Last week I sat down and attempted to schedule my working hours to better accommodate the increased training time my changed weight training programme demands. It provided a refreshing opportunity to review how I allocate my time and brought me to a startling conclusion.
I invest more time each week studying to learn new useful information and practices than I do revising or repeating material I already ‘know’.
Like many people that took up martial arts at a young age, there are some things that I have practiced for decades. There are kata that I drill every week that I have known for many years. I may feel different when doing them, I may be more aware of what my body is doing, I might aesthetically look better, have better motor control and balance, but I am essentially ‘revising’ or refining my understanding of ‘old’ material. In similar vein, while there are some elements that I currently train in classes that I’ve introduced after a few months of trials in comparison with past approaches, there are other techniques and drills that have been a staple of my training for ten, twenty or thirty years.
Most of my physical training is spent revising and refining previously learned material.
Outside the dojo I’m constantly learning.
I will reread texts because as I learn and change there will be elements of other people’s work that will resonate differently with me. For example, from my own books, people with a narrow understanding of karate may sometimes be put off my application texts because the stances or kata are slightly different to their own. After gaining more experience they may see the parallels with older versions of the same kata as depicted in books or how other styles use the kata and realise that such details can be adjusted according to requirement. In similar vein some people may read one of my kata books and simply take a single application or two they like, whereas others might look beyond the techniques and instead adopt the flow system method of failure cascade that I’ve been using for over twenty years and apply that to their own sparring, with or without my actual applications. Others might take my training assessment criteria and apply them to their own repertoire to assess the efficacy of what they do as I did (with some tweaks) from Bill Burgar’s criteria.
The value of any book or information to a reader depends on the individual’s experience and understanding.
I’ve been teaching since 1989 and have formal teaching qualifications across a number of different disciplines, but I regularly look at how my own students teach, how other instructors teach and listen to podcasts on coaching to try and see how I can improve that element of my work.
I used to lecture on personal safety and self protection, but mainly now deliver information relevant to that vast subject through my syllabus and my sim days. It remains however the field where I still feel I have the most to learn even though I am currently writing a book on the topic. Over the decades the focus of my study has shifted and of course over the years I have been researching a number of my peers in the field have published their own books and the drive towards evidence-based crime prevention and policing has meant that the resources and information available to draw upon keeps growing. I do not anticipate ever reaching a point where I will feel I ‘know enough’ in this field.
I first qualified as a fitness instructor in 1995, the same year I was awarded my Shodan in Shotokan Karate. Sports Science is another continually developing field as we expand our knowledge of the human body and how we can enhance performance across multiple fields and recovery from injuries. I’m continuously trying to improve my knowledge in this field to see how I can enhance my personal training, my classes and the supportive information I give to my students in their syllabus.
I enjoy my current physical training and feel that in terms of what I do and what I teach I offer a useful holistic combination of skills to my students. My curiosity to learn more goes beyond that. As I depend on being injury free to work, I am very cautious as to how I cross train these days; I’m wary of being at the mercy of a student with less control than an experienced instructor, but I do seek to learn more through watching others (and then trialling with my own instructor team) and through judicious cross training.
As teaching karate is my main occupation, I have the luxury of the time to continually endeavour to further my knowledge. Every day is a school day and I love learning. The thought of limiting myself by not continually seeking to improve my understanding of something is anathema to me.
I am always going to be a student and that makes me happy.
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