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Pauliina Lievonen 08-18-2010 12:02 PM

5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
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This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Pauliina Lievonen © 2010.
Should a dojo be silent? How much talk is too much?

Recently my teacher had a talk with the senior students who teach about how much talk we want to have on the mat. Our dojo follows a fairly strict etiquette in some ways (we bow a lot for example) but we also talk quite a lot on the mat, and it's not completely unheard of that a students put a hand up after a technique has been demonstrated and asks a question. My teacher had been impressed by a class with a visiting Japanese teacher, where in the traditional way there was very little talk and a lot of sweat. That is why he wanted us to discuss whether we shouldn't be stricter with no talking on the mat ourselves. As you'll see I had an opinion about this based on personal experience.

Coincidentally, a friend had posted a link to this test:
http://www.vark-learn.com/english/pa...=questionnaire about learning styles. From the website: "VARK is a questionnaire that provides users with a profile of their learning preferences. These preferences are about the ways that they want to take-in and give-out information. " There are other ways of categorizing other aspects of learning that have to do with how the information is processed once it has been taken in, but that is not what this test is about. VARK is short for Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic learning. The majority of people that have completed this questionnaire have a multimodal learning preference, meaning that they don't prefer one single mode of learning but use two to four different modes either to get a more complete understanding of the material or switching from one mode to another depending on the circumstances. There are some helpful tips for study strategies for people with different modes on the site.

If you read the recommendations on the site for, for example, the auditory learning style, http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=aural you'll see that it's not about just listening to an explanation. It can also mean that an auditory learner needs to talk through a technique, or explain it to someone else, in order to really understand what they are doing.

What activity person is involved in doesn't necessarily reveal what their preferred mode of learning is - an athlete might prefer to have written instructions to follow, even though their actual performance is movement. All the people who find their way to a dojo may not be kinesthetic learners.

To use myself as an example, my preferred modes in order of importance are RAK, reading/writing, auditory, and kinesthetic. No wonder I considered first aikido-l and then Aikiweb as my second dojo! I used to write down techniques in a little note book, with blank spaces to fill in later if there were points in the technique I was unsure of. What I also like to do is talk through a technique the first couple times I do it, muttering to myself "step, turn, elbow, step" and if I have a like-minded partner we'll keep a running commentary going as we practice "lost you there…yep…no, that's my strong direction…" I often associate specific movements with the sound effects my teachers teacher makes when he performs them, and more importantly, that helps me remember what I'm supposed to do, it's not just a funny noise.

One point that the author(s) of the VARK website makes is that people with a multimodal learning style (the majority of people) will feel unsure of what they are learning until they have had the chance to access information in several modes. But it doesn't necessarily have to be all provided for in the dojo. We could put a white board up and start drawing diagrams, and for some people it would be very helpful. But the students can also take a little notebook with them and draw the diagrams after class. I can read books about aikido and have discussions about it online and in the pub. But if a class only provides information in one or two modes (a silent teacher demonstrates and then students try to repeat what they've seen) that class is not going to be as attractive to students with other modes of learning. If a teacher makes that choice I hope they will be aware of the consequences their choice will have - you'll attract some students but not others, and maybe that is exactly what you want.

So next time you tell someone on Aikiweb to stop writing and get on the mat, consider that doing both might be necessary for that person to learn. And the annoying 5th kyu shihan who wants to expound on the theory behind this or that technique in the middle of practice might be fulfilling a genuine need they have to understand that technique by explaining it to someone else, and not think arrogantly that you don't already understand it. Even if they maybe should choose another time and place for the discussion!

One of the goals of our dojo is to be inclusive, to give different kinds of people the chance to practice. So in the end we concluded that as attractive and traditional it might be, no talking at all on the mat would exclude some students unnecessarily, and wouldn't be the right choice for our dojo.

What I'd like to suggest, if you've been so kind to read this far: please take the test, read the study tips that apply to you, think about how that applies to your aikido practice, and tell us all about it!
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:

We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.

Shadowfax 08-30-2010 05:59 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Nice article. Iike the points you made especially about the 5th kyu shihan who may simply be trying to use a learning mode we do not perceive.

Ive taken this test before. It very accurately pegged me RK (reading, kinesthetic) It is very helpful to understand your personal learning style.

aikishihan 08-30-2010 06:12 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Thank you for this timely and marvelously insightful wake up call.

All instructors who would become teachers, would do well to make this article a welcome invitation to truly attempt to understand their students in a more compassionate and respectful light.

Dan Rubin 08-30-2010 09:50 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Thanks for that article, Pauliina. I've long considered that O Sensei's top students must have been visual learners (since he never explained his technique), and that's why they teach the way they do: they assume that everyone learns that way. And so the subsequent generations of teachers do the same, because that's the "traditional" way aikido is taught.

A woman joined my dojo several years ago and she drove me crazy as we practiced, saying "I don't understand this" and "how did you do that?", talking to me constantly, and I would tell her "Don't talk, just practice," but she wouldn't stop talking to me, causing me to avoid working with her. Then during one class it dawned on me that she wasn't talking to me, she was talking to herself, telling herself "I don't understand" and asking herself "how did he do that?" And as soon as I came to this realization, I stopped scolding her and actually found myself enjoying my practice with her. And now, several years later, she still talks, and I still enjoy practicing with her.

Anita Dacanay 08-30-2010 01:07 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
What great points you make in this column! I am a Read/Write learner with Auditory learning a close second. Yes, I do mumble to myself sometimes while working through a technique. I also love to talk at length about what I've experienced in class; and sometimes have to bite my tongue to wait til class is over in order to do so. I need to use writing or talking to organize my thoughts so that I can better remember what I've studied.

Janet Rosen 08-30-2010 01:46 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Anita Dacanay wrote: (Post 263793)
What great points you make in this column! I am a Read/Write learner with Auditory learning a close second. Yes, I do mumble to myself sometimes while working through a technique. I also love to talk at length about what I've experienced in class; and sometimes have to bite my tongue to wait til class is over in order to do so. I need to use writing or talking to organize my thoughts so that I can better remember what I've studied.

I'm another mumbler. Auditory is my weakest learning mode - I'm totally a reader of words and maps (which is why I learn weapons kata best by writing down each step then reading the step, doing the step, reading the next step, doing the next step....) followed by kinesthetic and visual.
Important to note that the mumbling is not part of auditory mode but an outer manifestation of reading, essentially remembering and reading aloud while doing.

dave9nine 08-30-2010 03:09 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
thanks for this!

as someone interested in the pedagogical aspects of aikido, im glad you posted this--i didnt know about VARK. I have written before that talking on the mat, for the most part, doesnt seem to be helpful and should be avoided if possible. however, i did so with a voice in the back of my head saying 'yeah, but people learn differently and some are going to always need oral explanation beyond the mat.'

i would reiterate my point, though, which is that, while taking different learning approaches into consideration is valuable, it still doesnt change the fact that aikido is a kinestetic practice: in the end, one's BODY will only be able to learn the stuff by EXPERIENCING it and repeating (and repeating, etc.....).

my vote, personally, would be to have the talky, cerebral stuff happen off the mat, in a supplemental class, as it were.
partly, i have this view because i have seen first hand how talking while training can quickly deteriorate into a full stop, where people are essentially standing there going on about something. this in turn may distract others who are training near by and this loss of focus on movement is thus a general distraction.

hmmm.....i will continue podering this...

-dave

Janet Rosen 08-30-2010 03:55 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Dave Lewin wrote: (Post 263804)
my vote, personally, would be to have the talky, cerebral stuff happen off the mat

I don't see anywhere in the essay or comments that anybody would disagree w/ you re "talky cerebral stuff" but then I don't consider a verbal explanation of what is being demonstrated as particularly theoretical or cerebral.

WilliB 08-31-2010 01:49 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Fwiw, I quite enjoy 5kyu shihans. I find everybody has something interesting to say, and at least it is worth checking out.

What I find troublesome is when I see 5kyu shihans teaching newcomers; in case I try to break it up if possible.

Eva Antonia 08-31-2010 07:05 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Dear Pauliina,

I just did this test and found out that I am a VRK person with multimodal preference and near to zero auditive perception.

That's pretty much myself - but how come I always blab during aikido sessions, always asking things like "How come that this did not work" or commenting like "you should ensure a 45° angle"???

Anyway, I certainly think it is helpful if techniques are not only shown visually but also explained - and luckily I train in a dojo with great tolerance for talking and laughing :-)

Best regards,

Eva

Janet Rosen 08-31-2010 09:23 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Eva Röben wrote: (Post 263870)
I just did this test and found out that I am a VRK person with multimodal preference and near to zero auditive perception.

That's pretty much myself - but how come I always blab during aikido sessions, always asking things like "How come that this did not work" or commenting like "you should ensure a 45° angle"???

As I noted, the mumbling is not part of auditory mode but an outer manifestation of reading, essentially remembering and reading aloud while doing.

ninjaqutie 08-31-2010 10:50 AM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
I just had to take a test to see what I was:

Your scores were:

Visual: 4
Aural: 2
Read/Write: 9
Kinesthetic: 9

and when I took it a second time to see if I would answer the same, I got:

Your scores were:

Visual: 5
Aural: 3
Read/Write: 11
Kinesthetic: 9

I guess I read and do

Pauliina Lievonen 08-31-2010 03:35 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Eva Röben wrote: (Post 263870)
Dear Pauliina,
I just did this test and found out that I am a VRK person with multimodal preference and near to zero auditive perception.

That's pretty much myself - but how come I always blab during aikido sessions, always asking things like "How come that this did not work" or commenting like "you should ensure a 45° angle"???

As Janet said, that's probably more the read/write part of learning, needing to put what you are learning into words. I think I mixed up two learning styles in that part of the column because for me personally they are so close. :-)

kvaak
Pauliina

Pauliina Lievonen 08-31-2010 03:50 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Dave Lewin wrote: (Post 263804)
i would reiterate my point, though, which is that, while taking different learning approaches into consideration is valuable, it still doesnt change the fact that aikido is a kinestetic practice: in the end, one's BODY will only be able to learn the stuff by EXPERIENCING it and repeating (and repeating, etc.....).

But this is the whole point, that's simply not true. Your body isn't some separate entity that learns on it's own - the quality of the movement that you repeat (and repeat, etc. :)) depends on your understanding of what you're trying to do.

Unless you're a very kinesthetic learner. Did you take the test? :)

Quote:

partly, i have this view because i have seen first hand how talking while training can quickly deteriorate into a full stop, where people are essentially standing there going on about something.
This I agree completely about. Some of the need of analyzing techniques or discussing principles and philosophies can better be fulfilled after class. But just because talk can deteriorate into a full stop doesn't mean that it inevitably has to.

kvaak
Pauliina

Pauliina Lievonen 08-31-2010 04:03 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Francis Takahashi wrote: (Post 263748)
All instructors who would become teachers, would do well to make this article a welcome invitation to truly attempt to understand their students in a more compassionate and respectful light.

Thank you for the kind words!

Yes exactly, what I was trying to say was, different people learn different ways and we might not always realize that the irritating behaviour of a student or fellow student maybe is just them trying to do the best they can.

But at the same time, the teacher doesn't have to provide everything, as a student I can also help myself by for example reading and writing about aikido hear on Aikiweb, keeping a diary, writing a blog, etc. if that is something I need in order to learn.

Pauliina

ninjaqutie 08-31-2010 04:51 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Quote:

Pauliina Lievonen wrote: (Post 263943)
But at the same time, the teacher doesn't have to provide everything, as a student I can also help myself by for example reading and writing about aikido hear on Aikiweb, keeping a diary, writing a blog, etc. if that is something I need in order to learn.

I'm ALL for the diary thing... (obviously) :D

Susan Dalton 08-31-2010 07:13 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
Interesting stuff, Pauliina. I got 0 visual points, which is probably why I had such a hard time learning something the first time it was shown. However, after 20 years I can now learn by watching even though it's not my preferred method.

TreyPrice 10-21-2010 12:32 PM

Re: 5th Kyu Shihan and Learning Styles
 
As a professional educator and principal of a school for students with discipline issues I was glad to see this thread. We test all of our students to look at their learning modalities. As an Aikido instructor I see verious learning styles in class. Based on my experience in both worlds I offer this information:
1) All students will learn differently, and learn different parts of Aikido differently. One skill may come by hands on work, were another may come be a visual clue.
2) The is a two sided coin - Instructors will teach from their learning modalities as well. We teach as we learn.
3) Alll students should provide feedback to nage. Nage should take it only as an observation unless that person is an instructor.
4) All Nikkyu and above should teach from time to time. Teaching develops greater understanding and encourages leadership skills.

My experiences with Aikido instructors was with two who were engineers by trade. (Very technical explinations) and another who took a "feel it" approach. I learned a lot from all of them. The different approaches allowed me to develop in very specific ways. Now as an instructor I teach from my prospective or style.

Feeback is key - it has to be seen, heard, and felt. Then practice a lot!

My $.02


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