Martial arts stuff. Those of you who aren't familiar with the way such things are taught, a quick hit on the most common methods:
1) Ongoing group class.
2) Private lessons.
There are other ways -- couple buddies get together and exchange techniques and share philosophy. There are how-to books, videos, and people who can learn something simply by watching. There are stories, probably apocryphal, about this system or that which came to be because a student not allowed to train peeped through the blinds then went off and practiced on his own. The classic depictions offer somebody who watched a crane fishing, or a monkey given fermented coconut juice and copied what they thought they saw. Or somebody just had some kind of epiphany one warm summer evening and the vision led to a new art.
(There are people who create their own systems, though seldom, I expect, without some kind of prior experience.)
But back to the three. Each method has its merits and down sides.
Group classes are the most common, and they tend to be limited by the newer students. If you have an advanced class where everybody is at the same level, you learn differently than if you have a group ranging from years in training to a newbie just showed up. Nature of the information flow -- kid can't add or subtract, then multiplication is beyond him, and calculus right out. Not to say the advanced students aren't getting something out of it -- going over the basics is never a bad idea, and each time you return to them, you can see something new, but it will be a slower process.
Private lessons get you personal attention, learning is faster, but can be spendy, and sooner or later, you have to dance with more than one person to see how the stuff will work against different players. Height, weight, speed, power, these things matter enough that you need a range of experience. A fighter who is six-four has more reach than one who is five-two. Heavyweights tend not to move like flyweights. You need to see that up close and personal.
Seminars tend to offer a whole lot of information delivered in a short time, over a day or three, and often the attendees are students of something else, so the teacher must consider that. If you study, say, kung fu, and you spend the weekend learning eskrima, for instance, then most of what you will see will likely be new to you. Retention of the material is harder, because the teacher may be gone on Monday, never to be seen again, and if you come away with a couple of things that are useful you can remember, then that's about as good as you can expect.
One of the problems experienced students have in the seminar-realm is what they bring with them. If you are a stand-up puncher and you seminar (like that for a verb?) a grappling art that goes to the ground, you are looking for stuff your art may not address, and it is relatively easy to listen to the teacher. He's got something you don't, and you want it.
If, however, the art you study is too similar to the seminar curriculum, then the problem of conflicting input will almost certainly arise. Sometimes, a different way isn't better or worse, just different and it will work, but it won't fit into what you have.
I saw this at the most recent seminar I attended, last year in Las Vegas. There were a handful of high-level teachers, rotating sessions through a ballroom full of students. All of these teachers were experts in something; several in multiple arts, but none of them were teaching the same thing, and in several cases, what they taught was a direct contradiction to stuff I already knew. And what the last three guys all showed me.
Proper seminar etiquette says you are to put that aside and do what the new teacher demonstrates, his way, and if you don't want to do that, better if you step off.
Obligatory aside here: I know this will make Rory smile, but if you knock the instructor sprawling, while that makes a valid point, such will often lead to an escalation in force that blows past friendly training into ugly. Such an event happened at Vegas because a teacher demonstrating knife techniques made seven major errors.
Mistake #2, was assuming he could show a bunch of guys who play with knives as much or more than he did something that would impress them.
If you are going to play your guitar in front of an audience of professional guitar players, best you have the chops.
Mistake #3: The teacher picked a move that was risky in the extreme. It required a precision you probably wouldn't be able to summon against a knife thrust with adrenaline babbling in your ear. Even if you could, it might work against somebody shorter who didn't know squat, but absolutely would not work against a guy eight inches taller, even if he didn't know squat.
For those of you who have some knowledge about such things, the first basic defense was to kick your hips straight back, sucking in your gut, while bending at the waist and leaning forward, reaching for the knife arm with both hands to grab it. Assuming you got that much right, there was some kind of follow-up, takedown, disarm, I don't really recall, because it never got that far ...
Mistake #4: Teacher picked the tallest guy in the class to come at him.
Mistake #5: Tall Guy was the most experienced knife player in the session. Three-quarters of his life deep in knife arts, knew more than the teacher. This was a man who had twelve practice blades in his gym bag. And who, when elected, allowed that maybe the teacher might want to let somebody else do the attack, because of the size and experience disparity.
Mistake #6: The teacher declined the offer to use somebody his own size.
Mistake #7: He could have changed the defense, and limited Tall Guy to a move that he could have intercepted. Said, "Wait, no, this won't work against a tall guy, so let me show you a variation. Stab like this." He didn't. He was intent on proving his point.
Came the attack and defense:
Tall Guy eviscerated the teacher three times in the first five seconds -- or would have, had the knife been real. After another few seconds, he had tagged the guy three more times, and nobody in that class was ever going to try that defense, anytime, anywhere, against anybody.
This is what is known as a failed demonstration. A fubar situation.
Teacher got pissed off, but it was his own fault.
If you can't do it, don't try to show it in front of a room full of experienced folks who have an idea what it ought to look like. Later, I found out the teacher had been warned by a senior in his art that maybe a barehanded knife defense was not a good idea, but elected to do it anyway. Mistake #1 -- not listening to somebody who knows better ...
So I learned from this demonstration. Not what the teacher had intended, but still something useful.
That's how it goes at a seminar. More than a couple times, I was thinking, "Huh. Your way will get me killed trying it against somebody who knows his ass from a hole in the ground."
An example of this is the infamous overhead X-block for a downward ice-pick stab. Yeah, you might make it work against somebody who just picked up a blade the first time this morning and is still puzzling over which end to hold; against anybody who knows that much? As soon as both your hands go up, you turn everything from your neck to your toes into an open target, and you won't be fast enough to get your hands down in time to keep from being disemboweled. If you don't believe this, give somebody a marks-a-lot pen and leave to try a little line drawing upon you after you cross your wrists over your skull. You'll need some OxyClean afterward.
(Our basic knife stuff starts with the simple stuff: Get the fuck out the way. Don't stand there where if you miss the check or block you will get skewered. So if somebody is teaching me that this is the way to go, I'm going to be looking at him askance.)
Now it is true that you might find yourself in a situation where you can't move out of the way, and there are methods to be employed should this happen; however, if you can be elsewhere when the blades flash, it's better. Nobody ever got stabbed by somebody who couldn't reach them.
We strive to cover high-line and low-line at all times -- that's a cardinal rule for us. If what you are showing me involves me ignoring that? It's not just that I will be out of my comfort zone -- it's that I have been doing it that way to good effect for so long that I cringe when I see somebody not doing it.
If a technique violates a basic principle of the art I practice and I can't see immediately how it will be useful, I am going to be leery of it. Especially if I see that it is something I know I can defeat using what I already know. Yeah, that's nice, thanks.
Is this because I have a closed mind? Maybe so. If I have gone down a road and realized that it's not the right one for me, then I'm not likely to want to go down it again. Doesn't mean it's a bad road, but it does mean I've found a route I like better. Unless you can demonstrate that what you offer is better, then why would I trade mine for yours?
On the one hand: If you are so set in your ways that you aren't willing to consider another option, especially when things don't go as planned -- which they never do -- then doesn't that handicap you?
On the other hand: If you have a way that seems to work and somebody shows you one that doesn't seem as if it will work -- not just as well, but at all, would it be smart to abandon what you know and swap?
Not in my book.