Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Notes to Myself

As a writer, I am comfortable jotting things down. I keep a little yellow sticky pad -- sometimes these aren't yellow, but blue or pink or green -- on my desk and anything that pops into my head I might want to recall later, I make a note of it. Plot points or scenes in the current book get laid down this way. Appointments and daily chores go there too, even though I usually put those on the computer's iCal to get pop-up reminders. Ideas for stories -- had one yesterday about a little old lady who lives in the house next door to the front gate to Hell.

If I write it down, then I don't have to burn up more long-term memory neurons, and at my age, I can't spare those. All I have to remember is to look at the sticky note pad now and then. And how to read, of course ...

Recently, while working out, I lost track of the turn-sweep-drag foot sequence for doing djurus on the tiga (triangle). Just came up blank in one spot. I have done some of those ten thousand times, mind you, but the full sequence, not as many reps. This is because we get the forms over time, and while you usually practice the sequence from the first one on every time, by the nature of the learning process, you will have practiced the first ones more than the latter ones.

I got Djuru One more than a dozen years ago; the latter djurus only relatively-recently.

The forms can be done on various platforms -- straight-line, triangle, square, cross and a combination of these. The geometric footwork, aka langkah, offers different ways of dealing with attacks. One might be better suited for a single opponent, another for more than one. Evasion against a much larger attacker might be better served moving this way instead of that, and so on.

So I sat down and figured out what the sequence was for walking the tiga -- it's completely predictable -- and made a note. Figured out why I was ending up wrong (from Fourteen to Fifteen, I turned instead of doing a foot-drag -- beset.) Fixed that, and all better now.

Most of the silat I've learned, I've written down. And most of these notes won't make any sense to anybody except me, because I'm using terms that bring up a personal mental picture. And some of them get pretty involved for a relatively simple motion. In Djuru Two, the initial punch and recover takes all of a second to do. Here's what I wrote detailing that one second:

Step in with right foot leading, right rising punch, braced at the wrist with the

left hand. Hips corked, same stances as in Djuru #1. Punch twists.

Weapon leading, turn upper base to left, feet mostly still. Your right arm drops to low line, still in a fist, palm facing right, and you will essentially block with it from shoulder to fist, covering yourself from groin to shoulder. Your left hand will block your face, at your right shoulder.) Bend your right elbow, bring fist up and inside your left arm, across your chest and toward your opponent in a backfist. As you do, turn upper base back toward front. Keep your left hand up until the right arm clears it, then use the left to brace the right forearm. Move through backfist position smoothly (this looks like one continuous move) to:

Chamber right arm ...

Obviously, it is better to ingrain such motions into one's muscle-memory -- not an accurate physiological term, but you know what I mean -- than it is to have to go to the note pad to reconstruct them, but if you don't practice a particular move with some frequency, it tends to fade, so better to have a reference than not.

All of which is to say, anything you can use to jog your memory if you lose your way is good. The map is not the territory, but maps do have their uses if you get turned around wrong.


Jason Couch said...

about a little old lady who lives in the house next door to the front gate to Hell.

Pleeease write that story-I'll buy a copy now just based on the premise.

Anonymous said...

A good martial artist, and a good writer. That's for sure.

Steve, some time you should make a post dedicated to the main protagonist from The Musashi Flex, Laszlo Mourn.
How he came about, and what your inspiration for him was, etc.
That would be amazing. :)

Spare no details! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Googled his name and found something good - http://www.killermovies.com/forums/f102/t509884.html


That really should be a movie.

Steve Perry said...

I think most of what anybody would find interesting about Mourn is in the book. Who he is, why he got into the arts, what he want to do and how and all, it's in the novel.

I usually spend a little time playing with names before I come up with one for my protagonist, and I liked the combinations of those two for him. I needed a guy who was near the top of the Flex, but who was never going to get there without something changing. He needed to be old enough to be almost burned out, and he needed a jolt to turn him in a new direction and build a new fire in his belly.

New arts tend to get created when somebody sees a different way of doing things, or a lack in what they are doing and starts looking for a way to fill that lack.

Mourn has his epiphany when he is teaching a new student, a come-to-Jesus realization that turns everything he knows slightly askew.

It's all there ...

jks9199 said...

RE: Laszlo Mourn & creation of arts... I've used that book as an excellent depiction of legitimate creation of a new art versus the Henry VIII approach ("I wanna be SuperSokeDoke, so I'm creating my art...")

RE: Notes... I'm a huge, huge believer in note-taking. While we try to get it all in memory -- the truth is that there are so many details and pieces that you need to write some of them down. It also forces you to examine it in a different way, which moves into the brain in multiple channels. I've kicked myself for things I didn't write down and wished I had more times than I can count... or for missing a detail in what I did write. Though, often, if I take the notes and walk through what they say, it comes back. Like yours, Steve, my notes are personal. They make sense to me -- often combining words, stick figures, diagrams, and best-approximations of sounds, even.

In fact, I'm working now on transcribing several pages of notes from a recent seminar...

AF1 said...

Recently came across some old training notes from years back.

The shorthand I used then must have made sense to me at the time, but now it isn't enough to piece together some of the instructions.

The importance of using involved descriptions for even simple moves became readily apparent.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

You're doing it wrong.

#4 is really #8, and #15 is backwards. You should do 10 through 23 blindfolded, with your liver removed.

Like the founder. Otherwise? You're just destroying the art.

You DO know that "Tiga" is really "Gait" spelled inside-out, right? And the founder had a LIMPING gait, since he only had one foot. And what else limps?

A duck!

*offstage voice* "Who are you, so wise in the ways of science?"

...I am Arthur, king of the Britons.

And I walk the Pantjar.

Steve Perry said...

Yes, I must confess, I am of the Apostates, the Destroyers of All that is Good and True.

We don't wear sarongs to class -- though Edwin sometimes wears a kilt, which is pretty smart, given the sand pit. Lot easier to dust off your arse that way. Sand in your jeans is not so much fun.

We live to Pervert the Platform, Jigger with the Djurus, and Stretch the Sambuts -- if you know what I mean -- and as for adat and hormat, those are those little sausages that come in cans, right?

See, that's the the problem when you start making the moves up, they are hard to remember; whereas the Original Untarnished and Unmodified Djuru-Djuru are so perfect that once you have beheld them a single time, they are burned so indelibly upon your psyche than you can never forget them.

It is true that my teacher figured out a way to stay on the basic platforms all the way through the dance; that such heresy was then appropriated by those who are of the Original Untarnished and Unmodified Djuru-Djuru tjabang merely shows how infectious our disease is.

We are the Scourge and Pestilence, the Apostates, the Destroyers of All that is Good and True.

You may Kiss our Asses.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, clarity in note-taking matters.

I've always liked the old hippie joke about the guy on psychedelics, who, at the peak of his trip, suddenly realized what the Secret of the Universe was. He knew if he didn't write it down, he'd forget it, so he managed to find a pencil and paper and by dint of great concentration despite all the swirling air and flashing colors, was able to write it down.

The Secret of the Universe, captured!

He tripped off, eventually came down, fell asleep.

Woke up the next day and while he couldn't remember the Secret, did manage to remember he had written it down! Full of excitement, he hurried to find the paper, and there it was!

It said, "There's a funny smell in the room ..."

Stan said...

Note-taking is important, both for us as students and for us as instructors. Frequently when I'm leading a class, or critiquing an advanced student, there will be a difference between how I demonstrate a technique and how students are performing it. Time to get out the notebooks to compare the art's name, translation and description. It also helps when the students remember to write down who "taught them" the technique.

Most often, the comparison results in the "mantra" that it's always good to have multiple choices, as long as you also have the "approved kata" in your notes.

Presenting a notebook for review is one of the requirements for a shodan candidate.

I've found that when I "deconstruct" an art to develop variations, my original notes seem very simplistic. However, I have been advised not to "remove" previous notes. Rather, I'm supposed to add the "new/better" information and point out difference with previous notes.

Thanks be to "St. Vidicon" for computerized notes!

Have a good day, folki!

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Something I wanted to say, since Stan mentioned "deconstructing" an art...I think this is a critical step in becoming a teacher. If you can completely tear apart your art and rebuild it so that the principles remain in tact, it retains functionality and adaptability, you get such a clearer view of what you are really training and teaching. It's another way of getting to know things inside-out, like tearing apart and rebuilding an engine.

It takes distancing yourself from traditional methods sometimes, but the rewards far outweigh the costs.

Just my opinion.

Steve Perry said...

I guess my problem with deconstructing something and then rebuilding it falls into the Why bother? category for me. If I have something that seems to work fine -- i.e., it ain't broke -- then where is the gain in fixing it?

So much of what I've see to that end involves somebody learning the basics, then cherry-picking and tossing the rest out. Unless you know it well enough to know what matters, that's kind of like taking an M1 apart and then tossing away the leftover pieces you couldn't figure out what to do with when you tried to reassemble it ...

Travis said...

"See, that's the the problem when you start making the moves up, they are hard to remember"

No, you just make it up again. And critizing the students for getting it wrong the first time.

Ed said...

Little old lady living next door to the gates of hell - They keep borrowing her garden tools and returning them all bloody - hey, at least they return them. But their cat? keeps crapping in her flower bed - bastards.

Stan said...

Well, Sir,

The reason I practice "deconstructing" my arts isn't to take anything away from them. It's so I can better understand the principles involved so that I can better apply/execute the art. This has helped me to apply similar principles to other arts...and see what they add...which helps me to better understand and execute other, more advanced arts.

When I work with students who are having difficulty with some jujitsu arts from "advanced" lists, I usually find that their problems lay in failing to "master" (please pardon the word) the more basic arts and principles.

You don't "have" to take an art apart...many people don't. Instead, they focus their energy on being able to recreate the art precisely as it was shown to them. There's nothing wrong with that, in fact, in some styles that is THE goal.

Just doesn't happen to be the way that I was taught...at least, not entirely.

One of my teaching principles includes the idea: just because we have developed an understanding of a thing, does not excuse us from continuing to explore and learn as much about it as possible.

I humbly offer these thoughts, folki! Have a very good day!

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"If I have something that seems to work fine -- i.e., it ain't broke -- then where is the gain in fixing it?"<

I didn't say deconstruction was about fixing it. I find it more about understanding the principles of what you train, and being able to recycle them in different forms for teaching.

From a TEACHING perspective, it's invaluable.

Reaching people who are hungry for knowledge is difficult, no matter how good a teacher you are. But what about the student who is capable, hungry, and needs more than the stock answer? Having deconstructed your art is, in my opinion, a way of taking control of it.

To answer your question...You wouldn't bother. But if you start teaching Silat professionally?

Well, let me put this another way; You are clearly knowledgeable as a writing teacher, my own modest addition of vernacular genius notwithstanding. I have seen the materials you teach by and the preparation you do before teaching a writing class, as well as attending the class itself. You are prepared, nine ways to Sunday, for anything that might be asked. You have experience, understanding, and a variety of tools to get the point across.

I can't be 100% sure, but I'm willing to bet you have deconstructed what YOU were taught about writing to extract the purest principles you could find, and then re-assemble them into something that fits your understanding, beliefs and teaching style the best.

What I'm getting at with this already-too-damn-long diatribe is that your approach as a student will differ than that of a teacher.

But you already knew that.

Steve Perry said...

I think this goes to the how-to of training, and in my case, my personal style of teaching has always been to make things as transparent as possible from the git-go, whatever the subject.

Lot of the martial arts I've dabbled in use negative reinforcement -- sensei stops telling you that you got it wrong when you hit the mark. A "Not bad." is tantamount to a brass band and a pep squad cheering you on.

I've tried to teach with positive reinforcement when I can -- "That's good, you have the idea -- here's a way to make it a little better."

Of course, you have to point out what you see as the wrong way to do a thing, and offer reasons why it is so. I like humor, but whatever works.

Insofar as the version of silat I"m learning, one of the things that drew me to it was that the nuts and bolts and principles under them were presented part and parcel together. Here's what you do. Here is why. If everything you learn is offered with a view to how it connects to the whole, then there's no reason to break it down further.

It's not, "Do it this way -- because I say so." But "Do it this way because it fits perfectly with the rest of the puzzle, see, like so?"

Sometimes I don't see the connections, but pretty much I can always see that the new move doesn't violate the laws and principles underlying what we do.

Stan said...

I definitely wasn't raised with "positive reinforcement" or positive goal orientation, but I have worked to make that a fundamental part of my teaching and communication.

(I love telling people that "the mind" only understands positives...and then demonstrating it. Usually blows "their fragile little minds!" because it is so different than the way we were "taught" in life (you know, the "Real World!) ;~)

Unless someone is placing themself, or someone else, in danger, I usually begin each interaction with, "that was (pick the appropriate one): good; really good; better; much better; an improvement; or (worse case scenario) a different way to do it!" I then ask the students to "add this" to their art, or, I might ask them to focus on a particular piece (posture, balance, breathing, relaxing...you know, the essential basics!)

I've found that, when teaching, one of the most important things is to watch the students when they're "adding" your critique/instruction. This way, they realize that you are interested in their progress and not just "showing off" with your "AWESOME Knowledge!"

Not that WE'VE ever had an instructor who was more interested in boosting his ego, than he was in sharing lessons or a message!

One of my "effective" expressions is to ask a struggling student, "What? You mean you weren't BORN knowing this? Everybody else was!" It's usually a good way to get a student to cut themself a little slack.

Thanks, Folki!