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#404477 - 08/12/08 08:29 PM The Circular Logic of Self Instruction...
xMentalxLintx Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/12/08
Posts: 19
...naysayers.

It is often said that trying to learn via instructional books or DVDs is a fool's errand, and will yield no fruit. When someone cites that they are effective with a weapon they learned by one of these means, they are told they are wrong--they are, in fact, very bad with it, and must be lying to us or themselves.

The reasoning is usually that anyone who created the book or DVD has obviously studied with a teacher, and thus studying with a teacher is really the only genuine way to learn. And those teachers studied with teachers, and those teachers, and... wait...

That's right. If you go back far enough with ANYTHING--weapons, musical instruments, automobiles, folding paper airplanes, whatever--you find that it was originally hashed out by one guy trying stuff. He may have used other existing and similar devices as models, but in the end he had to just try stuff.

Then he taught some buddies, and some of them tried new stuff and refined old stuff. Then they taught buddies. Then buddies started writing it down.

Instruction is not magical, and having a good teacher will not make you any better than anyone else on its own. Instruction in all things is simply a shortcut to save you, the learner, a lot of trial and error--or at least make sure the "error" part is less frequent than it could be. But it is not the sole means.

Even as a music educator, I can admit that there are plenty of self-taught musicians that are phenomenal, world-class performers. Does that mean my job is unnecessary? Of course not--not everyone has the time or desire to self-teach, and some people want to be part of a larger community of musicians and should thus learn the standardized language. Does it mean that my students are bad musicians because they "needed" a teacher and this other guy didn't? Not at all.

But THAT is usually what happens here. Someone with years of instruction is INSULTED that someone else wants to take the "shortcut," or (let's be honest) simply doesn't have the option (time, money, availability) of true instruction.

Is the would-be learner here to insult them? Not in the least. He's here because he has no option, but he wants to learn (and being a conscientious learner is just as important as having an expert teacher), his options are slim, and he wants opinions on the best way HE can do it. And let's face it, a book or DVD =is= better than no help at all.

What's more, some people (through study of dance, gymnastics, or martial arts) have a better awareness of body, and some of the more subtle nuances they MIGHT just pick up instinctively. Or they'll get them through trial and error, like millions of people have done before them.

Teaching isn't about "making you learn the way I learned." It's about showing someone how to learn. EVERY, and I mean EVERY good teacher has a goal of eventually empowering their students to TEACH THEMSELVES--we are the only job who hopes to make ourselves obsolete.

And all we, as teachers, do is provide a model and then troubleshoot while you try to imitate the model. That's it. We show you how it's done, then watch you try to do it, help you find your mistakes and fix them. A book and video can provide you a model, and as you learn, you'll be able to go back and find mistakes and fix them--and discussion with other people via the internet will help, too.

So, yes, you CAN teach yourself. ANYTHING. If you're willing to devote the time and bruises, you can learn it. It's simply a question of 1) will and 2) goals:

When it comes to the will to learn: Are you able to admit your mistakes, and LEARN from them rather than COMPLAIN about them or get discouraged? Are you willing to experiment and be wrong MANY times before finally getting it right?

When it comes to goals, remember that no goal is inherently "wrong." Is your goal to learn just one form so you can look and feel cool? GOOD! Do it! Your goal isn't to use it for combat, so knowing the intricacies of application isn't necessary for your goal--and you can always learn that later if you find your goals change. Is your goal to be able to scare off prowlers with a few choice moves? Learn them and leave the rest--you don't OWE anything to the arts, as the arts exist to serve man and not the other way around (be careful that you don't take advantage of PEOPLE, though).

The bottom line is: Don't be a student elitist. Just because someone is self-taught doesn't mean they're worse than you, nor does it mean they think they're better. It's no different than a student that learns quickly and one that takes a few more tries--both can get it equally right, and the only difference is time.

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#404478 - 08/12/08 08:37 PM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: xMentalxLintx]
MattJ Offline
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Registered: 11/25/04
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Loc: York PA. USA
No argument from me on most of your points. I have learned plenty from books, DVD's, internet, etc. But those resources pale in comparison to a qualified instructor. That is the major point that most members here try to make.

Aimed more at the kids who have come up with their own styles, which clearly have technical deficiencies compared to more established ones.
_________________________
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

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#404479 - 08/12/08 08:51 PM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: MattJ]
xMentalxLintx Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/12/08
Posts: 19
I absolutely agree that having a teacher is nearly always the most EFFICIENT way of learning anything.

But to me, there's no harm in someone that just wants to use a staff form to learn flexibility and coordination, without every move being combat-viable. There's no harm in someone that just wants to look cool with nunchaku--it doesn't do me any injustice for them to have some simple fun.

I think that's one of the reasons martial arts see some of the major periods of decline they do--elitism. At some point, you go from saying "You're nothing if you don't have a teacher" to saying "You're nothing if you don't have THIS teacher" to saying "You're nothing if you aren't in our group AND we're not taking any more people, so you're just always nothing."

It can't be about motive. What I mean is, the objection can't be "Oh, they want to learn it for the 'wrong reasons," whatever that means. Because plenty of people who want to learn "for the wrong reasons" still go seek and find instruction with highly-qualified pros. Why? Sometimes, because the pro wants the money. Sometimes, because the pro recognizes he'll either change his reasons, lose interest and give up, or maybe just have some fun and then go when it's his time--either way, no harm is done to the teacher or the student.

Most of the sentiment I see expressed, especially by a couple of the "big dogs" on the forum, is a defensive response. "You CANNOT learn from blah blah blah," or "You'll NEVER get anywhere from yadda yadda." As though admitting "You know what, yes, you can learn some things from a video," is admitting that their years of hard work must be a complete waste if this guy can just go get a DVD, or that this guy is somehow mocking them and their skill. He's not. He's not thinking about YOU, he's thinking about what he'd like to learn.

Help him or get out of his way, but geez, why discourage him? All that serves to do is make the learned feel "better" than the unwashed masses--and any good teacher would tell that student that's a horrible attitude to take.

If he wants a video, because it's his only option, point him toward the best video and wish him luck. If he comes back with questions, BE the teacher you claim is so important. He might surprise you and learn some things--they may or may not be as refined as yours, and they may take longer, but I doubt he cares, so why should you?

Oh, and if someone comes here citing that they are self-taught and are actually pretty good, they might very well be. Don't automatically cast them down as lying, as that makes YOU look bad, not them.

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#404480 - 08/12/08 09:12 PM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: xMentalxLintx]
DeadlyKnuckles Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 130
Loc: United States, Florida
Take it from someone who has tried teaching himself through books, videos and websites in the past - it's a waste of time and you won't get anywhere.

Instructional books and DVDs were designed to be supplements to one's training, not replacements.

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#404481 - 08/12/08 09:52 PM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: DeadlyKnuckles]
xMentalxLintx Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/12/08
Posts: 19
See, that's what I mean--"won't get anywhere."

Why? Because you or someone you know didn't? Because someone told you no one can? What do you say, then, about all the people everywhere who learn so very many complex things without formal instruction?

Are they all fakes? Are they all formally taught but won't admit it?

I fully understand how videos are designed as supplements or training aids, but they also have basic instructional value unto themselves if done right.

"You won't get as far as fast" is very true. "You won't get anywhere" just smells of elitism, and doesn't ring true as a universal reality.

If it's someone's only option, why not use it? Isn't it better to have SOME instruction than no help at all? And isn't it better to have someone who's involved in the art by proxy than to have the art limited only to those lucky souls that live within range of proper instruction, and have the time and money to spend on it?

Youtube (and related internet video phenomena) are responsible for a large upswing in martial arts interest. Why waste that opportunity by showing people that martial artists are a bunch of elitists that will push away anyone but the "big-time-go-pro" guy who happens to live in range?

I studied with David Chin, America's Grandmaster in Hop Gar Kung Fu, but not because I knew he was David Chin... it was because he was the only game in town. I didn't know how famous he was until after moving away, and part of that is because he =never= bragged or acted like it. He took me in as a student with little prior experience, and no desire to fight in MMA tournaments (which he trains folks for regularly), and he taught me where I was.

He never had a bad thing to say about any kind of learning, and emphasized that it had to do with what your goals were. If you were meeting those goals, it was good instruction for you.

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#404482 - 08/13/08 06:47 AM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: xMentalxLintx]
Chatan1979 Offline
Member

Registered: 03/21/05
Posts: 338
Loc: Mahomet , Illinois


I agree that there are some people who are "naturals" at certain activities and may have some inherent ability to teach themselves an activity i.e, musicians, artists, etc. However the problem, imho, arises when people like this make the claim that their "self training" is the real thing. We have had plenty of people on this forum, especially the weapon forum, wherein someone claims to have taught themselves how to fight with a katana. Generally it turns out that they are merely swinging a dangerous weapon around in their backyard mimicking something they saw in a movie. Ive had people like this come into my dojo, where we teach MJER Eishin Ryu Iaido. Students like this, who have only swung, flipped, and spun a sword around during their "self training" generally do not last simply because when they get a taste for the real thing, they realize that there are no fancy flips. The actual learning process is very dificult. They dislike the formalities, bowing, etiquette, etc. As a result they return to their self training.

Again I am no disagreeing that people cant learn something on their own, but it becomes a problem when they claim it as
"official" training.

On a personal, yet related note. Growing up I was really into drawing. I loved drawing comic characters. I would draw everyday and I thought that I was really great. I didnt take any art classes because I didnt want to have to participate in art activities that werent related to what I did. Eventually I had an opportunity to try a few comic drawing seminars at a college. I was so excited. I brought a bunch of my work with me to have critiqued. I was absolutely crushed when I received negative feedback on my work. Now I realize that I should have been taking regular art classes so that I could master the basics of line, scale, shading, color, figure drawing, perspective, complex perspective, and many other basic elements of art that I had missed because I chose to "self train" myself.

I dunno if any of what I just said makes sense because it is very early and Im not quite awake.
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#404483 - 08/13/08 06:59 AM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: Chatan1979]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
It's very simple: there is more to martial arts than technique. Form, kata, even power generation can be shown on video and mimiced endlessly and sincere, dedicated and talented folks can, sooner or later, evolve. That's the hard way...but the only way for some. Even those who train in a school and with teachers often go long stretches without formal instruction because they have to.

But learning SOME martial arts is more than learning technique. But perhaps that is only for SOME people. Those either lucky enough to find a good situation, or those that can sense what is missing and go looking for it. No one said it would be easy. So...yeah...SOME MA IS elite.

Also, I've heard it stated that 'martial arts is hand's on'. You have to 'feel it'. I suppose one could get a judo, or aikido video, grab a friend and start experimenting with throws. Good luck not getting hurt. But there is also something really, really special about learning through experience with someone better than you. To 'feel' a technique, to have an 'ah ha' moment, to learn something through direct experience ('show me') that gets to the point and cuts through all the talky-talk and limitations of language and the indirectness of description. Simply put, it's a superior way to learn this art.

I took a little music, and can buy records of great recordings. I can even elect to try to attend Julliard for the networking and mentoring opportunities that one won't get at a local public college. But I actually experienced Andre Segovia playing in an intimate setting...and can tell you...the presence, and aliveness of the moment experiencing an art from a master was a completely different level of learning.


Edited by harlan (08/13/08 07:25 AM)

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#404484 - 08/13/08 08:36 AM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: harlan]
Chatan1979 Offline
Member

Registered: 03/21/05
Posts: 338
Loc: Mahomet , Illinois
Quote:

It's very simple: there is more to martial arts than technique. Form, kata, even power generation can be shown on video and mimiced endlessly and sincere, dedicated and talented folks can, sooner or later, evolve. That's the hard way...but the only way for some. Even those who train in a school and with teachers often go long stretches without formal instruction because they have to.

But learning SOME martial arts is more than learning technique. But perhaps that is only for SOME people. Those either lucky enough to find a good situation, or those that can sense what is missing and go looking for it. No one said it would be easy. So...yeah...SOME MA IS elite.

Also, I've heard it stated that 'martial arts is hand's on'. You have to 'feel it'. I suppose one could get a judo, or aikido video, grab a friend and start experimenting with throws. Good luck not getting hurt. But there is also something really, really special about learning through experience with someone better than you. To 'feel' a technique, to have an 'ah ha' moment, to learn something through direct experience ('show me') that gets to the point and cuts through all the talky-talk and limitations of language and the indirectness of description. Simply put, it's a superior way to learn this art.

I took a little music, and can buy records of great recordings. I can even elect to try to attend Julliard for the networking and mentoring opportunities that one won't get at a local public college. But I actually experienced Andre Segovia playing in an intimate setting...and can tell you...the presence, and aliveness of the moment experiencing an art from a master was a completely different level of learning.




I agree. With self training you not only do not receive verbal feedback/criticism, but you dont get to feel the technique as it should be. Take a simple Aikido technique like Nikkyo.This technique, visually looks very very simple, but it is all about feel. I learned nikkyo better from having it done to me from my sensei than I did from performing it. If i was simply looking at a book or a video, I would try to "muscle" the technique to make it work,when in actuality, nikkyo doesnt require much muscular power to make it work. If I was only watching a video of nikkyo, it would be very very dificult to learn this.

I can look at a book and memorize the movements to tekki shodan, but it takes an instructor to teach me the proper use of koshi, breathing, timing, application, movement from hara, etc.
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#404485 - 08/13/08 07:09 PM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: Chatan1979]
xMentalxLintx Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/12/08
Posts: 19
Quote:

However the problem, imho, arises when people like this make the claim that their "self training" is the real thing.




And, to me, the question is "Why is that a problem?" Someone who believes their self-training will suffice will either be proved right or wrong by life--they don't need us staring disapprovingly over their shoulders. There are plenty of students who study with someone and do just as badly as the "self-taught" guy, but they can claim "formal instruction"--to me, THAT seems more of a problem, as it causes people to think bad things about that sensei/sifu/etc.

As to your drawing, see what I mean? What you did before made YOU happy... and then someone craps on it because you didn't take a bajillion classes, and it breaks the whole wagon. It's one thing to recommend to someone "Hey, you're doing some things right here, and if maybe if you tried this-or-that course, you could develop on some of these things faster." It's another thing to say "Ha! You suck, and it's because you dared to try to teach yourself!"

Remember, EVERYONE that chooses to study a martial art has a real reason for doing so. ESPECIALLY, even, the guy that self-teaches. He could be using that time to sit and watch TV or play video games, but something is drawing him to the art. If he can't get to a teacher, the least we could do as fellow "artists" is point him toward whatever resource would best suit his individual needs.

And, as it comes to learning the subtleties and nuances of the art, go to most of America's Karate or Tae Kwon Do studios and watch them teach. You'll see kids pop out "black belts" like a rabbit pops out turds. They're receiving formal instruction, right? Ah, now we get into dividing the martial arts world further, from just "video guys versus studio guys" to "video guys vs. bad studio guys vs. good studio guys.... vs. my studio is better, so you suck vs. no mine vs. you're all wrong" and it never ends.

Welcome people to the art in whatever way they can experience. No harm in teaching tai chi to older folks who never intend to fight, so no harm in pointing a guy toward an instructional video for a nunchaku form so he can feel cool for a few minutes once in awhile.

So again, my point isn't that self-learning is best. It's that, while not the most efficient, it's POSSIBLE. And my bigger point is that the naysayers that constantly talk down to people who want to learn something that way and belittle their efforts are just elitists with insecurity issues, and they reflect poorly on the teachers they brag so much about.

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#404486 - 08/13/08 07:54 PM Re: The Circular Logic of Self Instruction... [Re: xMentalxLintx]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!
Prolific

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Quote:

And, as it comes to learning the subtleties and nuances of the art, go to most of America's Karate or Tae Kwon Do studios and watch them teach. You'll see kids pop out "black belts" like a rabbit pops out turds. They're receiving formal instruction, right? Ah, now we get into dividing the martial arts world further, from just "video guys versus studio guys" to "video guys vs. bad studio guys vs. good studio guys.... vs. my studio is better, so you suck vs. no mine vs. you're all wrong" and it never ends.




LOL. Good point. The McDojo phenomenon certainly throws a wrench into the "find an instructor" thing, doesn't it?

PS - I am requesting that this go in the MA Talk forum for better exposure.


Edited by MattJ (08/13/08 07:57 PM)
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