Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Always, Never, Yes or No

Asking questions are an important part of the learning process. As a karate instructor, I make sure to ask the class if there are any questions before we move on to the next topic or kata. Specific questions can be answered simply with a Yes/No or a concrete answer.

Is the bo strike an overhead or side strike? Overhead
Do we step with our right foot? Yes
Is it a punch to the face or solar plexus? Face
Can I add a roll fall in the sai kata for tournaments? No

Then there are general questions posed with always.

Is the right hand always on top in an X-block?
Is there always a punch at the end of kata sequence?
Do we always spin the nunchaku forward?
Do we always use a rear foot turn?

I am very careful answering these questions. It would be so simple if we “always do this” or “never do that”. It does not work this way because there are exceptions. In my experience as a karate instructor, I answer very few (if any?) questions with always and never.

There are also the simple sounding yet complex questions that are answered with “Yes and No”. Last night in tai chi class, I asked one of those questions.

“Are there any linear movements in Tai Chi?”

My instructor paused and said “yes and no”. He explained his answer and discussed the concepts. He described how there are segments that appear linear but eventually will turn circular. Once again, I am transported back to high school geometry and physics class. I should have paid better attention.

Perhaps the title of this post should be...Sometimes, Maybe, Yes and No.


FredInChina said...

Osu Michelle, I must not have given you my full attention at some moment... I thought you had stopped TaiChi...
My bad & good for you that you carry on.

Sometimes the quality of the question is ... in question!
Some students will want to jump ahead and attempt to make a general case where really there is only a special case.
At this moment, in this case, we do that.
No sense trying to extrapolate further.

Have you noticed that the quality of the questions often increase with grade?
Knowledge of what you don't know does not come easily.


Anonymous said...

When my sensei answers question it's usually in the form of: it depends, followed by a lengthy explanation as to why you'd do it a certain way and different in another situation... This is why he's such a great teacher: he's nuanced and he actually thinks things through. There are indeed simple questions meriting a simple answer but when it comes to application there are so many factors to consider. Who's to say what's wrong and what's right? The way I do things are slightly different than him and yet they're not wrong per se. Aslong as you can logically explain why you're doing this a certain way it's ok, if you do it differently and it works for you it's ok too... Everyone puts their little spin on it and adapts techniques and methods to their own mind and physique. To say something will either always or never work is akin to stupidity: hitting someone in the groin will usually drop them but it's perfectly possible it won't have any effect at all... Martial arts aren't an exact science and a lot depends on circumstance, feeling and experience.

Good article,