Monday, January 29, 2018

Reinventing the wheel...oh yeah!

A friend of mine from Russia has recently mentioned on Facebook that it took him quite a bit of time and effort in training to formulate his fighting algorithm (as he called it), and then a few people commented that if he had found the right teacher with the right training syllabus right away he would have found it sooner. This is not the first time I was involved, one way or another, into the debate on which school and/or instructor is better, while the participants in the debate are not clear on what they are talking about in the first place.

Do you really need your own?
 Some of the relevant elements here have been tackled sporadically in various posts on this blog, but this is a good time to systematize those issues. So, all discussion on “better” this or that is relative in direct function of reasons for training. However, there are certain foundational distinctions need to be understood (for the purpose of my exposition):
·         System is a set of principles and guidelines that all practitioners of that “lineage” need to adhere to in order to be recognized as such. This is commonly and widely meant under the terms art and style.
·         School is exactly that – a group of people training under the same instructor of a system.
·         Style is the personal expression of an individual’s understanding and command over the material taught in a school.

With that in mind I would agree that in broad strokes certain systems may be better suited for certain goals than others. Yet, particular schools within the same system can and often do differ in this regard, depending the instructor’s priorities and affinities. Also, it is in schools that training methodology comes into play.

However, even when all of the above conditions are in line, it is still the individual practitioner that will embody the principles and tenets of the system as taught by a school. And they will do it in line with their personal understanding, as well as personal mental and physical attributes. Essentially, it means that although possibly understood intellectually, a lot of those principles will have to be “(re)discovered” through hands on training if they are to truly become an integral part of one’s genuine style of work when put before pertinent demands.

Why is it important? Well, if nothing else, my experience shows that the principles you have been shown by someone else take some time and plenty of work in order to become ingrained to the degree necessary for acting in the dynamics of combat. On the other hand, those that came from within, as a result of self-discovery, have the tendency to merge faster and require less maintenance. Of course, the downside with the latter is that sometimes you can wander around for a long time before making such a discovery, especially if there is no proper training method and progression in place.

Jerome Bruner's depiction 
 So then, what could be the solution to the above conundrum? The question lies in the didactic approach called guided discovery. Without delving too deep into the rationale behind it, this teaching angle puts the trainees in the situations (scenarios, drills, games etc.) that make them experience and understand the problem, and then presents the series of steps to expose the practitioners to the tools and tactics in solving it. Such a line of work can prove to be confusing and taxing on the students, as they are asked questions by the instructor much more than the other way around. For this reason, it is of paramount importance that the instructor be a good communicator and able to provide the guidance part on the trainee’s path to discovery.

With all those ingredients in place, the personal algorithm should be solid and functional, enabling the stylist to do what needs to be done the way it should be done. 

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