Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Learning Curve

“If you want to learn something,” my father would say “teach it to someone else.”

I was really looking forward to today’s regular training after the weekend seminar, thinking it was rather fortunate that the days ran onto each other, allowing me to be immersed in some damned fine teaching for the duration. How fortunate, also, that the man around which the entire weekend seminar was based would be joining us in our dojo for the afternoon. I envisaged some extension of the seminar, an opportunity to learn more from such a distinguished guest.

M and I arrived, noticing two complete newcomers to the class and I thought no more of it, other than that they were female – which is quite unusual.

So when training started and my Sensei, Peter King, shuffled me off to a corner with the two new students with some announcement of a ‘girls group’, my heart sank. Firstly, I don’t like being paired with women for training…but being relegated to a group of complete newbie girlies seemed to be the worst torture in the world, especially with Ed Lomax teaching the rest of the class not a couple of meters away.

It soon emerged that my fears were unfounded. I wasn’t there to train with them – I was there to train them.

New fears emerged – me? Train someone else in Bujin? Egads, the martial art has been a simultaneous love and bane of my existence for years. Not having done any sports as a child, my ability to watch a physical activity and emulate it isn’t well honed. In fact, the two hours every week leave me utterly exhausted, mentally much more than physically. It has long been my belief that I’m pretty darned awful at it. Training in a dojo like Peter King’s does nothing for my confidence either – I’m surrounded by excellent practitioners and almost always feel like a klutz.

So now I was supposed to teach someone else something that I was pretty sure I didn’t know. They looked up at me eagerly, expectantly. “Christ,” I thought “what’s Peter thinking?”

Probably something rather incisive, the darned clever sod :)

Ask me anything about today’s lesson…I still have it in my mind…I could teach you – easily. It’s printed indelibly in my mind – because my mind was so active in grasping, assimilating, essentialising, breaking down and communicating each move.

I taught the girls things I hadn’t realized I actually knew. I corrected them when they made mistakes that I usually make. I picked them up on teensy little things I didn’t even know I could notice in another person.

Ed kept the lesson at a reasonable pace and suddenly I had to grasp the move well enough to teach it to two people who hadn’t done a day of martial arts in their lives. He did a three part move and I had to teach each element separately for the first time…then how to put it all together without looking like a wally. All in the time that the others were just grasping and practicing the move.

To the girl’s credit they did amazingly well. I pushed them very hard – every time they just barely grasped something, I would refine it and correct it to the next level. After an hour or so, I was mighty impressed and being hurled to the ground with spectacular precision and in dizzying succession. When they started to quote me back to myself about not using strength, I had to chuckle. When they corrected me in a move, I broke out into an all-out grin.

Two hours went by and felt like 30 minutes.

Toward the end, I realized that rather than having had something taken away from me today, I think I got the best lesson in the class. I ended up getting a wonderful feel for the moves. I had Peter and Ed coming up and teaching me how to teach.

After changing, I came up and thanked Peter for the opportunity to teach. I was shocked when he told me that he and Ed were both surprised at my proficiency in teaching and had commented about it to each other.

Am I blowing my own horn? Fuck, yes.* Hope you’re hearing it over there. What the hell else is there to celebrate bar one’s own and other’s achievements?

Point is that teaching is one of the best forms of learning out there. Your mind is forced to remain active – you’re responsible for someone else’s grasp of information so you order that information in a logical way in your own mind. A little like having the accountant over for an audit - y ou quickly ensure that all your papers are filed in the right places.

…ummm, when I say ‘tonight’ I mean yesterday. It could possibly maybe be 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday. It could be, that is, unless you’re reading this and you are M or C – in which case, I got to bed at a reasonable time.


(*No, this isn't a new direction for my writing. I'm working on something sanitary and lovely that can be read out to children over dinner as a lesson in life (as I know all my writing is used) . This post, however, was all about martial arts training. You know, where people come together to learn how to hurt or kill bad guys. It doesn't really lend itself to a Lingua Rococco treatment.)

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