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Steps to learning

Intro

"To know something is not merely to be told it or to act upon it, but to modify and transform it and to understand the process, and consequences, of the transformation." -Charles E. Silberman
Learning has been thoroughly analyzed by many great minds, include by many noted martial artists. One excellent example was Dr. Jigoro Kano, founder of Kodokan Judo, who was also a famous educator in Japan. Many of the technical aspects and teaching methods of judo are a direct result of Dr. Kano's understanding of the six steps in the learning process.

Six steps to learning a martial art

Note: Each step in the process is connected and leads to the next step.
  1. Observation. Focus on essential elements the instructor's teaching points (explanation and  demonstration). Trying a new technique without careful observation of the instructor's performance of the technique will often cause mistakes or bad habits to form early in the learning process. These mistakes or bad habits may cause a delay in learning the proper technique or may cause injury. Students should watch all aspects of a technique, both what the instructor explains and what is not explained. Certain elements of every technique, such as timing and minute body movements are not easy to explain, but must be observed by the "watchful eye" of an astute and dedicated student.
  2. Perseverance. Demonstrate perseverance in your studies; it requires many steps to climb a mountain. Never give up on a difficult technique. You may never perfect the technique, but you will surely improve. In most cases, there are specific paths or steps that must be followed in learning a technique. Learning a technique completely means taking the time to allow the knowledge and skill to "soak in." Remember, everyone learns at different speeds.
  3. Technical knowledge. Learning a martial art requires having a qualified instructor. Students must intently listen to what the instructor says so that they gain a complete understanding of each technique. This is a critical element that cannot be rushed. Learning the what, when, where, why and how of each technique lets the student understand both the technical aspect as well as the philosophical foundation of the martial art.
  4. Repetition. To properly learn a martial art’s techniques, expect to complete several thousand repetitions first, and then to continue to practice for life. If you expect to truly be a matial artist, you must master a technique to the level of "automatic reaction" where you act and react instinctively. Remember, learning is a "road to travel", not a destination.
  5. Experimentation. After repetition comes experimentation. Once you have gained skill and confidence with a technique, it is important to experiment with various situations where the technique could be used in self-defense. Under the guidance of your instructor, you should experiment with different variations and combinations of each technique to gain a greater depth of understanding and knowledge.
  6. Self-evaluation. As a student of a martial art, you will be evaluated by your instructor on many aspects of your learning. The technical aspect of your training, although important, is only one aspect of your growth. As you learn and rise to the black belt ranks, you will be expected to self-evaluate your attitude, technical skill, sincerity, and representation of the martial art with questions such as: "Is the technique practical for me?" "Does it work the same for people of different height or weight?" "What limits do I have?" "Can I demonstrate and teach the technique properly"? etc.

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