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Aikido is a difficult art, thus it is difficult to learn. Precept learned by the beginner the moment the first technique is attempted. Aikido's level of difficult continues to the expert who harangues the height and difficulty of the mountain that must be climbed.
Aikido. because it is difficult causes years of frustration for students as the curve is steep. Students have certain levels of expectations. It is frustrating for students not to see results in a reason amount of time over the amount of time they struggle with techniques. They feel they struggle more than they progress.
In the mist of struggle, frustration turns to blame. The student will place blame on any number of things. But more often then not students blame themselves, instructors, Aikido. Scapegoating for the student is a pressure release. Often times blame use by the students is in the face of prolonged frustration of learning something as difficult as Aiki coupled with their expectations. Students need to shift their learning paradigm. To find a new frame of reference that reveals what is already there, that wasn't notice beforehand. It would seem that it would be the old stand by of merely obtaining the one missing piece that magically fixes everything instantly.
What learning is and the process of learning (the learning experience ) is over-looked in my opinion in Aikido. The Japanese understood many dynamics of the learning experience. They understood the emotional and physical dynamics of learning. A great example is the attention to repetition for muscle memory, and the attention to proper concentration techniques that shut off the analytical process in the mind. It is a well known scientific fact for example, there is a thing call muscle memory and it is achieved through repetition. Also a scientific fact, is the human mind can't effectively do an activity and judge or think about it at the same time. Both of these facts are coded in many old martial arts training parables translated out the Japanese language. As an unfortunate result, the learning experience is limited. Aikido is difficult enough without being bogged down exotic cryptic language needing correct deciphering of exotic parables. Stock marital arts parables that are intriguing, making promises of great secret revealing wisdom once decoded. Couple that with the barriers of language translation and context learning progression becomes truncated. Making short work of a students progress.
A solution to improved learning is how to learn. The first step is to drop the obscure exotic parables and associated loss of context as a teaching and learning tool. As fun and mystically flavorful as repeating thing such as, before you entered the dojo you must empty your cup is, it really is harmful to non Japanese speakers when learning. Contemplating on mystical parables that promise Zen enlightenment works great if your Japanese. But even though Zen or Zen type riddles do have problem solving merit,it is more harmful to the learning experience than helpful to the modern non-Japanese student. It is like sticking a square peg in a round hole. Neither of which is bad. It is more an issue of utility and function to match up properly the right learning methodology and context to maximize the learning experience.
Working within the modern context and science of learning will result in easing the Aikido learning curve and frustration of learning such a difficult art. Approaching learning in a modern frame work will uncover "secrets" that will improve technique. Learning how to learn in the right language and context s a huge benefit to the learning experience. One example of what I am getting at is the Five Principles of Learning in the HET Model.
In the HET Model the Five Principles briefly are: Intelligence is a Function of Experience. When receiving information the brain likes it best to get that information as sensory information in an particular order.
Learning is an Inseparable Partnership Between Body and Brain Something that modern science was slow to realize, was realized and utilized by Asian culture, particularly martial arts for centuries. Here as well points to muscle memory and the importance of repetitious physical practice.
There are Multiple Intelligences to Solve Problems and to Produce Products There is more than one way to skin a cat, or rather intelligences (listed) for solving problems or producing results or outcomes. Linguistic Intelligence
Learning is a Two-Step Process
Step one is pattern learning
Step two is building a mental program from pattern learning
Personality/Temperament Impacts Learning and Performance Impacts learning and learning environment. The application would be the student's personality and temperament observed by the student and how it impacts the dojo, the instruction, and the ability and speed of learning.
This model is intended for instruction of the adult aikido student who can easily modify it to enhance their learning experience. The model is also good for an instruction model in the dojo for greater effective teaching. The HET model isn't the only educational tool out there. The general value to this blog is that it provides a reference or a tool for enhanced learning for those students struggling to improve their skills. To the reader, it is an orientation for those students who take responsibly for their learning experience. Students who understand there is magic bullet out there when it comes to learning and improving your skills, especially in the difficult art of Aikido.
For students seeking to improve their skill in Aikido, getting the most of out your training is to change the learning paradigm. Change how to view learning, and teaching. Research the subject of learning and maximize it. Learn to learn in a better way to ease that struggle and frustration. Yes, it is easier to slap down the cash and go to a seminar, but it is a waste of money and time if you are not at your peak understanding of how you learn. If you don't understand your learning experience and enhance it, your are stuck with lower retention, limited comprehension, automatous problem solving and learning skill. All that sums up to no matter who or what teaches you there will be a reduced ability to learn. In turn, increasing over time the levels of struggle and frustration with your Aikido practice. In my experience I can't stress the importance of learning how to learn using modern tools to reduce that learning curve in Aikido.
Let's not forget the complexity and skill it takes also to teach where at times teaching is mistakenly taken for granted in Aikido. I will save that for another blog entry.