Martial arts teachers are a fickle bunch to be sure, most believe that a slow steady progression from a dogmatic position is the only way for an adult beginner to understand the nuances of an art. They take their raw recruits and place them at such a low level on the learning curve that it truly hinders growth and confidence. I have found it detrimental to adult students to place them on the same ladder as a child student. Adults and children are different in their mannerisms, experience’s and desires. Often times child students are only there for their parents and will in all likely hood be an in and out student. On the other hand adult students who attend martial classes may in fact be looking for something totally different, something they can covet and call their own, for whatever reason. To place them on that same sliding scale is in my opinion doing a grave injustice to them and not addressing their desires.
If you look at the make up of most martial arts curriculums you will see a very methodical approach to learning. Everything is laid out softly with little or no challenge. This will hinder the production from an adult student, especially those who have the fire for truth and are there for the simple reason of finding it. They have come to you because they feel you can deliver to them their much needed remedy for confidence and ability. An adult will not stick around for very long if you approach him as a child and throw him into the shallow end of training along side pre-pubescent 13 year olds whose only real reason for being there is because Dad said “Your going”.
A kick is a kick and a punch a punch and both techniques along with many others will be taught to both child and adult alike. The difference between the to will lie in the intent factor. The child may be enamored by the flash of a technique because he is a child. Children work off of a very different stimuli make up than an adult. The adult may and probably will see that flash technique as futile. He isn’t there for that. As a teacher you will now run into the explain game. The explain game is a place where you have to quantify every nook and cranny of a technique. You have to be able to sell this flash as function to the youngster yet somehow convince the adult that it is still functional form. The former may be easy but the latter will be a hard pressed sell. This quagmire can be avoided by simply removing the adult from a child geared class and gearing the work equal to the intellect and desire.
I am a firm believer in the deep end continuum. I will take a new adult student and put him straight into the deep end of training. He will show up and find himself so overwhelmed that he will think he is drowning in information. On the contrary what he perceives as a suffocating immersion is really a liberating approach, the only thing lacking is understanding which will be gained moment by moment as he starts to float back to the surface of WHY. In this way you can take a raw recruit and give him the necessary work needed and boost his confidence from day one.
My approach to function is simple. It all starts with belief. The student must be confident in what he is learning and his abilities to learn and use it. If you take this student and place him in the shallow end of learning he will flounder. There is no challenge, there is no mana (spirit), there is no fire. That shallow end is that for a reason. It isn’t geared for truth, rather it is geared for purposes other than form equal function. The student will simply dry up because of the boredom placed before him. It is a ladder of ascension based upon technique and dogma. There is also the time factor to be addressed in the low end method. There are teachers who follow strict doctrine from some mother ship entity who believe that time equals skill. They will make it mandatory that each person stays at a certain level for a certain period of time before they are allowed to test for something higher. During this time the only real skill these people garner is dojo manifested. They may be dynamite in the controlled setting where punches and kicks come at them like marsh mellows to a flame but in reality have they learned one iota of truth as it pertains to self preservation? People, especially adult students have to be good now not 2 years from now. If an adult remains in a shallow end frame his skills will be a long time coming, if they ever come at all.
The deep end is chalked full of intent and motion, you take the student and immerse him into the fray from day one, you get him doing things he never thought he could do in a million years. In essence you have him believing in himself because you chucked the dogmatic playbook right out the window. He does not view himself as a beginner or an outsider trying to find his place. In the deep end he is embraced as a brother or sister and everyone understands that he or she is there for that very reason you so desired not so long ago. He is a part of the tribe, not a tribe of technique theory driven students led by a figure head who is more interested in generating income as opposed to the well being of his tribe. In the deep end students will learn fast, they will function fast, they will realize that nothing is wrong and nothing is right it simply is and that flow is the key. They will amaze themselves at every turn learning motion and simplicity. This confidence will then sink the hook of reality deep into the students craw driving him to become better.
Simplicity with intent is the axiom on which I hang my hat, if it isn’t simple and chalked full of intent then to me it is useless. In the deep end the student will soon understand that simplicity is key and quite easy to manifest once the belief is engrained, and engraining belief comes quite early in the deep end. It has to, you have no other choice, you’re in it up to your neck. My students have been with me for a maximum of 2.5 years yet they function as if they have been playing the game for a decade. This judgement doesn’t come from me, I know good they are. This assessment comes from seasoned practitioners and teachers of other methodologies who stood awe struck after witnessing them work and flow under pressure in not so friendly of confines. The only way these folks got that good that fast was by me throwing them from day one into the deep end of the learning pool. Trust me it works.
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