Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The never ending path...

Are we ever done learning?  The short answer is, No!  No matter how good you are at something there is always more to learn.  It is arguable that one could still reach mastery of a topic without knowing every facet of that topic.  I think this is also possible in that our level of understanding allows us to make an educated guess on how to proceed through new circumstances related to our mastered topic. 

Bloom's Taxonomy is a model of cognitive development and is an essential concept used in learning.


 By understanding this model we can determine where we stand in our journey toward mastery.  Examining this model, several things stand out to me as they regard the martial arts.  First, several of the martial arts many schools I have studied with require nothing more than the lowest level of development which is simply remembering the material.  As you can see by the chart above that is simple not enough to demonstrate a complete grasp over a subject.  Especially something as complex as the martial arts.

It is my opinion that the goal of any martial artist is to reach the highest level of cognitive ability and according to this chart that is creating.  For example, in Karate we study Kata as part of our art.  Kata is performed until it is remembered and that is usually the end of our study of that Kata.  However, that means we are not even on the threshold of understanding. 

Kata requires that we remember each movement, mechanic, and transition.  Once we have that information it is time to understand why those moves are arranged the way they are and how each part works together.  Once we understand it is time to apply those lessons to a partner in a controlled way so that we can see maybe why they do what they do.  Once we have applied we need to analyze what we have done, our mistakes, successes, uncertainties.  Taking the information from our analysis we evaluate it and we might even bounce between analysis and evaluation for some time before coming to conclusion and being able to take all the parts we have learned to creating our own movements.  Perhaps even our own Kata.

So the next question, is creation the end?  Again.  No! I don't think so.  There are centuries of man hours in the study of the martial arts.  When you get to the highest level of study a difference of even an inch can be monumental in its effects.  Plus, as an instructor, their is always more material to learn about how to teach more effectively or new information on exercise science that could help avoid injuries or maybe even help to improve the performance of a student. 

I have met instructors that were too prideful to be willing to put a white belt on again and admit they didn't know.  In Japanese the word "Sensei" means one who came before.  It implies but does not mean master to many people in the west.  I am happy to take this title but also realize that it means little more than I am the guy who knows just a little bit more than the other guys in the class.  When I am no longer the guy who knows more about a topic then it is time to step aside and let someone else teach. 

So let us pretend that one truth is discovered about the martial arts every generation and a generation is roughly 20 years.  How far back do the arts go?  The martial arts have been around since...people started fighting.  Jujutsu first recorded exchange in Japan was about 11 B.C.  Sumo goes further back than that at roughly 22 B.C.  So 2009 + 20 / 20 = 101.5 generations of a single truth each.  Take each of these 101.5 truths and run them through Bloom's model above.  Taken further lets say that is take a year to completely run one concept through Bloom's taxonomy.  No problem.  Only 101.5 years before we have mastered each truth.

I would say these are fairly conservative numbers and that all of them are made up but they go a long way to demonstrating my point.  We will never be done.  So all you so called masters and grandmasters out there that say..."Ha! I already knew that..."  Congratulations for having done the impossible.  I say, keep studying.

I close by making some suggestions.  Read one or all of the following books.  I have posted reviews over most of them on my website:  Guinnmartialarts.com

Of those that I have not posted reviews they are coming.

The Way of Kata
The Gift of Fear
Bunkai-Jutsu
The Little Black Book of Violence
The Book of Five Rings
The Way to Black Belt
Martial Arts Instruction

All great books and there are plenty more where those came from...

Nick.