Monday, March 3, 2008

How Do You Learn?

When I was in college, I had a course on Cognitive Psychology with a focus on Learning Theory. I graduated in 1990 with a dual major in Political Science / Psychology. When I started college and decided on my major, I was certain I wanted to go to law school. During my junior year, I decided that being a lawyer was not what I wanted. My first job after I graduated was working in the “rag” business. I loved everything about the garment industry and I learned so much. I worked for 7 years in the industry until the company I worked for went overseas. I had a wonderful liberal arts education but I do not use my course of study for my daily work responsibilities. It has helped my karate and my ability to teach.

What does this have to do with karate? When I have the opportunity to work with students on an individual basis, the first thing I say to them is “How do you learn?” The response I get is typically a questioning face and shrugged shoulders. I then proceed to ask some of the following:

Do you learn better in segments or the whole kata?
Which do you rely on more: auditory or visual cues?
Can you learn from a video?
Do you need to watch the technique before you try?
Do you learn by repetition?
Would you rather mirror movements or stand in the same direction? (This is interesting because I find that young students would prefer to mirror the techniques while adults need to be adjacent.)
Does the bunkai help you remember the kata?

Let me give a personal example. I had trouble with left and right. When I first started taking karate classes this was a problem for me. If the instructor would call out the techniques using left or right commands, I would have difficulty learning the material. I needed to see the techniques and hear the techniques called out. Self-defense was even more challenging because I needed to be facing the same direction as the demonstrating instructor. I am glad to report that this is not much of a problem for me anymore.

During class, I try to offer students a variety of learning opportunities. I will count out a kata, and the next time I will call out the individual techniques. We will practice a whole kata and then we will break it down in to smaller pieces. We will review basics and look at the bunkai.

So, how do you learn?

1 comment:

BobSpar said...

This is really interesting; I've heard about how different people had different methods of learning, but I've mostly thought about it in terms of conventional school, not martial arts. I'm sure it's really helpful for your students that you use different techniques to teach them.

I'm trying to think about what makes certain techniques stick with me. The only thing I can think of is that it really helps when, say, my sensei stops me after I've just been doing something wrong and shows me what I'm doing wrong.