Hidden Training, Part 3- Study

By Daniel Williams

This post is the final post of a three-part series covering hidden training, or how things that you do outside of practice can either improve or impair your athletic performance. Part 1- Nutrition, can be found here and Part 2- Recovery, can be found here.

This post discusses study.

So what do I mean by study? For the purposes of this article, study refers to learning independently. When you study, you learn new things or reinforce old knowledge by yourself as opposed to being taught or directed to learn this information by an instructor.

For any set of skills that you are trying to learn and master, it is important to study as many aspects of those skills as you can. Study is especially important in learning a traditional martial art like Yoshukai. These arts are grounded in the culture from which they originate and this culture much be studied in order for you to understand the context of your art and to treat it with proper respect. In traditional martial arts, the practical application of techniques we are taught is not always immediately apparent, so you must study them to divine their true meaning and purpose.

To get the most out of your training, you should endeavour to study the following areas of knowledge:

1) Terminology. As a traditional Japanese (or more specifically, Okinawan) martial art, we use of lot of Japanese terminology for our techniques and dojo commands. Learning this terminology allows you to more effectively follow commands given in the dojo and to better understand techniques that you are doing. For example, kakato otoshi is the term we use for axe kick. However, a more literal translation of kakato otoshi is not “axe kick”, but “heel drop”, which makes a lot of sense, since that technique involves “dropping” your heel onto your opponent. The best source of terminology information for our dojo is the terminology page on the dojo’s website. It can also be useful to look up these terms individually.

2) History and lore.  Having a working knowledge of the origins of the martial arts, karate, and our style will help you to better understand many aspects of our style. Since some aspects of these origins are disputed, not well documented, or even mythical in nature, knowing the lore, or stories, concerning martial arts is useful as well.

3) Other martial arts styles. Learning about the techniques and fighting philosophies of other styles of martial arts can make those aspects of Yoshukai more clear and give you a better idea of how our style works in a self-defense context. For example, Yoshukai is a “hard style” martial art whereas Judo is a “soft style” martial art. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, I’ll leave it to you to study what they mean. Of course, the best way to learn about other martial arts is to train in them. Our school is a great place to cross train in other arts, since our dojo offers classes in Judo, Hapkido, Kobudo, and Kyuki-Do. One of our sister schools, AKF Athens Martial Arts, also offers many great cross-training opportunities.

4) Hidden applications of techniques. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the purpose and function of traditional martial arts techniques is not always apparent, especially in kata. A good way to discover the possible applications of these techniques is to practice using them against an imaginary opponent. Thinking about where this opponent would need to be in relation to you and what they would need to be doing in order to make these techniques useful and effective can often illuminate the, or at least one of the, practical uses of these techniques. This discovery process will be even more effective if you can practice it with a partner, who can provide a real stand-in for a hypothetical adversary. In the context of kata, this discovery process is known as “bunkai”, which means “analysis” or “disassembly” in Japanese.

5) Body mechanics, combinations, and variations. Once you have a solid grounding in techniques, you can practice executing these techniques in different combinations to discover which sequences of techniques flow well and how a given technique might aid in setting up another. Our testing combinations were designed so that each technique sets up and flows into the next technique, so studying these combinations in this manner is a useful introduction to this area of study. Experimenting with variations or modifications to techniques you know can also increase your awareness of how body mechanics work and why the components of that technique are important. Be careful and start slow when you do this though, because many technique components are designed to prevent injury.

There are many articles, websites, and books devoted to martial arts- so there are plenty of sources you can use to study all of things I talked about today. As when doing any research, be careful of lore and opinion versus actual facts. Asking your instructors or other knowledgeable martial artists for more information about what you’re doing in class is also an extremely effective way to learn. We might not always know the answers to all of your questions, but we will be happy to find out for you!

I hope you enjoyed this post and this series on hidden training. Please remember that what you do in your life affects your karate and what you do in your karate affects your life. Make sure that you devote your full attention and effort to both! Osu!

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Teaching Improves Learning

By Erik Hofmeister

In medicine, we have an (arguably broken) saying: see one, do one, teach one. This month, Ken, Susan, Hali, Jon, and I began work on our Martial Arts Certification for Instructors.  This program, we hope, will make us better teachers. And that’s important.

As soon as students are capable, I try to get them involved in teaching other students.  There is a lot of evidence coming out of educational psychology that indicates people learn better in a collaborative setting, when they can both learn and teach.  In fact, the lecture setup- where someone just spouts information at attentive students- is one of the least efficient means of teaching information.

I regularly learn while teaching. I distinctly remember teaching a turn in a Kyuki-Do form- the second form you ever learn- which had been a very difficult move for me to master.  After teaching it, I was able to conceptualize it in a different way which made the move much easier (I still call it the hardest move you learn in Kyuki-Do before your blackbelt).   If you’re not learning when you’re teaching, then maybe something is wrong.

I used to think that students would just know how to teach.  It’s not something that anyone ever taught me, so I never thought of it as a separate skill.  That is, until I encountered students who needed a lot of work to develop their teaching skill.  I realized that I couldn’t just launch students into teaching other students- they needed more supervision.   Now, I watch students teach and give them feedback to make them better.  The best way to improve a skill- ANY skill, which includes teaching- is to practice it and receive feedback on your performance.  I want my students to teach like they do their kata- not just adequately, but _well_.

I see students evolve all the time after teaching.  Having to explain the material and demonstrate it makes them think of it in an entirely different way.  I find that most students don’t really start to learn a form until they teach it.  Teaching students how to teach has the added benefits of expanding their skill set, allows the head instructor to effectively delegate teaching roles, and prepares the students to be instructors themselves in the future.  More students teaching and learning how to teach equals good.  Athens Yoshukai, the Teaching Dojo.