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akiy 10-18-2005 11:32 AM

Kinesthetic Learning
 
Hi folks,

So, the subject of learning kinesthetically has been on my mind recently. To be specific, I've been thinking of how people can learn to be kinesthetic learners -- learning how to learn through the body, essentially.

As an introduction, some people say that there are basically three kinds of learning modes: visual (images), auditory (verbal), and kinesthetic (body). That's a pared down model, for sure, but it gives me something to think about. I think everyone is a mixture of these three with, usually, one of them being more dominant than the other two. Aikido, though, to me, is intrisically a kinesthetic art; without the ability to feel your partner's body and, more importantly in my mind, feel your own body, I think progression in the art is very difficult.

For those of you who were/are not kinesthetic learners, what helped you in gaining skills for that mode of learning? What hindered you?

For those of you who have taught people who were/are not kinesthetic learners, what helped them in gaining skills for that mode of learning? What hindered them?

Philosophy, exercises, approaches, and any other experience in this matter that people can share would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

-- Jun

Janet Rosen 10-18-2005 12:58 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
I'm going to start not by dealing with your question directly but by noting that the breakdown of learners into those categories does not address variances in what is being learned.
In my case I've always considered myself a visual learner because I cannot learn by ear at all. If I'm told directions to a location, each successive "turn..." simp[ly replaces the one that preceded it. I have to have either written directions or, better, a simplified map.
HOWEVER, when I came to aikido, I found that I was not at all a visual learner of body movement. I can translate what I see into great gesture drawings! or even, if it is slowed down, parse it into the written word (I learned weapons kata very well from written notes). But I cannot translate what I see into a body movement of my own.
So...am I a kinesthetic learner? Well I wasn't to start with...hadn't considered it before, but maybe the reason dance and m.a. come to folks like me with such difficulty is that we are a subset that brings NO natural "wired in" learning style that suits these disciplines.

Chuck Clark 10-18-2005 01:21 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
I disagree with the fundamental idea that there are separate means of learning. The categories that you've mentioned are artificial constructs that are in reality parts of the the whole learning system. I think that what's important is to not have conflicting information between what is seen and the resulting lasting image or picture and what is heard from some form of descriptive analysis of mechanics and movement and what's experienced by feeling. All of this experiential information must be congruent and at some point our actualization of this comes together in a way that goes from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally evolves into unconscious competence. Then, at some point, it becomes both conscious and unconscious mastery at higher and higher levels.

The Japanese traditional shu, ha, ri fits this model as well as the most often used method of training "mind/body" movement known as Gestalt learning theory, or "whole, part, whole" training.

I'm most likely bungling this by trying to keep it as short and concise as possible. There's lots more that can be said about this important topic, and should be by people that know way more about it than I do.

Best regards,

ChrisHein 10-18-2005 02:14 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Patrick Cassidy specifically designs his lessons around this 3 ways of learning Idea. When he teaches, he will talk you through the whole technique, then demonstrate it several times with out saying anything, then during class go around to everyone (class sizer permitting) and do the technique with everyone. I think it's a good method, and I use it in my classes.

However for my own personal training I focus on learning all 3 ways, and I believe it makes the learning process very fast, I have had several teachers comment to me on how fast I pick things up, and my method is very simple. I quit thinking about other things when I'm on the mat. I drop what ever petty crap is going on in the rest of my life. I quit thinking about who I'm better then and who's better then me on the mat. I quit thinking about what others think about me, and I devote as much of myself as I can muster to the teachings. Everyone thinks they do this, but I don't know how many times I've been teaching class and I directly tell a student "don't put your foot here, put it there" and the student says, "ok" and I say, "do you understand what I'm telling you, this is why your foot goes here" and they say "ok" then I'll put their foot there and say "like this" and they say "ok". As soon as I let them do it, they'll go right back to what they were doing before I told them what to do. At this point I realize this person isn't ready for this part of the lesson and I let it go, and hope they get it next time.

As far as kinesthetic learning goes, I think taking Ukemi is awesome. Feeling how a pin works on yourself makes all the difference in learning how to apply it. Also make sure you have a good internal understanding of yourself, if you know how you work then you'll get the idea of how others work. It might sound dumb to say "get to know how you work" but stuff that I take for granted, others seem to have a hard time with. I once told a student to turn the elbow the opposite of how it works, and she didn't' know, I had to show her how the elbow doesn't work, and then show her on herself how that feels. I think you should spend lots of time rolling on the ground like a kid, grabbing your feet, and seeing how far you can pull them, and how far your arms reach, etc. etc.

Hope some of this helped.

-Chris Hein

Chuck Clark 10-18-2005 02:35 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

Chris Hein wrote:
However for my own personal training I focus on learning all 3 ways, and I believe it makes the learning process very fast, I have had several teachers comment to me on how fast I pick things up, and my method is very simple. I quit thinking about other things when I'm on the mat. I drop what ever petty crap is going on in the rest of my life. I quit thinking about who I'm better then and who's better then me on the mat. I quit thinking about what others think about me, and I devote as much of myself as I can muster to the teachings. Everyone thinks they do this, but I don't know how many times I've been teaching class and I directly tell a student "don't put your foot here, put it there" and the student says, "ok" and I say, "do you understand what I'm telling you, this is why your foot goes here" and they say "ok" then I'll put their foot there and say "like this" and they say "ok". As soon as I let them do it, they'll go right back to what they were doing before I told them what to do. At this point I realize this person isn't ready for this part of the lesson and I let it go, and hope they get it next time.

As far as kinesthetic learning goes, I think taking Ukemi is awesome. Feeling how a pin works on yourself makes all the difference in learning how to apply it. Also make sure you have a good internal understanding of yourself, if you know how you work then you'll get the idea of how others work. It might sound dumb to say "get to know how you work" but stuff that I take for granted, others seem to have a hard time with.

Mr. Hein,

This sounds very much the way I have been taught to train and the way I teach as well. If you're ever in the Phoenix/Tempe area, please drop in at the Jiyushinkan for a visit.

Best regards,

rob_liberti 10-18-2005 10:26 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

I disagree with the fundamental idea that there are separate means of learning. The categories that you've mentioned are artificial constructs that are in reality parts of the the whole learning system.
Mel Levine wrote a decent book "a mind at a time" than explores the whole learning system.

However, the general categories are not terrible. For instance, math is an artificial construct too, but I find it really helps me plan my finances. Imperial evidence suggests to me that people do specifically favor certain modalities. I have folks that can't understand anything unless they have it done to them and get to do it themselves. I have folks who can't get themselves to even attempt a movement which is counter-intuitive to their normal way of doing things unless I can explain it to them and help them feel safe about it. I have folks that just really want to watch me do the technique to someone else and then want me to watch them try. If I can figure out how to best help someone get started exploring aikido, any general guideline(s) for how to try to most effectively communicate with them is appreciated. Lets face it, teaching is a completely different skill from aikido martial ability.

What frustrates me is when someone explains to me that a good dojo only has the kind of learning they like. O-sensei wanted to spread aikido to everyone. I doubt he meant just the kinesthetic folks who are emotionally strong enough to put up with arrogant and short-sighted sempai.

At this point, I have a stronger sense of how things are supposed to feel, and how little effort you are supposed to be putting in to create the overall feeling - while not being overly evasive. I can't really teach that in any modality. I use the modalities to get people through the learning of the form so that they can experience what I really care about transmitting to them in the assimilation part(s) of class. In summary, I think learning modalities are good for getting out of the way of the real learning.

Rob

jaime exley 10-18-2005 11:12 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
I think that, in reality, teachings present themselves in different forms and it is up to the student to do the best they can with what is available. Two extreme examples come to mind.

When I trained in Japan, I understood very little of what Sensei was saying. For all intents and purposes my lack of skill in Japanese rendered me deaf. However, Sesnei was unbeleivably generous in giving me as much ukemi as my body could handle (and then a little bit more:). If I had been unwilling or unable give my body to him and soak in all that I could, I would not have learned anything at all.

In contrast, attending a seminar with Saotome Sensei is a very different experience. Sensei typically talks a great deal in his classes and will generally use only a couple of ukes for an entire weekend. If I am to gain insight into his Aikido, my best chance is to listen and watch. If I'm lucky enough to get one or two throws from him, then I had better put out all my feelers and not waste the oportunity.

My fear is that by classifying myself as a certain type of learner, I will miss the oportunity to learn lessons that arive in packages that are difficult to open.

mathewjgano 10-18-2005 11:51 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
In my personal experience, learning physically seems a prerequisit to learning Aikido. I'd say I'm usually a visual learner. In the past I've been able to play things out in my head, or do well on history tests because I could picture the page the answer was on...a photographic memory. However, in Aikido, I wasn't able to begin understanding it "truly" until I felt it. I latched on to a certain feeling in one of those "aha!" moments and then I was able to see what was happening in a given technique and feel a level of comprehension. I'd describe this awareness as being based on the specific movements I've had those "aha!" sensations in. Aikido is so subtle sometimes that to see it is like seeing a magician: "the hand moves quicker than the eye," as they say. So what looks like a skinny little guy blasting through a mountain of a man feels like the opposite.
Now I think I use my ears and eyes to refine my approach to training, but have to feel my way through to really understand Aikidowaza and make it work.
Take care,
Matt

Sonja2012 10-19-2005 01:42 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
I only passed my shodan a week ago and have very little teaching experience in aikido (though I have quite a bit of experience in teaching English and other stuff to adults), but as I have just started to give the second beginnerīs course in our dojo I have been thinking about how to develop the different ways of learning in the students, too.

I think that kinestetic learning has a lot to do with how good oneīs body awareness is (though I am not sure whatīs there first - like chicken and egg, if you know what I mean), so lately I have started to experiment with exercises that will hopefully help the students to get a better feeling for their bodies. I basically do a very simple version of a relaxation thingy called after a guy named Jacobsen: The students lie down flat on their backs, get comfortable and close their eyes. I then tell them to really tense all the muscles in their right arm, hold it for about 2 mins and then relax it. It is important to talk them through the whole thing and to really get them to go into the relaxation, experience what the difference between tension and relaxation feels like, try to feel every muscle, etc. We go through every major body part in that way.

For visual learning, I sometimes change the way I demo the techniques, like sometimes I will talk a bit more and sometimes I will just do the technique several times without saying a word, and then I will ask them "what did I do with my feet/hands?" or I simply let them get on with it.

This is just for beginners and I canīt tell if any of this would help more experienced students at all and maybe you guys have been using stuff like this already anyway. I would really love to hear if any of you had any other ways of helping students to fully use and develop all of the possible learning capacities. It seems to be an interesting topic.

bogglefreak20 10-19-2005 04:33 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
10 years of experience with dancing has proven to be most helpful on the tatami. Dancing in a group tends to give one a better sense of rhythm, feet positioning, directions, and an awareness of space around you. Learning to dance, you are compelled to use all three aspects of the learning process - audible as the teacher first explains the movement in words, visual as he/she shows it and kinesthetic as you try to imitate it.

Personally I couldn't decide what aspect I am most comfortable with. When I study it's mostly visual material so I have to "take it in" visually - sometimes it helps also to vocalize certain terms, sentences, formulas etc. When learning new songs it's the audible aspect that's in charge, if there are notes to the music, you percieve them visually and sometimes you clap along to get the sense of rhythm and tempo.

SeiserL 10-19-2005 09:10 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
IMHO, I support the learning representational systems as a useful consctruct. The internal mental map is constructed through sensory input. Our primary senses are visual, auditory, and kinesthetics. In the west, our primary teaching and learning mode is visual. I grew up as an auditory learning, meaning when the teacher said sound it out I did and tried to spell phonetic phonetically. Spelling is a visual skill. Musical improvisation is an auditory skill. Though we all have all representational systems, we tend to use one as our primary or lead system.

In neurolinguitic programing we learning to overlap or sequential link representation systems, leading one to the other. The auditory system is especially slow, takes a lot longer to describe catching the ball that to just catch it. Besides, the body doesn't necessarily learn well from lectures alone.

So, IMHO, a visual-kinesthetic link is useful, see-do. As you hold the visual map of the waa in mind, let you body feel the movement. When watching a demonstration you can see people watch the movement with their eyes and their body begins to have slight mimicing movement. This is similiar to the minimal neural fighting accomplished by strong visualization in mental rehearsal used in sport psychology. Slowly, with practice, you can begin to let go move of the visual map and bring your awareness to the body kinesthetics, feel it.

Generally just leading with the kinesthetic mode is slow learning. Its like driving around without a map or directions. Start with your most predominate lead represenational system, overlap or link it to the kinesthetic mode, and slowly bring you awareness from the map (let it fade) until all that is left is the feeling of the movement.

Hope that is helpful in some small way.

Anat Amitay 10-19-2005 12:59 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
I think for me, the three learning methods you mentioned, are a stream along which I grew in my training and my understanding of Aikido (and I know I still have a long way to go! :D ).
What I mean is:
When I started, I could look at a demonstrated technique, but trying to do it was usually not successful. I needed for sensei or my partner to explain to me what I was or wasn't doing which effected the technique. I couldn't SEE the little details that allowed the technique to flow.
At a later stage, I started noticeing the small details in the demonstration. The blending movement, the place of body, center and stance etc...
At the last part (of which I'm just at the beginning and have a long way to go), I start understanding the technique by feeling it. Feeling it both when I'm Uke and when I'm Nage, understanding the flow of it.
This is also when I began to understand why as a beginner I didn't manage to successfully do my techniques always. I started understanding the small "blocks" a partner can execute if the other isn't working in the right direction (working where I'm strong).
All these stages have come one after the other for me, but they also overlap. I guess I might see a new technique and maybe I will be able to understand it. Then again, maybe I'll be back in square one needing some verbal explanation to help the understanding along.
So for me it is kind of a learning process, that in a way is circular and unending, but I guess that if I continue with Aikido for many years, the kinesthetic part of learning will be the major way of understanding for me. Part of experience.
Just my thoughts. :)
Anat

Amassus 10-19-2005 05:58 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Even explaining a technique to someone (audio) might have to be split between those people that understand energy talk and those that prefer you talk in biodynamics.

Pauliina Lievonen 10-19-2005 08:02 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
The auditory system is especially slow, takes a lot longer to describe catching the ball that to just catch it. Besides, the body doesn't necessarily learn well from lectures alone.

The way the audio part works for me isn't really about the lectures, but little audio cues that playback when I start to do the technique just demonstrated, often in a rythm that matches the movement. "CutttandTURN" "Towards, towards" "ssssshh.." Sometimes it's just a wordless sound that plays in my head during a movement. I'm a musician, btw, among other things. :)

Ezra sensei often gives his demos sound effects, and funny as they are, they also really help me with performing the demoe'd technique afterwards.

kvaak
Pauliina

Lan Powers 10-19-2005 11:01 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

Pauliina Lievonen wrote:
The way the audio part works for me isn't really about the lectures, but little audio cues that playback when I start to do the technique just demonstrated, often in a rythm that matches the movement. "CutttandTURN" "Towards, towards" "ssssshh.." Sometimes it's just a wordless sound that plays in my head during a movement. I'm a musician, btw, among other things. :)

Ezra sensei often gives his demos sound effects, and funny as they are, they also really help me with performing the demoe'd technique afterwards.

kvaak
Pauliina


Funny you should mention the sound effects.... one of the things that makes it easier to connect for the newer kids has been to make a joke term describing the technique wer're doing, and then as you perform that tech, you name it during the movement.
Kind of like you have described. Come to think of it, the "shwooooshing" sound you described would match what it sounds like to do irimi, Ikyo ura was known as "Mow the Lawn" as we "swooped" around in a big circle.
Funny I know, but it works pretty well towards imbedding a motion.
Lan

Janet Rosen 10-19-2005 11:44 PM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

Pauliina Lievonen wrote:
Ezra sensei often gives his demos sound effects, and funny as they are, they also really help me with performing the demoe'd technique afterwards.

I've also experienced that, Pauliina. Isn't it weird?! It's as if making the sound helps me to integrate/embody what the movement/technique is "about".
In terms of Jun's original question...I think that the old "show up, don't die" is the answer; I've learned to be more of a kinesthetic learner by pure repetition day after day running into the years.

akiy 10-20-2005 01:29 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
I like the concept of using sounds. I've used the sound of a buzzing airplane making a "diving" noise for the hand motion of iriminage, for instance...
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote:
In terms of Jun's original question...I think that the old "show up, don't die" is the answer; I've learned to be more of a kinesthetic learner by pure repetition day after day running into the years.

Hmmm... Although I do think that "don't quit and don't die" is probably one of the most important points of training, I don't think I can accept that as an "end all" kind of statement. In other words, I truly believe there are ways of helping people learn certain things better than, to be specific, I've been able to do up until this point. It's a cyclical process of learning, experimenting, observing, re-evaluating, and so on.

Of course, it's all experiential (as in, the person doing it has to experience the process for him/herself), but I think there are ways in which to make the process more accessible...

-- Jun

Pauliina Lievonen 10-20-2005 06:40 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

Jun Akiyama wrote:
I like the concept of using sounds. I've used the sound of a buzzing airplane making a "diving" noise for the hand motion of iriminage, for instance...

The embarrassing bit is when I demo a technique later in front of a class and find myself doing the exact same sound effects as the teacher I learned the technique from. :D
Quote:

Of course, it's all experiential (as in, the person doing it has to experience the process for him/herself), but I think there are ways in which to make the process more accessible...
The only way I've found to teach other people to feel is by direct one-on-one feedback. I'll grab someone and keep telling them "that's it" "no, now you started to (whatever undesirable effect were working on) again, did you notice?" "yeah, that's better" and so on... and physically moving for example an arm into position.

About moving people's limbs as a means of correcting them btw - I find that it works better if I warn people, and ask for their cooperation, instead of just grabbing an arm and moving it over. The latter easily creates some resistance. I usually say "may I?" or "I'm going to put a hand on your back here", take hold of the body part in question, and verbally explain where I want to be going during the movement "Let me turn your wrist here a bit...see this position is handier for the turn", then let the person try again on their own to see if they actually got what the difference was. It often takes a few repetitions. As it is, it's difficult to teach this to large groups of people...

kvaak
Pauliina

tedehara 10-20-2005 08:48 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
My sensei tries to help the student capture the feeling of doing the movement correctly. Once that is done, he says the student can reproduce the movement on their own. But they need to get that feeling first. That's what he's there for.

SeiserL 10-20-2005 10:04 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
My escrima/kali instructor always used sound effects. He said to make them one-syllable one-beat and you will be twice as fast than if you use two-syllables two-beats.

When my Aikido Sensei makes sounds, you know you are in for a fall.

Janet Rosen 10-20-2005 11:26 AM

Re: Kinesthetic Learning
 
Quote:

Jun Akiyama wrote:
In other words, I truly believe there are ways of helping people learn certain things better.

Well, I can't argue with that.
One of the things that impressed me in watching Nadeau Sensei lead basics classes is that his focus on taking time to experience "how it feels" and try to experience/embody it more fully is accepted by newbies as just an intrinsic and normal part of the learning process, like how to kneel on the mat and roll over. He is quite explicit that feeling/doing is more essential than watching/thinking. So there is a message being conveyed from day one that being "in the body" with as much attention to how it feels as to what the form looks like, is the norm.
I honestly don't know if it is pedagogically more or less "effective" than any other particular approach.
For instance, I believe there is much to be said for Chuck Clark's kata based approach, because -- from the little exposure to it that I've had -- from the very start there is an understanding that the movements are to be done in a relaxed, non-posturing way. This would seem to me to also build in a "muscle memory" of feeling what it is to move with that in the body way.
Of course, either of the above teaching approaches, if "mimicked" by somebody, could easily be done and taught in counterproductive ways--leading to the question, is it ultimately the method or the teacher?


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