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AikiWeb System 02-21-2006 11:17 AM

Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Discuss the article, "Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning" by Lynn Seiser here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/lseiser/2006_02.html

eyrie 02-21-2006 03:07 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Do you think that there is an equal danger in compartmentalized thinking that might prevent one from appreciating the bigger picture?

SeiserL 02-22-2006 03:18 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
Do you think that there is an equal danger in compartmentalized thinking that might prevent one from appreciating the bigger picture?

Great question.
IMHO, there are tasks that require the big picture and there are task that require the little picture, and probably some that require no picture at all. Wisdom is knowing and applying the appropriate one at the appropriate time.

So yes, I think there is some danger in getting stuck in compartmentalization as well is not seeing or working on the details. Both are important. Its not necessarily an either/or proposition.

eyrie 02-22-2006 03:50 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Given the nexus between information and knowledge acquisition and the subsequent attainment of wisdom thru understanding of the connectedness of patterned relationships and principles, and the average length of time it takes to begin to achieve any level of understanding of any one martial system, how do you propose or reconcile the issues relating to compartmentalized training methods?

i.e. wouldn't it be easier to see the connections, and thus enhancing the level of understanding of and between similar patterned relationships and similarities in principle application thru a number of different arts concurrently?

pezalinski 02-22-2006 04:49 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
i.e. wouldn't it be easier to see the connections, and thus enhancing the level of understanding of and between similar patterned relationships and similarities in principle application thru a number of different arts concurrently?


If they share the same context, then definitely YES. I still think you need need to become grounded in one art, to at least some degree, to develop the understanding of the "language" of martial arts, and how you move, react, and harmonize within that context, before exploring a separate art. But, if they share a common context (Bokken-waza/tori, Jo-waza-tori, Aikido-waza), then it makes sense to practice them concurrently.

If not, (like aikido and coepira) then not.

I think of it like learning languages: Assume the two languages are both related Romance languages, like Italian and Spanish, and assuming that I do NOT compartmentalize my learning -- If I try to acquire the languages at the same time, from the same starting point, I will probably get quite confused by the testing, and score poorly -- confusing one language for the other. So, by simile -- learning Jujitsu and Aikido at the same time could be a bit confusing, at first

(Hmmm -- no wonder I was confused, when someone put a stick in my hand and called it "Joe")

If I know one of the two languages, I can make myself understood in the other with a little practice (and patience on the listeners' part) because they are related... So, if I am a fluent speaker of Italian, and chose to study Spanish, I could probably pick it up very rapidly, noting the differences and the similarities and conceptualizing the resulting language as a variant of what I already know.

So, by simile, adding Jujitsu to my Aikido would be a easier acquisition than adding Coepira; If the vocabularies and languages-of-movement are completely different, they are therefore more easy to compartmentalize and less likely that skill in one would lead to quick advancement in the other.

IMHO, of course. :D

SeiserL 02-22-2006 06:31 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
Given the nexus between information and knowledge acquisition and the subsequent attainment of wisdom thru understanding of the connectedness of patterned relationships and principles, and the average length of time it takes to begin to achieve any level of understanding of any one martial system, how do you propose or reconcile the issues relating to compartmentalized training methods?

i.e. wouldn't it be easier to see the connections, and thus enhancing the level of understanding of and between similar patterned relationships and similarities in principle application thru a number of different arts concurrently?

First paragraph: What? With such long sequential normalizations as an introduction, I am not sure I understand the question.

Second paragraph: While I think that seeing the big picture of generalization and connectedness is useful in a general big picture sense, it does not allow for the distinctions of differences that define one art from another. Therefore, I personal prefer to think and train in them as separate arts until they integrate by themselves by being more state specific applicable to the context. IOW, sometimes I hit them and other times I throw them.

eyrie 02-22-2006 07:04 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Aw, c'mon Doc... ;)

OK, let me rephrase:
1. It takes an average of a number of years of consistent training to acquire the basic information and knowledge of one art.
2. Knowledge perspective is broadened by seeing and understanding the connections between similarities AND differences in patterned movement of other arts.
3. Wisdom comes thru understanding and experience in applied knowledge.

Since you've already addressed the issue of difference distinction, how then does ingrained habits in compartmentalized training serve to create understanding of another training modality?

senshincenter 02-22-2006 07:11 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
I understood Ignatius to be asking, "If it can't be 'either/or,' can it really be (in reality) 'both/and.'" In other words, for me, he's wondering if one can really (i.e. in reality) put off the pitfalls of compartmentalization by studying one art to POINT X (i.e. that point where one gets said enough to supposedly not be fuddled by a second art) and then going on to study another art to its own POINT X. Or, inversely, and short: Isn't studying one art to POINT X really just the pitfalls of compartmentalization?

However, I could be wrong concerning what Ignatius is asking.

Either way, I'm wondering if we are missing something when we compare arts to such concrete things as fruit. I mean, there is a reason why folks use apples and oranges in this analogy. It is because they are so different from each other in so many clear-cut ways. However, are martial arts really like this (even capoeira and aikido)? I tend not to think so, and the more I study, the more I tend to hold the position that martial arts are not at all like apples and oranges.

If anything, if one wants to stay with fruit, wouldn't they be more like different kinds of apples or different kinds of citrus fruits, etc. Somehow I think the analogy loses its emphasis if we opt to say something like, "Aikido is like a Fuji Apple and JJ is like a Gala Apple, and we shouldn't mix Gala Apples with Fuji Apples." Hearing that, I can imagine, somewhere, some Chef is going to say, "What? Of course you can mix them, using one to bring out the tartness in the other or using one to bring out the sweetness in the other or using one to balance against the other, etc." Or, some chemist is going to say, "Look, at another level, in the right hands, via the right means, one could never tell the difference between the two apples - there's nothing wrong with mixing them."

On the other hand, I think I see the problem that Lynn is trying to address: of not knowing anything well because of studying too thinly because of studying too much. Or, at least I think this is what is underneath his advice. If I got that right, I do agree with Lynn that the problem has to be solved by employing a training strategy of "either/or & both/and." It's just when I say that, I tend not to understand that as studying one art to POINT X before taking on another. When I think about "either/or & both/and," I imagine I tend to see things like Ignatius might.

Good points Lynn, good points Ignatius. Thanks.


dmv

senshincenter 02-22-2006 07:12 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Whoops, I see Ignatius responded. Better then to go with what he said than with what I thought he said. :blush:

eyrie 02-22-2006 07:48 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Sorry I'm out of cigars Dave... ;)

Yep, it's like saying navels are excellent juicing fruit because of their sweetness, but they can also be used as table fruit. So can apples. Although you would only make pies with apples and not oranges, and only with Granny Smiths because of their tartness. And apple sauce goes well with pork, whilst orange sauce goes better with duck. :D

I think Peter's comparative use of language (i.e. syntax, grammar, structure) as an analogy is a little more appropriate, although we are talking about kinesthetic learning (only a small part of it), and Lynn's argument regarding state specifics makes some sense.

Perhaps "state specifics" would be better clarified in terms of learning objectives?

SeiserL 02-23-2006 10:37 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Great conversation.

Sorry for my delay, I had to go make a living.

IMHO, state specific learning works at all levels. On some level, all martial arts are the same because by context and application, they are martial arts and if trained within the context of honest and genuine intent and intensity should be generalized and applicable to similar contexts outside the dojo, you should be able to fight.

Hard styles and soft styles are different in their strategy and tactical applications, but are both still martial arts. Compartmentalized training in a soft art will not necessarily make you better at a hard art, because they are not state specific in training context, intensity, or intent (learning objective?).

Concrete example: I came from a FMA bashing background, a martial art with emphasis on flowing stick, knife, and hand technique for limb and body destruction. The way we trained and for the purpose of destruction make it drastically different that my Aikido training. I had to compartmentalize my past training in order to learn the new stuff because it just did not fit into the mental and physical constructs I had learned. The still remain different and separate, but can integrate and flow more sequentially. If you ever see me do an Aikido tanto technique you will see my FMA background.

I see a lot of people in seminars who have learned Aikido a certain state specific way in their dojo and even with and different Sensei and style, still do it the old way because they cannot get out of their way of doing it. Too compartmentalized.

First learn the form, then variations of the form, then break the form.

State specific learning is a strategy that has worked for me. I don't believe that one state is better than another, just different. I love most fruits, nuts, vegetable, and cross-training but each for the state or season they are best suited for.

Thanks for the stimulating intelligent conversation.

eyrie 02-24-2006 05:30 AM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
When you say "form", I think "(related) patterns", and Dave would probably say "architectures", and Peter is probably thinking "context"... :)

The question Dave raised earlier, regarding reaching a certain point X - what is point X? And when does one know when that arbitrary point is reached before one can start to break down the "form", if one has been hitherto limited to a specific training paradigm?

You mention the issue of too narrow a training paradigm resulting in an inability to move outside the circle of one's (limited) knowledge. My question then is how does one make the paradigm shift required to think (and move) outside the "box", if the limit of experience is restricted to the confines of the box? How can one broaden their knowledge or expand their experiential horizons without ever escaping from the ingrained patterns or forms of movement? This, to me, suggests a "breaking from form".

See, I tend to see things as patterns of similarities. For me, identifying the points of similarities enables me to better see the subtle differences. And because the patterns form certain relationships, I can see the points of flexibility and adaptability. This is not necessarily something that is the domain of the naturally talented. I believe it is a learned skill. And I believe it can be fostered.

Having done TKD,.aikido, arnis, Okinawan karate, jujitsu and a smattering of taiji, I can see the commonalties and subtle differences in each art. The core commonality lies not only in the general similarities of techniques, but in the similarities of body mechanics, and adherence to the general laws of physics and motion in the execution of such techniques. Yes, the differences stand out in stark contrast, although some (like the internal arts) are more subtle than others.

The major problem I see with state specific learning is not necessarily the learning state, but in the naive imitation of another's mechanics. Such rote learning ingrains specific and habitual movement that later becomes hard to break. I feel that concurrent exposure to contextually similar movement modalities can help the student break through the movement forms quicker. The downside of this could be information overload, but at the same time it provides the student with a much broader perspective from which to begin building their own knowledge base and understanding.

To me, this is no different to high school, where a student may be engaging in as many as 10 different (and sometimes totally unrelated) subject matter, to varying degrees of proficiency. Or university where a student may be participating in 4 units and 2 electives at the same time. Yet, the education system expects the student to be able to excel in a number of subjects at once.

senshincenter 02-24-2006 09:26 AM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
First learn the form, then variations of the form, then break the form.


I think this is the crux of the matter here. I think at a common sense level (i.e. the level of thought that first comes to us when we first think upon something), this makes perfect sense. That sense rightly suggests that it is impossible to learn something at the same time that you are unlearning it - that one must posit before one negates, etc.

However, does that then mean that something like Shu-Ha-Ri can or should be understood as a linear or sequential process (which is a conclusion one is likely to draw if one only stays at the level of common sense)? Can or should we really think of Shu-Ha-Ri with the word "THEN"? Additionally, does such common sense mean that a process like Shu-Ha-Ri can or should be understood in terms of binary oppositions like learning/unlearning or positing/negating?

Here, one is likely to resist the suggestion to move beyond common sense - being unwilling to go beyond the bedrock-hard fact of "one cannot learn and unlearn at the same time." Holding onto this bedrock fact, everything thereafter can appear to be overly/needlessly complex, confusing, and even filled with ignorance ("How can one say they can unlearn before they learn?!"). Yet, in my opinion, this is only possible when we attach our bedrock-hard fact to the fallacy that training methods like Shu-Ha-Ri are linear in nature and/or made up of binary oppositions.

Let us remember that methods like Shu-Ha-Ri have their technological origins in Buddhist epistemology. If one looks there, one sees more clearly that the real obstacles to understanding, to insight,to wisdom, is not the mixing of learning and unlearning but the temptation to see the world via binary contrasts like "learning/unlearning." For this reason, throughout it's history, masters of the practice have indeed been seen giving something to their disciples only to take it away soon thereafter - meaning, they give something not first and then second take it away; they give something for the sole purpose of taking it away, for the sole purpose of helping the student move beyond (what they consider to be) a state of ignorance (e.g. binary, linear), to a state of insight/wisdom (e.g. organic, co-dependent origination).

With this in mind, perhaps there is at work here two types of ways of understanding "Aikido." In one view, there is an emphasis on forms, on the cultivation of a habit that is consistent with the forms being emphasized, and a use and reproduction of a consciously designed environment wherein those forms are to be emphasized. In another view, there is an emphasis on transcending form, on a reconciliation with the impulse to react habitually (toward anything), and an attempt to move beyond the will to design one's environment. Buddhism itself has had to deal with facing these two divergent understandings - why not Aikido too? In the former view, I think it is fine to speak of reaching (what I have called) POINT X before moving on in one's training, but in the latter view, such a thing can only be understood as part of the underlying problems one is trying to address through one's practice. In the latter view, one will indeed practice Ikkyo and striking - not only for their similarities but for their differences as well. The goal with such training would not be to increase one's "effectiveness" by supplying the practitioner with an increased amount of weapons. The goal of such training would be to reconcile the student's habit of subjectively experiencing such things as "different" and/or as "more," etc., which comes up as the student is taught to do both as efficiently as possible.

dmv

SeiserL 02-24-2006 11:39 AM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Wow, I am impressed with the high level of response here. Domo.

On some level, I think we may be all be in agreement. The similarities are more common than the differences.

I tend to use a somewhat inclusive model that accepts everything as useful somewhere in the process or sequence.

I was once told that everything is a craft and an art. First, it is wise to learn the craft by using the tools in a rather state specific way. Then to express the art. If we try the art of writing or painting before we know the craft, usually what we produce is trash. Many stay within the security of the state specific craft and remain technicians. Others generalize and begin to move outside th box into the art. It is not a clear cut separation. I tend to enjoy myself while training in the discipline of the craft. I also enjoy myself my freelancing outside that box into the art. But my art is different because of the craft.

Bruce Lee often said that at first a punch is just a punch, you flail it out there. Then it becomes a science of when the feet, hips, shoulder, elbow, wrist relax and align with the breath and intent. This is the state specific craft. Finally, a punch is just a punch, buts its very different than the first one.

IMHO, none of its a destination. Its a journey and we need to be realistic about where we are on it and what are the most appropriate tools and training methods for that specific part to continue the forward momentum to whatever training or life goal or objective we have chosen.

Thanks again for the dialogue, conversation, and stimulating discussion. I can feel my mental model/map expanding.

senshincenter 02-24-2006 12:30 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Good points Lynn.

I'm havnig to bow out for the weekend. It has been most enjoyable. Thank you, talk later.
dmv

eyrie 02-24-2006 05:56 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Good post Dave, although I don't think shu-ha-ri is necessarily a linear process. From a learning perspective, I believe it is a continuous spiral reflecting the process of understanding as one expands and deepens one's knowledge and experience, in their journey toward progress.

I think the dichotomy of learning/unlearning is inevitable if one adheres to rigidity of patterned learning, and is one of the main arguments against kata training in karate.

At one level, there is a need to learn the craft in a particular way. Allow me to use the analogy of calligraphy, because I believe it has strong parallels with martial development.

In learning calligraphy, one learns to write the characters line by line, stroke by stroke (the basic form). One learns how to hold the brush (sword?) gently but firmly, and the way in which the brush strokes are to be made. As one progresses, one starts to gain a sense of character size, spacing (ma), and lines. One starts to sense the amount of pressure (force) and ink (quality of force) required to complete the character. In time, one begins to sense the flow and depth of the writing.

When you compare the work of a beginner and a master, you can see that the beginner's strokes are hard, heavy, rigid and linear - almost one dimensional. Whereas the master's is smooth and flowing, with hard strokes blending into softer lines and roundedness. There is a sense of the right amount of ink and pressure and depth that it almost comes alive and jumps off the fragile rice paper at you.

Yet, fundamentally there is no difference between what the master and pupil does. The basics of holding the brush, and the strokes and lines are there What is different, however, is the quality, the refinement and level of sophistication in the master's strokes which is not evident in the pupil's.

In order to make the proficiency leap, the student must learn to gauge the level of sensitivity required to hold the brush, to maintain the fine control and precision of the strokes, and feel the flow and roundedness within the strokes. They must learn to gauge the amount of ink required to complete a character or series of characters before a recharge is required.

In effect, the student must learn (and unlearn?) to apply all of these things sub-consciously. After all, mastery is merely countinual refinement of the fundamentals at increasingly broader and deeper levels of sophistication.

So when you speak of state learning specifics, it is not merely about learning to do things in a specific way, but to understand the goal(s) to which one is striving for. Otherwise, one never seeks the opportunity to go beyond the initial learning state, because the way I see it, there are stages in learning development, in which one must continually strive to go beyond the current state into the next stage(s) of learning and development.

SeiserL 02-24-2006 09:15 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
IMHO, it would appear that each stage of development and progression is state specific and hopefully temporary.

I like the calligraphy example. Domo

eyrie 02-24-2006 09:42 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Yes, but I see no reason to exclude comparative analysis of (a subset of) other forms in the learning process. Taking the example of the study of calligraphy and martial arts together, the ultimate goals are the same - to achieve freedom from form thru the practice and integration of similar fundamental basics. Even though the state specifics are different and learning objectives may be different, the fundamental principles are related.

So my argument is why not encourage a broadened learning perspective towards attainment of the same goals? If a student can see the similarities in approach, surely that would aid in their development and understanding of the primary goals and an appreciation of the differences?

SeiserL 02-25-2006 04:51 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
So my argument is why not encourage a broadened learning perspective towards attainment of the same goals? If a student can see the similarities in approach, surely that would aid in their development and understanding of the primary goals and an appreciation of the differences?

IMHO, as in the example of taking a number of high school topics at the same time, it would be unwise to do that prior to the students learning to read.

I am a huge fan of cross-training and broadening the learning perspectives.

Perhaps I am just slower on the up-take than others, but when it gets too-much too-many too-general too-soon I just get too-confused. I tend to not run before I can walk. For me personally, having a firm foundation in the state specific small picture naturally broadens my appreciation for the similarities, but not vice versa. I tend to work for specific to general, not general to specific. Its too easy for me to miss the subtle details that make the waza work, especially in Aikido.

eyrie 02-25-2006 06:21 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
And not everyone's brain is "wired" the same way. Some, like myself prefer a general to specific approach. I feel it works better for me. Of course, the test of a good teacher is the ability to determine which preferred learning method works best for which students.

Rather than subscribe to a "state specific" paradigm, I prefer to think of martial arts as building blocks of sets of skills. Individual LEGO building blocks aren't very useful, but combining them together in various ways, one can make many wonderful architectural forms. But they are all made out of the same building blocks. (Of course some blocks may be different because they serve different functional purposes).

I think it is easy to confuse aikido (as a whole) as a building block in itself. Aikido is made up of smaller blocks of skillsets, many of which are common to other martial arts.

I think Bruce Lee understood that - at least that's what I gathered from my interpretation of the JKD philosophy.

SeiserL 02-26-2006 11:12 AM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
I think Bruce Lee understood that - at least that's what I gathered from my interpretation of the JKD philosophy.

IMHO, state-specific is actually more about the context, intent, and intensity of training to generalized to performance than the meta-programs of chuck size and sequencing, as we have been enjoyably discussing.

Please remember that initially everyone who training in Aikido and JKD had a pre-existing background of martial arts training. (BTW, I trained in JKD with the late Ted Lucaylucay who is on the JKD family tree, and I can totally agree with your observation.)

eyrie 02-26-2006 05:01 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Oh, I get you now... I think I'm talking at cross-purposes here... :sorry:

senshincenter 03-01-2006 11:54 AM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Up front - with Ignatius, I do not see the Shu-Ha-Ri process as being a linear one. However, I think we have to again realize that there are two focuses at work here - in how one is approaching their training and in how one is going about achieving the goals of their training. I'm with Ignatius when he says that training is about to achieving freedom from form through the practice and integration of similar fundamental basics, etc. However, if one wants to just do forms - as a kind of preservation exercise (which I'm personally against) - I cannot see why training to Point X is such a poor idea in terms of achieving its end. (I'm leaving the debate over whether cultivated habits are the same thing as spontaneous response to another time.)

On another note...

What if we take this back to a practical level and ask: "Are there really all these aikidoka out there that are cross-training to the point where they are not learning their 'Aikido' basics well?" Or, "Is premature cross-training the reason why so many folks in Aikido do not have strong basics?" Etc.

In my experience, I tend to see something different from what Lynn's article seems to be implying. I tend to NOT see many aikidoka cross-training. Additionally, out of the aikidoka that have poor basics, I do not see premature cross-training as the reason for such poorly developed basics. On the other hand, what I do see is a lot of folks trying to do Ikkyo believing, for example, that they are using their hips, when in fact they are not. Related to this, I see a lot of folks who do Ikkyo "using their hips," but being unable to put their hips into, for example, a roundhouse kick. Additionally, of the aikidoka that do cross-train (which I won't attempt to define here), I see a great many that do in fact become aware of how they are not using their hips like they think they are in Ikkyo when they take on practicing the roundhouse kick.

For me then, I wonder how much the notion of apples and oranges is really (only) a philosophical problem - not really a problem of reality???

SeiserL 03-01-2006 10:46 PM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
All I am saying is that IMHO, how and what you train is how and what you perform.

eyrie 03-02-2006 12:53 AM

Re: Article: Apples and Oranges; State Specific Learning by Lynn Seiser
 
Correct me if I'm wrong, I think what Lynn is saying (trying to say?) is that each learning state is specific, or that at each stage of learning, one is learning movement in a specific state.

And that these states may be different from one martial art to another may be as different as apples are to oranges.


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