One method for optimizing learning

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

One method for optimizing learning

Postby Bhassler on Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:51 am

I was explaining a new tactic I had come up with to a couple of my classmates, and one of them made the remark that they couldn't see how I figured this stuff out. One response might be that if he went and got 1000 hours or so of professional training he could learn to see it, too; but I also wanted to come up with something a little more functional that wouldn't rely upon my particular skill set to emulate, so I've been thinking about stripping away the studied knowledge or information, and looking at the process I used to get it in my body.

My criteria are:
-It has to be based on feeling, so it doesn't require special training to engage in the process
-It has to be based in concrete function on some level, be it push hands, sparring, semi-cooperative partner work, or anything on the spectrum of training for an intended usage
-It has to be viable for people who don't have constant access to coaches, teachers, or training partners (though some degree of access is essential for inspiration and testing)
-It has to be easy. Easy means physically easy (both comfortable and with minimal use of strength) and tactically easy (simple, direct, broad enough to accommodate variations in setup and application).


My process is:
-Take note of success. When something goes right, notice how it felt, and then think back and try to figure out what you were feeling, and why it felt so good.
-Compare it to what you were already doing. A recent example on RSF was Brady commenting on the changes he noticed when he allowed his heel to raise instead of keeping it down.
-Explore variations. To go back to lifting the heel, you could do the same movement with the heel up and the heel down, then vary how high you lift the heel and the timing of it as well. When exploring variation it's important to do things wrong at least as much as doing them right.
-Integrate. For me this means incorporating it into form practice. So I'll discover or be shown something that works, remember how it feels, then find something similar or something that evokes a similar sensation in the form, and pay attention to the feeling every time it shows up in the form for as long as I'm working on that particular idea or technique. This attention to sensation is critical, as I find it allows me to learn something, play with it a couple of times, practice it a little bit, and then have it spontaneously available under pressure that same day or week. This is in marked contrast to the notion of needing to practice something hundreds or even thousands of times to make it accessible under pressure.


I'd be happy to hear people's comments and even happier to hear what methods other people use to optimize their learning, especially if those methods meet the criteria given above for feeling, function, viability, and ease.
What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains.
--Moshe Feldenkrais
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Chris McKinley on Mon Nov 01, 2010 10:48 am

Bhassler,

I can't tell you how happy I was to read this thread. You're starting down a road I hope you continue on for many years, and I hope others join you. I love your very empirical and pragmatic criteria. RE: your process, the only bone I would have to pick is with how you're defining integration. I may simply have misread you, but what you're describing seems to be an integration into the form practice rather than an integration into the functional fighting skill. I know you're aware they aren't the same thing, nor are they mutually exclusive either. You are correct in that associated multi-sensory practice will vastly accelerate the rate at which the skill becomes ingrained. That part is excellent.

My concern is with one of your criteria, namely in how you are defining the process as being "viable". You define it partly as being workable for those without access to regular training partners. IME, contextualizing combat skills is characterized almost exclusively by partner work, and you simply cannot realistically or appreciably contextualize those skills without it.

IOW, yes, a skill can be contextualized far more quickly than any traditional IMA doctrine might allow. However, that won't happen to any significant degree without the partner work, at least IME.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby johnwang on Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:04 pm

Bhassler wrote:My criteria are:
-It has to be based on feeling, so it doesn't require special training to engage in the process.
-It has to be easy.

- If you don't go through special training, you will never be able to develop those abilities that you don't have when you was born. For example, head lock, leg twist, leg lift, foot sweep, ... all require "special training".

- If you alwasy want to feel comfortable then you will not be able to advance your training into higher level. It will be comfortable to stand in Santi stance. It will not be comfortable to stand in single leg balance stance. If you only care about comfortable, your balance will never be improved.

I have a set of training that I force myself to do daily no matter I like it or not. When I train my "front cut", I want to touch my hand on the ground and lift my leg straight in the air. I can train this very "comfortable" by only bending my body 45 degree, and I don't need to go into this extream posture in application, but this kind of training can gurantee that I always have the balance, flexibility, speed, ... that I need even when I step into my old age.

The words "comfort" and "training" just don't go together IMO.
Last edited by johnwang on Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:16 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Chris McKinley on Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:15 pm

john,

For continuing development, you have a very valid point. However, for initial training in bringing someone up to a minimum functional level, they frankly don't need nor is it realistic to spend much time on those specific attributes at the expense of simple combatives. None of the specific techniques you listed is necessary for basic self-defense. Thankfully, they aren't mutually exclusive, and one can train in some beginning combatives, work on contextualizing them into one's functional arsenal, while also beginning to set the foundations for increasingly advanced techniques and skills.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Bhassler on Mon Nov 01, 2010 1:56 pm

Chris McKinley wrote:Bhassler,

I can't tell you how happy I was to read this thread. You're starting down a road I hope you continue on for many years, and I hope others join you. I love your very empirical and pragmatic criteria. RE: your process, the only bone I would have to pick is with how you're defining integration. I may simply have misread you, but what you're describing seems to be an integration into the form practice rather than an integration into the functional fighting skill. I know you're aware they aren't the same thing, nor are they mutually exclusive either. You are correct in that associated multi-sensory practice will vastly accelerate the rate at which the skill becomes ingrained. That part is excellent.

My concern is with one of your criteria, namely in how you are defining the process as being "viable". You define it partly as being workable for those without access to regular training partners. IME, contextualizing combat skills is characterized almost exclusively by partner work, and you simply cannot realistically or appreciably contextualize those skills without it.

IOW, yes, a skill can be contextualized far more quickly than any traditional IMA doctrine might allow. However, that won't happen to any significant degree without the partner work, at least IME.


Hi Chris,

I think both your concerns speak on some level to the same issue, namely my desire to minimize the reliance on quality training partners. Part of my search is developing a method that can continue to be useful even though I may have access to partners of varying skill levels as frequently as three times a week or as seldom as once every two or three weeks (or even less). Since that is the case, I want to squeeze every last drop of feedback out of each instance of partner interaction I can get. That's in effect what I meant by 'viable for someone without regular access to a training partner'-- which is in no way meant to be the same thing as no access or access only once every other year when master so-and-so comes to town for a seminar.

My idea of integration continues with that theme. I want to integrate in such a way that I don't need a partner available to continue the process I begin with partner work. My solution is to use my own kinesthetic sense as my point of reference both for solo and partner work. Once I have that reference, I can reinforce and refine the learning from partner work via solo practice (I personally like doing the form). This is very similar to the way a basketball player might visualize a free-throw, but for me it's a little broader in that my kinesthetic sense encompasses a range of feelings around or similar to the initial successful stimulus in addition to the exact stimulus itself, so I end up with a broader realm of familiar territory.

I don't think this can ever replace the type of threshold training necessary for complete contextualization under massive physical and emotional pressure, but I'm hypothesizing it can develop a pretty great tool set going in so that a lot of learning can happen with a minimum of exposure to that kind of pressure.
What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains.
--Moshe Feldenkrais
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Bhassler on Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:05 pm

johnwang wrote:
Bhassler wrote:My criteria are:
-It has to be based on feeling, so it doesn't require special training to engage in the process.
-It has to be easy.

- If you don't go through special training, you will never be able to develop those abilities that you don't have when you was born. For example, head lock, leg twist, leg lift, foot sweep, ... all require "special training".

- If you alwasy want to feel comfortable then you will not be able to advance your training into higher level. It will be comfortable to stand in Santi stance. It will not be comfortable to stand in single leg balance stance. If you only care about comfortable, your balance will never be improved.

I have a set of training that I force myself to do daily no matter I like it or not. When I train my "front cut", I want to touch my hand on the ground and lift my leg straight in the air. I can train this very "comfortable" by only bending my body 45 degree, and I don't need to go into this extream posture in application, but this kind of training can gurantee that I always have the balance, flexibility, speed, ... that I need even when I step into my old age.

The words "comfort" and "training" just don't go together IMO.


Sorry John, I meant special training in the sense of training outside of what someone would be exposed to within their martial art. So I don't want a boxer to have to study neurophysiology in order to benefit from my training methods.

Similarly, I don't mean comfortable in the sense of falling asleep on the couch comfortable. I mean that a technique in application should only use a small amount of your available resources. Your front cut is a good example. The skill or technique of front cut may only use 40% or your available range, so it's more likely that you will still be able to do it when you are not at your best. If you want to do something that is beyond your current physical abilities, then obviously you have to find a way to increase your ability so you can do it.
What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains.
--Moshe Feldenkrais
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby I-mon on Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:24 pm

"When exploring variation it's important to do things wrong at least as much as doing them right."

I love the whole thing and will give it some more thought, haven't replied on the other teaching thread yet either but definitely trying to work out what it is that I do myself, and how to communicate that to other people, is something that is concerning me a lot these days.

Doing some of those online Feldenkrais ATM lessons has been awesome by the way, and I've worked out why they call it "learning how to learn".

The Feldenkrais stuff all has a very clear theme running through it which becomes apparent after doing a few lessons involving different parts of the body - it doesn't "teach you how to move" it teaches you how to LEARN how to move!
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Brady on Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:26 pm

Bhassler wrote:-Compare it to what you were already doing. A recent example on RSF was Brady commenting on the changes he noticed when he allowed his heel to raise instead of keeping it down.


FWIW, I think it was Bill who you are thinking of here. Overall, I agree with your process. The ability to accurately and fully "listen" to both our own and our opponent's body is a skill that is the base for all types of movement exploration. Thus, it makes sense that by developing it, we will optimize our exploration and refinement of our strategies and techniques.

My only question for you is why does this have to be based (initially) on concrete function? I explore a lot of oddities in motion that lead to nothing functional, and can be seen as dead ends. But these explorations allow me to hone the process of learning. Maybe 1 out of 20 of these little nuances open up a road to new found functional ability, and this percentage is well worth it to me. An example is from my wrestling days, I had one coach who had us block our opponents take down attempts by keeping our forehead pressed on his. I had, at the time, no idea how this would help my wrestling and it felt downright wrong. But after 2 months of doing this twice a week, I was able to seemlessly level change with my opponent subconsciously. If I discarded this training method based on not seeing its functionality, then I would never have obtained this new found defensive ability.

Self percieved functionality, if we never step out of that box in our training, is a major handicap of learning in my opinion. We should set a decent portion of our training time (say 10%) to doing whatever our body wants without any functional end goal.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Bhassler on Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:55 pm

Sorry for the name mix-up.

That's a great question, and my answer is that the functionality constraint only applies to this particular process. For me, I'm very specifically trying to add fighting function to my taiji-- I don't need to learn to move better, I need to improve the context of this particular practice. So that's why it's the way it is in this instance.

In the big picture, I probably devote up to 50% of my training time to pure exploration, and the underlying awareness is something that's present in the background 100% of the time. So in that respect I think exploration and awareness are far more important than form, conditioning, or any other single element of practice.
What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Chris McKinley on Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:35 pm

Brian,

RE: "I want to integrate in such a way that I don't need a partner available to continue the process I begin with partner work.". I think I understand what you mean by the stated goal, but IME you run into some hard limitations without the partner work available. I agree it would be an excellent goal and would be interested in any positive findings you may come up with, but I'm not sure there's a whole lot that can be done in isolation. Perhaps the identification of the movement involved in a newly discovered tactic might be practiced in a sort of 'aping' fashion via its conversion into a solo form movement. After all, that's what most form work is already anyway. However, you will likely run into the same problem someone already runs into trying to learn how to fight by doing solo form. IOW, it doesn't happen.

That said, not only am I a fan of approaching forms practice this way, I think it should be done this way every time you practice form. Beside the fact that doing so allows one to recognize the flow of intent within each given movement, the fact is that new tactical movements should be being generated with each and every practice session in which one is interacting with a partner. Learning how to see those tactics within the patterns of movement already in the form allows you to gain insight into which principles are most relevant in the performance of that newly discovered tactic via its similarities to movements about which such detail is already known. It's also one of the most powerful things you can do to develop the ability to analyze all human movement for its tactical potential. This is why I can look at literally any sequence of human movement, martial or otherwise, and identify potential combat application in it. It's not glamorous work but it's time well spent.
Chris McKinley

 

Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby johnwang on Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:46 pm

Chris McKinley wrote:done in isolation.

You can only "enhance" your old skills. You cannot "develop" any new skills in isolation. One day I tried to modify the Mantis "waist chop" application. Intead of sweeping the leading leg, I tried to bite or hook the back leg. In solo drill, I can't tell which one will be more effective, the bite or the hook. One day I got a training partner and tried both moves on that person, I then realized that "thinking in solo" and "doing with partner" are quite different.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Chris McKinley on Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:52 pm

Brady,

RE: "My only question for you is why does this have to be based (initially) on concrete function?". To some degree, you've answered your own question with the wrestling example you gave. That skill only became recognizeable as combatively useful much later down the line. The key word in Brian's criterion is "initially". This is because he's wanting to explore methods which yield combat functional results right away, therefore the concrete function must be immediately evident.

Speaking only for myself and not for Brian, but that doesn't mean that you can't do both. You could simultaneously begin practicing certain skills that may take longer to manifest. The point is, you don't do that at the expense of skills that have immediate value. You do it concurrently.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Brady on Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:07 pm

Chris McKinley wrote:Brady,

RE: "My only question for you is why does this have to be based (initially) on concrete function?". To some degree, you've answered your own question with the wrestling example you gave. That skill only became recognizeable as combatively useful much later down the line. The key word in Brian's criterion is "initially". This is because he's wanting to explore methods which yield combat functional results right away, therefore the concrete function must be immediately evident.

Speaking only for myself and not for Brian, but that doesn't mean that you can't do both. You could simultaneously begin practicing certain skills that may take longer to manifest. The point is, you don't do that at the expense of skills that have immediate value. You do it concurrently.


This is a good answer. Training for a specific vision of functionality will yield quicker results, but has a glass ceiling. I agree both can (and should) be done.

Bhassler wrote:That's a great question, and my answer is that the functionality constraint only applies to this particular process. For me, I'm very specifically trying to add fighting function to my taiji-- I don't need to learn to move better, I need to improve the context of this particular practice. So that's why it's the way it is in this instance.

In the big picture, I probably devote up to 50% of my training time to pure exploration, and the underlying awareness is something that's present in the background 100% of the time. So in that respect I think exploration and awareness are far more important than form, conditioning, or any other single element of practice.


That is probably around where my divide happens, at about 50%, as well. I have about 5-10 basic martial movements I practice ad nauseum and have a host of techniques I abstract from them. Knowing a vast, detailed array of specific techniques does not fit my learning style at all. Most fighters I respect have no more than 5 "techniques" they can pull out and dominate you with.
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Darthwing Teorist on Tue Nov 02, 2010 8:26 am

Very interesting topic. I have limited time to train and limited access to partners so this topic if of great interest to me.

A personal observation: I noticed that personally, it takes me a few years from the time I learn a concept and until it manifests in a useful manner in sparring. Obviously, with aging even less time to train I worry that my skills degrade even though my knowledge of the arts increases. In class we use a very similar approach to this one (exploration-refinement-testing), but we do it with partners. This topic helped me have a better understanding of what we do.

BHassler, how do you figure that a skill that you acquire is workable under pressure so fast? Do you manage to test it? If you do, what kind of testing: sparring, simulations, good ol' street brawling?

I am really interested to improve my solo practice.
И ам тхе террор тхат флапс ин тхе нигхт! И ам тхе црамп тхат руинс ёур форм! И ам... ДАРКWИНГ ДУЦК!
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Re: One method for optimizing learning

Postby Chris McKinley on Tue Nov 02, 2010 10:25 am

Darthwing Teorist,

RE: "I noticed that personally, it takes me a few years from the time I learn a concept and until it manifests in a useful manner in sparring.". Perhaps with traditional training methods that may be true, but I can assure you from years of experience both as trainee and instructor that it most definitely need not be so. By separating the processes into separate but interactive phases, I've helped people pick up functional skills in the course of just a few sessions and occasionally in the course of a single afternoon. Is it "hard-wired", so to speak, in that amount of time? Of course not, but it is demonstrably functional with conscious attention.

I don't believe that Bhassler is actually necessarily referencing the idea of using only traditional training methods to achieve this sort of accelerated acquring of skills. I certainly would not. As to the input he's asked for in the OP, I've already provided a good portion of my particular contribution in the form of the many posts I've made on this subject over the years on this forum, which is why I'm not just jumping all over this topic as much as I'd like to. I'm hoping to see other folks' contributions as well as get a bead on what their current interest and understanding is.
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