (they will occasionally do linework)

5 minutes of striking defense or pummeling (most of the time this is just parrying straight punches and launching a counter)

20 minutes of technique instruction

20 minutes of drills

10 minutes of live practice based on whatever position or technique was taught that day

They also meet students where they are.  What I mean by that is if you come in with a prior background in martial arts, they will let you test those skills in the live drilling (so long as you are safe).  If it works, great.  If it doesn't, they'll encourage you to go back to the fundamentals.  Also, every single person in the class takes it seriously and takes pride in their training.  After class starts, there is no goofing off or half-***ing anything.  They really embody what Itosu said in his precepts:  "You should always train with intensity and spirit as if actually facing the enemy, and in this way you will naturally be ready." 

It's not a miracle solution, but the students in that class very quickly turn into dangerous & confident martial artists.  I think a lot of this success boils down to the art of curriculum design.  It's part of the reason why I sometimes play around with the concept of game plans for different kata.  The idea is to take this same approach and see how it would influence training in a particular kata.

deltabluesman
deltabluesman's picture

An additional thought (to draw out what I was saying in my previous post).  I think that there's a fairly straightforward process that can be used to make virtually any martial art more pragmatic.  It would be something like:

1.  Define the context and goals you want to train for.  Be specific about it, whether it's beautiful kata performance, winning in kickboxing, self-protection, whatever.  You'll probably have multiple goals here.

2.  Do your best to create a lean, minimalist curriculum to achieve those goals.  Prioritize high-percentage techniques that can be used by most students and that can be learned fairly quickly.  Worry only about the effectiveness of the technique, not whether it fits your style.  Steal liberally from other martial arts.    

3.  Implement that curriculum using a class structure similar to the one outlined above (warm-up/review of basics/technique instruction/narrowly focused live drills/more broadly focused live drills).  Some students may eventually graduate to unstructured sparring.

4.  Continue to refine the curriculum over and over again.  The crucible of pressure testing will show you works best.

5.  As students come in and show a willingness to train with you long-term, help them mold the curriculum to match their skillset.  So if a boxer walks through your door, try to work with him (within reason) to preserve his boxing skills and connect them with what you're teaching.  And so on . . . 

It's tough to do because sometimes you may have to set aside (or throw away entirely) techniques and motions that you love.  Almost like cleaning your house out.  Sometimes you have to learn entirely new skill sets (which can be difficult).  But I think this process could be used on most martial arts, and of course on specific kata.  In fact, I think this process is being used on a number of martial arts, and that we'll see a "revival" of many other traditional martial arts in the coming years, as they remember their roots and find ways to express themselves effectively in new contexts.

The downside to this is that you may lose the spirit and heritage of some martial arts.  That's a substantial price to pay.  Also, some people may have no desire to practice a more pragmatic art, because they like what they're doing now.  And that's fine, so long as they're clear about what they're doing.

Anf
Anf's picture

deltabluesman wrote:

An additional thought (to draw out what I was saying in my previous post).  I think that there's a fairly straightforward process that can be used to make virtually any martial art more pragmatic.  It would be something like ....

I left karate and its derivatives behind after quite a few years in search of exactly this. I believe I've found something very much like it in the club I've moved to. The guys there have karate, aikido, and jiu-jitsu to their names. When I told them of my prior experience, to my pleasant surprise, they openly said that if I can bring anything to their system that fits well, they want to see it.

Quote:
The downside to this is that you may lose the spirit and heritage of some martial arts.  That's a substantial price to pay.  Also, some people may have no desire to practice a more pragmatic art, because they like what they're doing now.  And that's fine, so long as they're clear about what they're doing.

*Heritage*, *lineage*, "tradition". I too got sucked in by that for a long time. I've since realised, embarrassingly late, that all successful styles evolved because they work in a given context. Historically, when the context changes the style would change. I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure that infantry soldiers today are not highly trained in the use of flint lock muskets. In the same way, martial arts evolve. Our BJJ brethren like to repeat the tale of the younger Gracie brother who wasn't strong enough to make judo work against his larger peers, so BJJ came into being. A popular example of practical pragmatism in the martial arts. Sadly pragmatism is largely overshadowed in my styles by a more dogmatic way. We see this in many ways. The perfection of kata / forms for example. If it takes years to learn a few basic combat moves, it's not much good really. Imagine going to an army general and saying you have this system to make his soldiers awesome, and it will only take them 20 years and a few destroyed joints to master it.

Some of the most successful styles are pretty new anyway. Karate as we know it has been around since the 1930s. The Korean derivatives of tang soo do and taekwondo were even later (circa 1950), Judo was created from jiu-jitsu in the early 1900s. Hardly ancient history with a wealth of heritage. But even then, even within a system, things change seemingly on a whim sometimes. I remember being taught a piece of self defence choreography once. Instinctively, possibly from my previous styles, possibly from real life experience, I immediately closed the gap. I was told that in this style, we first widen the gap before closing it. Apparently we used to close the gap but a parent of a child student complained that it looked too scary. That's heritage.

deltabluesman
deltabluesman's picture

Anf, good to hear that moving schools has gone well.  It sounds like you've found a good training group with open-minded and pragmatic instructors.  

On the topic of tradition, I take your point about how that can go wrong.  For what it's worth, I do think there's a place for tradition (of a certain kind) in the study of a lifelong martial artist, even if that person has an otherwise pragmatic bent.  I'm thinking of the karate instructor who says, "OK, you've covered our self-protection curriclum, you've covered our fundamentals curriculum, and your skills are looking sharp.  Now it's time to learn these 26+ other kata in our system.  We teach these because they're part of our heritage, we think of them as artworks, and we want to pass them down another generation."  Learning all of those kata won't be the most efficient way for that person to practice, but I can see why someone would do that.  (And if you throw in plenty of live drilling and practice along the way, it'll probably provide other benefits as well.)

For example, in my life I've seen two kata performances that really stuck in my mind.  One of those was a performance of Jitte kata done by my Shotokan instructor (several years ago).  He had refined the kata to the point where he could bring it to life with mesmerizing power and grace.  It made a major impression on me.  And even though I've since migrated to other martial arts, I still have a goal in the back of my mind to one day revisit the kata and try to bring that performance partially back to life.  Not because I want to master Jitte's bunkai and supporting skills, and not because Jitte is over a century old, but simply because I want to be able to strive to reenact what I saw some 15 years ago.   

Of course, if heritage and tradition harden into dogma, then the art begins to die and fossilize.  And it's very true that there are a lot of schools out there with this problem.  And then there are some practices that are actually self-defeating (because they instill bad habits).  If a tradition instills serious bad habits, then I personally think it has to go, regardless of how long it's been around.

Anf
Anf's picture
deltabluesman wrote:

On the topic of tradition, I take your point about how that can go wrong.  For what it's worth, I do think there's a place for tradition (of a certain kind) in the study of a lifelong martial artist, even if that person has an otherwise pragmatic bent.  I'm thinking of the karate instructor who says, "OK, you've covered our self-protection curriclum, you've covered our fundamentals curriculum, and your skills are looking sharp.  Now it's time to learn these 26+ other kata in our system.  We teach these because they're part of our heritage, we think of them as artworks, and we want to pass them down another generation." 

Absolutely. There is nothing at all wrong with practicing or teaching kata. It's good exercise, it is a way to practice solo without any equipment, it's a good form of meditation as you focus on the feel of every detail. Our tai chi brethren have this down to a perfection and they generally acknowledge that they're not really developing combat or self defence. Studying for health or personal interest is about the best reason to do anything in my opinion. It kind of all falls apart a bit though when we're asked to believe that it's an entire fighting system and learning a particular form is every bit as good as, if not better than, practicing with a partner against varying levels of resistance, or even just repeatedly striking pads and bags.

As a disclaimer, I know there's effective combat in forms. It just isn't effective when it's trained only as forms. We all know about the throws and neck cranks among other things that are in there, but unless you actually practice throwing people, it's pretty pointless knowing it in theory.

deltabluesman
deltabluesman's picture

Yes, I do agree that there's a major problem for someone who only studies kata as a solo exercise but still expects to develop reliable skills that will work against resistance.  I'm sure there's still quite a few schools that do that (marketing self-defense while only teaching solo kata/solo drills), but hopefully it's on the decline.