Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Which ride to take?

Earlier I already have written about the place of acurriculum, mostly in RMA, but in this post I’d like to elaborate on what, in my hobble opinion, should be the contents of work in a martial art group/club.

The longer I train, the more I am convinced that all good schools, regardless of the system they teach, have one important thing in common – training methodology taking precedence over technical curriculum. “Why is that?” you may ask. Well, there a plenty reason, but let’s address a few of them, one at the time.

Who's got better argument?
First of all, in its nature the training methodology is a sort of a process, as is the act of continual training itself, while the curriculum is more of a set of “things”. Probably the main implication of this difference is that the methodology is directed outwards, moving things, i.e. concerned about the result of the process. The curriculum, on the other hand, tends to be more about keeping things in place, or looking to achieve stability.

Secondly, the proper methodology strives to facilitate learning, but the curriculum is focused on facilitating teaching. Now, this may sound as a mere difference in wording, but it is actually very important! Namely, if you are a martial arts instructor (an honest and passionate one), your chief focus should be the benefit of your students, or their command of the knowledge and skills you are trying to impart. In other words, that they are able to learn to their maximum capacity, and also as quickly and thoroughly as possible. In opposition to that would be your own comfort, i.e. not having think too much about how to run each individual class – heck, it’s so much easier to just run things by numbers and tick them off the list!

Next, a methodology is usually assessed in qualitative terms, as good or bad/effective or ineffective; while a curriculum gravitates to being evaluated in quantitative terms – large or small, expansive or streamlined etc. Sure, it could sound as mixing apples and oranges, but it entails one more distinction I’ll touch upon…

Finally, the two different emphases we are debating here often (please note – I said “often”, not “without exception”) end up having different goal. On one hand, developing a methodology is an attempt at developing certain objective (tangible) level of performance in the trainee (think wrestling, boxing, MMA...)

It seems to be working!
On the other, in way too many schools the curriculum is in place for the sake of developing certain desired appearance in the practitioner (think kata/forms in most traditional styles). Stemming from that is the occurrence of good coaches/instructors modeling the methodology after their athletes/trainees (having them understand what they do), and lazy ones modeling their students to suit the curriculum (imitate what they see). 

It seems...aesthetically pleasing(?)
Naturally, it is possible to have both the curriculum and methodology of teaching it, the two are not entirely exclusive, my point here is which side of the continuum one should be stressing in their training.

That is it for now. In the future, I will be addressing some of the feats of a good training methodology and the attributes it develops in the trainees.