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Pedagogy; Principles of Learning and Teaching; Training Policy

This is an extensive area of inquiry. Below are listed a number of important principles and policies that govern how we pursue the cultivation of skills.

  • No negative reinforcement.

  • No short term goal orientation.

  • If at first you don't succeed, try again, and again and again. If you still don't succeed, give up. Try something else. Often the original problem will be solved quite unconsciously by pursuing other avenues.

  • New skills must be presented clearly, logically and systematically.

  • Trainees should ask questions whenever necessary. The instructor will try to answer all questions and assist in solving technical problems.

  • To own ignorance is the beginning of understanding and capability. The instructor must provide the example, always admitting readily to ignorance. Every time we answer "I don't know," an opportunity arises for research and development, and learning.

  • The method of training is derived in part from the Japanese tradition of 'kata budo.' This means that we cultivate understanding and capability through drill. The drill, or 'kata,' is trained in four phases:

    1. Learning the drill - This means memorizing and repeating movement according to distance, timing, rhythm, angle and balance, sequentially, directionally, solo and with training partners, armed or unarmed, under various conditions, until the trainee can execute the drill competently.

    2. Defeating the drill - No method is perfect. Every drill contains numerous mechanical and tactical openings. One by one, these are exposed during the execution of drill. The problems arising from these weaknesses are solved in various ways across a wide range of variation, until the trainee is capable of seeing or feeling the openings, and either closing them off, or exploiting them.

    3. Mining the drill - The drill is never an end in itself; rather, it is a tool of research and development. As the process of defeating the drill proceeds, unforeseen patterns may be exposed that facilitate the discovery of principles in operation, and of numerous applications of method as yet unknown to the trainee, and to the instructor, who is also and always a trainee. These discoveries are then subjected to a long process of testing, research and development. In this way, knowledge progresses. This is called "mining the drill."

    4. Discarding the drill - Eventually, the form of the drill is no longer needed to provide a framework or context for the trainee to see or to effect the operation of principle. Rather, the dangers and opportunities become apparent right across the whole spectrum of experience, and may be avoided or exploited as necessary and appropriate.

In this way, the formal gives way to the formless and skills become indistinct or invisible. Discarding the drill is the beginning of the application of skills in practice; the point where training becomes practice.

  • Never obsess about improving your weak points. Work on them, but concentrate on your strong points. It will take some time to discover what these are, so patient investigation is required.

  • Never end a period of training at a point of frustration. When experiencing difficulties with a skill or drill, one should leave off and end the day's work by training in a method wherein one excels, or which is otherwise interesting and agreeable.

  • To learn fast, train slow. Before rapid, forceful execution of drill can be performed both correctly and safely, many hundreds of slow repetitions are necessary. Proper training is careful, systematic, analytical, flexible, and thorough. The trainee's life and mission depend on this. It is said, 'one may train for twenty years, or one may train for one year twenty times.' To learn fast, train slow.