Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hands Off Learning

I got an email from a correspondent across the pond in Europe who is a Silat Sera student. This writer's teacher has visited here to train with us, and a nice fellow he is.

The further away one is from the fire, the less it warms one, and I am once again reminded of how lucky I am to be within range of a world-class instructor in an art that I want to learn.

My fellow student asked me some questions, based on some of the stuff I wrote about in my e-book, But What If I Did This!? And again, I am also reminded of how limited the written word is when it comes to explain physical motions.

Learning martial arts from a book or even a video is tricky. I believe that these are best utilized when you already have a basic foundation, an understanding of the activity to which you wish to add. Picking up balance and position and timing from a video of an art in which you have never had a good teacher's hands-on adjustments, while not impossible, is, at best, difficult. What you see somebody demonstrating is not what you feel when you do it.

If you have never ridden a bicycle, then watching somebody do it who is expert at it tends to make it look a lot easier than it is. The skill, for instance, needed to sit on a bike in balance while it is not moving involves kinetics you can't get from looking at a picture of it, or having somebody tell you about it.

Maps are useful, but not, as smarter people than I have said, not the territory. Learning how to swim requires water.

Still and all, I tried to offer a general explanation for the queries. I don't know how much good that did, but it's what you have to work with when the tool is the written word. A video might be helpful, but the best help is from somebody who knows how to do it standing there and giving tactile feedback in the moment. This doesn't have to be a day-to-day process once you have gotten the basics: A visiting teacher can impart a lot in a few days or a week or two that will provide much material for practice, but without that, I think long-distance learning is a most hard row to hoe for any activity that requires complex physicality.

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