Thursday, April 30, 2009
I am very big on design - I always have been.
In the martial arts community - with regards to curriculum - the design elements leave much to be desired. Over the course of my martial arts related travels (quite extensive these past 30 years), I have seen hundreds of training curricula, and it is very apparent to me that most of them suffer significantly from a lack of design.
Originally, in the case of most of the functional combative arts, the curriculum emerged from the actual fighting. In other words, the things that worked, were the things that were taught. Naturally it followed, that the things that were most easily brought into play during actual combat, were also the things that were taught first. These fundamental things (in combat) were countered by those with a greater degree of experience and so were further evolved or added-to - and so the curricula grew in an organic and natural fashion. Such was the case with arts such as boxing, fencing, Muay Thai and many of the folkloric grappling styles.
Over time, many of these arts began to impact upon each other and a process of fusion and hybridization began to complicate things. Thousands of new arts have evolved over the centuries and the associated curricula have become increasingly complex and in many cases (if not most) not apparently functional. It often seems to me that modern-day martial arts curricula have been constructed with little or no thought at all; often pieced together from bits of 'this and that', and added to each time something new and exciting comes along - the result, an incongruent mess that leaves not only the student, but the instructor in a state of mild confusion.
Now I enjoy a bit of chaos as much as the next person; and on the surface of things, particularly when it comes to combat, it seems that 'chaos' is in integral part of the fabric of things. But seriously, chaotic and unorganized instruction is the last thing a student needs. Organization - is a key element to ordered and effective learning. The order in which skills are taught can greatly effect the outcomes we achieve as instructors; in fact, skill acquisition can be as dependent on the order and timing of lessons as it is on the content of those lessons.
Over the past decade I have quite a bit of experience in Curriculum Design . The way I approach the design of a seminar and the way I approach the design of a curriculum have much in common. The bundling of themes, the layering of techniques, the functionality, the desired outcomes, the teaching points, the descriptive language and many other elements all play a part in the design of any good syllabus.
I am often employed to design specific curricula for various agencies and martial arts schools; sometimes I am asked to design a syllabus for a specific rank (in the case of a martial arts school) or a specific task (in the case of law enforcement or military) - this is a job I take very seriously and one that I put a lot of thought into. Increasingly, it has become a significant part of what I do for a living; and as I am being paid for this work, I find myself doing more and more study and learning on the concept of design and ordered process. And is is always the case - the more we look - the more we see and the more amazed we become at the complexity of things. Sometime the simplest of things (on the surface) have a depth and complexity to them that is simply astounding.
Learn on ...
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Developing an eye for detail is one skill that instructors and coaches should always be working on. Learning to make fine distinctions between what people are SAYING they are doing and what they are ACTUALLY doing is an important part of a coach’s development. A part of coaching excellence is to develop the skill of breaking a technique down into it’s composite part, and then delivering them in digestible form and order to the students.
Here’s a basic model of how this can be done …
- Demonstrate the technique in it’s entirety
- Explain the Context
- Illustrate the final goal (where we want to end up)
- Back up from that point a bit – then move to the finish
- If necessary back up a bit more – move again to the finish
- Back up to the start – move to the finish
- Practice the technique in it’s entirety
- Examine the biomechanical aspects of the technique (which levers)
- Examine the ‘firing order’ of the techniques component parts (timings)
- Examine the geometry of the technique (directions and angles)
There are other models of course – but I would just like to make the point that a simple demonstration of the technique, followed by a request that everyone copy to their best ability – IS NOT TEACHING!
Developing an eye for detail is not only crucial for the professional instructor, but it should be a habit that students should endeavour to develop as soon as possible in the training.
Train Smart – train Safe.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I have long since developed a habit of looking at what instructors are doing rather than listening to what they were saying. This is for a number of reasons but one of the main ones is that more often than not, my instructors spoke little or no English. So I learned to look. But that’s not the interesting thing!
Here’s what I have come to notice over three decades of martial arts LEARNING:
Virtuoso’s (the people we try to emulate) DO NOT start out being Virtuoso’s. They start out with basic skill-sets like everyone else. They come up with simple – non Virtuostic (is that even a word?) descriptions for how they do their thing – before they become the Virtuoso’s that we admire. Then they evolve, the improve, they reach their Virtuoso status – and then – AND THIS IS THE PROBLEM – they continue to describe how they do their thing with their OLD AND OUTDATED DESCRIPTION. Bastards! How inconsiderate of them.
It has been my observation, that very, very few people EVOLVE their description (their: ‘HOW TO’) of what they do at the same pace as their actual technique. In fact, if I listen to their INSTRUCTION – I see that it oftens bears little resemblance to what they are ACTUALLY doing. This can be frustrating for many people.
For myself though, it provides the raw circumstance that I immerse myself in - in the study of martial arts. One of my best skills is to unravel what the Virtuoso’s do, pry it apart and show it to others. I derive immense joy from having people shift from ordinary and cursory practice – to extraordinary and insightful practice.
More to come …
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Arrived in Thailand today - and after a hellish taxi ride in the rain, installed myself at the Park Plaza hotel in Sukhumvit - downtown Bangkok. I booked my room over the internet from Heathrow airport - and, as it turns out, it's a great deal. Around $70 Australian a day gets you a four star room, LCD tv, free wireless internet access, a great rooftop pool (overlooking the city) and apparantely, a huge and varied buffet breakfast. Nice.
I am here for two days - as my original Jetstar-leg of my return flight has been cancelled till Tuesday night. Tomorrow I'll probably head out to Jitti Gym and step into the ring for a Muay Thai workout.
The Thai people are friendly and happy people - and right now, in desperate need of the tourist dollar. So if you intend to visit - it's a great time to do so. Haggle a little if you must - but tip generously - a dollar or two to us can make a big difference to the average Thai's weekly pay-packet.
Time for a swim.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Arrived in Norway - one of the most breathtakingly beautiful countries I have ever seen. This is a land of pine trees, lakes and wilderness - nice.
I was invited here by Kenneth Fjeld - Chuck Norris UFAF representative in Scandinavia. Kenneth began his BJJ training two years ago when I first met him at the annual UFAF (United Fighting Arts Federation) convention in Las Vegas - where I go to teach every year. Since then he has been training hard - and was awarded his Blue Belt on this trip. Well done Kenneth!
He has a great school in a smallish city about an hour outside of Oslo. We trained on friday night and again this morning. it is sad to have to say goodbye to such warm-hearted, polite and friendly people. Norway is an absolutely wonderful place. A place I could easily live.
At the airport now - on my way to Heathrow in London, then on to Bangkok this evening. My Flight home from Bangkok (Jetstar) has been cancelled - and so I am there for two days. It has just occurred to me that I should head to Google and find some accomodation.
Hopefully accomodation with wireless internet access.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Hit Manchester yesterday - new Cheltenham Blue Belt, Mark Collett, gave me the much appreciated ride up. We called in to Muay Thai legend, Master Sken's school for a cup of tea and a chat before the Manchester maniacs, Adam and Doug came to collect me.
Master Sken is a wonderful man; soft-spoken and gentle, as some of the most accomplished martial artists I know, seem to be. We had a nice talk about Muay Thai, BJJ and where the martial arts are heading before he honored me with some gifts (an unexpected pleasure) - and took a few photo's for his much decorated walls.
Then it was off to Adam's new school. Adam Adshead has done an excellent job these past few weeks in establishing his new premises. His academy is called Factory BJJ - and he is in the process of building a fantastic group of keen BJJ guys there.
Darren Curry (Hauter-Machado brown Belt from the Leeds area) made the big drive over, as did our new friend Danny from Doncaster. We did some in-depth training covering several themes before I was ushered off for a few hours kip. Seven hours later, I find myself at the Manchester airport, waiting for my flight to Heathrow and then onward to Oslo this afternoon. This pace is hectic - no doubt about it. I will be teaching on the other side of Europe this evening - with my friend Kenneth Fjeld doing his always-excellent job of translating.
More to follow.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tony Terranova - the best surname in Cheltenham; is a friend of mine.
he is also a long time student and close friend of Geoff Thompsons. I arrived in the beautiful Cotswalds yesterday - and immediately hit Tony's garage (nicknamed 'the church') where I took Tony and his two partners Alan and MArk, through some private training. Tony is an engineer by trade, as is evidenced by the huge swag of amazing specialised equipment that has designed for 'worship' in the church.
After our session, we had a quick bite then headed off to the school (Fighting Fit Martial Arts .
The group was a pure joy to teach. Tony has created a wonderful culture in his school. We also had a few visitors from Coventry (a couple of Geoff T's long time students - Alan Peasland and Mick Tully - absolute gentlemen and well disguised hard-bastards) as well as Rich Yeoman, owner of the first school I ever taught at in Coventry. Thanks for making the trip guys.
A few hours sleep followed the seminar, up early, and off for a great walk in the wilds of the Cotswalds before being picked up by Mark for the drive up to Manchester - where I will have a quick bite with legendary Thai trainer, Master Sken, before hitting the BJJ mat with Adam Adshead this evening.
The beat goes on!
HAd a nice meet-up with my mate Geoff this morning. We alked for a while and chatted about, life, the universe and everything. We had brought gifts for each other - books - and it's funny that the books we gave each other were on exactly the same topics. geoff is doing well with his new movie - he is a prolific worker (creator) and always leaves me feeling lazy.
he has suggested we do something together soon - as an excuse to spend more time together - a live-in training retreat at Coombe Abbey - where we spend two days and an eveing, training and dining with a dozen keen martial artists. Sounds like a great idea - we'll let eveyone know if we can pull it off.
Best go - time to head to the cotswalds and train with my friend (and Geoff's good friend) Tony terranova.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I've just woken up early at Coombe Abbey.
The abbey is a 13th century Cistercian Abbey, if I'm not mistaken - complete with dimly lit halls, old stone passage-ways adorned with armor and heraldry - and a moat.
My mate Geoff Thompson is coming soon, and we'll take our usual walk through the surrounding woods before attempting to slip pass the dress-code police and eat breakfast in the conservatory.
Last night I conducted a session for the Coventry boys, headed up by Rich Green. Rich has done a great job in establishing a strong mat of keen BJJ and MMA enthusiasts here in Coventry. His mat is fantastic - the thing is about four inches thick - a treat to roll on. The back third of the mat is boarded by a cage fence - which allows for UFC-style cage training without being too restrictive for normal classes. Good one Rich!
I love the Coventry lads - they are enthustiastic to a fault. I look forward to getting back next year.
Best sign off - just enough time to call home and say hello to melissa and felix before I head out into the morning mists with Geoff.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
What a day. A long one but a fun one. Visiting with my friend Ken Pankeiwicz is always a pleasure. Today ken treated me to a visit to Windsor castle, where we timed the changing of the guard beautifully! Then we took a walk over the river and into Eton, where ken showed me the old school hall he began his martial arts career in. It was great.
We had a bite of lunch before heading to his school where we met up with his staff and did a little private training before the evening crew turned up for the seminar. Among other things, they were treated to a demonstration of senior instructor John being welcomed into the ranks of the 'choked out' club. Ater the seminar was done, and John's nice nap a thing of the past, we headed home to Ken's place, where I enjoyed a lovely dinner before egtting a moment to write this blog. I apologize if this blog seems a little strange - as I am certainly beginning to feel strange - having been up since 4am this morning. Time to head ito the land of nod before being heading onward to Coventry in the morning.
More news soon,
Monday, April 20, 2009
AFter Singapore I got a good six hours sleep (not enough) and headed up to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to visit with Sam Wee. We headed to the gym after a quick kopi tarik (traditional coffee) and got stuck into our training. I decided to go focus on 'depth and subtelty' in this session - and so I concentrated on evolving better ways to make things they already knew, work better (there's knowing and then there's understanding). This approach was well received by all, wit those atending vowing to try the new strategies out on those who didn't attend.
We even recruited an innocent bystander, who after watching the seminar for 20 minutes, asked if he could pay, join the school and jump in! Welcome Tony!
Afterward, knowing my weakness for local food, Sam took me out to a nigh market with his lovely wide Marlina and little boy, Sean. Great company, great food - I had a ball.
The next morning we headed back to the gym for an MMA session, in which I delivered one of my favourite MMA training models. This was followed by lunch with a few of the students - ANOTHER BIRTHDAY CAKE - and off afterward to the airport.
After our goodbyes, I boarded my flight and flew back to Singapore, where I waited three hours before getting on the flight to London. Thirteen hours later - I am heere in Heathrow. It's 5:30am - and so I have time to write this blog and do a few other things before my friend Ken Pankeiwicz should appear out of the morning fog. Considerably cooler here than Malaysia.
I am looking forward to tonights training at ken's school.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Training at Fightworks Asia - organized by Jason Quek - was great. We had thirty-odd attendees turn up for the event from a number of Singaporian BJJ and MMA schools.
The training was great fun and very well received. But the biggest surprise of all, was perhaps enjoyed by myself, when Jason produced a birthday cake for me at the end of the evenings training. That's a first! I have never had thirty Singaporeans singing happy birthday to me on the mat before. Wow! Thanks guys - your wonderful surprise was much appreciated. I also had a chance to catch up (albeit it briefly) with my friend Kon Quek. Kon gave me a framed pic of my wife, and our son Felix, dressed up to the nines at his wedding at Raffles just after Christmas.
My Singapore visit was a real blast. I look forward to coming back and visiting with Jason and Kon again soon. I must also thank Arvid, who graciously allowed us the use of his mat. A really great training facility.
Best wishes and thanks again to everyone who attended the training.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Arrived in Singapore on the first leg of my Asia/Europe seminar oddessy. I was greeted at the airport by Jason Quek and a few of his students – who had come specifically to wish me a happy birthday. I am still unsure how they knew today was my birthday – but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. We went out for a quick bite of Nasi Pattang (a Malaysian fried rice and egg dish)and Teh Tarik (traditional Malay hot tea) – before I headed back to my hotel around midnight (2am Melbourne time) – yuck!
Woke up early (not the best start in Singapore as no-one gets up early – these guys start late and go late) – and headed down the street to find the right combination of place to eat and wireless internet access. Not hard to do in Singapore; it is a ultra modern city and full of the friendliest people you could hope to meet. I do love Singapore.
I am looking forward to our seminar tonight; to be held at Fight Gym Asia. I have a swag of great ideas that I am keen to share with my BJJ students here.
Tomorrow, I am off to Malaysia in the morning to hold training for Sam Wee in Kuala Lumpur. If I can find some internet access, I’ll blog one more time before heading off to London on Sunday night.
Best wishes all,
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
There certainly is nothing wrong with the ‘blank slate’ style of creativity – that kind of creative endeavour that is often displayed by beginners or novices in any given field. However, true creative genius is more usually a product of someone who has attained ‘eminence’ or ‘expertise’ in their given field. More often than not, creative genius follows an incubation period – a period of time in which the fundamental rules, principles and techniques of a skill-set become fully internalised. Here is where the oft-cited 10-year-rule comes into effect. Ten years in a given field can give rise to a profound level of ownership of the tenets and principles in that field – hopefully, creating a fertile bed from which novel and breakthrough ideas can emerge.
Total immersion in our chosen field can give rise to a level of ownership that in turn may ultimately give rise to true creative genius. Immersion first – then creativity.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Lets think of eggs.
They have no legs.
Chickens come from eggs and they have legs.
Eggs come from chickens but have no legs under’um.
Let’s think of eggs … now what a conundrum!
What came first – the instructor or the student? Without the instructor, there was no student. Without the student, the instructor could not exist. The answer of course, is that each gave birth to the other. People wanting to learn demanded that a teacher appear – those who wanted to teach, heard this plea and made their timely appearance. From that point forward, the symbiotic relationship grew until the distinctions became more and more pronounced.
Over time, both student and teacher skill-sets should evolve. Students become better learners, they come to the teacher more well-informed and their expectations of service become more acutely honed. The teacher, on the other hand, should also be open to the evolutionary process. The teacher should stay well-informed, of both developments in his or her field of expertise and of the teaching and coaching methods used to deliver instruction in those fields. Chickens evolve – eggs evolve. Chickens that fail to evolve will stop laying eggs – eggs that fail to evolve will remain at the mercy of the increasingly more-hungry chickens. Students and teachers alike … need to be open to change.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Imagine you are neck deep in a swamp. The slime is lapping at your chin and your legs are knee deep in the sticky bog. Can you get out, and back onto firm ground, in a single step?
The answer is no! if it took you a dozen steps to make your way into the murky mire, then it will likely take you at least that many to make your way back out again. There are usually only one particular set of circumstances that will allow you to extricate yourself from a bog in one single step – and that is if you are only one step in.
One of the reasons that people have difficulty in extracting themselves from sticky situations, is they are looking for a single-step solution to a multi-faceted problem. Also, problems often look more unsolvable than they actually are because of our natural tendency to seek a one-step solution – a quick fix – and when we ask the question ‘CAN I GET OUT OF THIS NOW?’ (with a single act) - our 4 lbs of grey problem-solving hardware comes back with a resounding answer – NO! And so we see the problem as insurmountable.
And all of that is because we are asking the wrong question. If instead, we ask the question ‘CAN WE IMPROVE OUR SITUATION BY 5%?’ – the answer will almost always come back – YES! We can nearly always improve our situation by 5%. Having money troubles – don’t eat pizza or hire videos for a month and save the money. Now you’re 5% better off. Having relationship troubles – kiss your loved one before you leave the house and buy her (or him) a small gift for no reason (with the money you saved from your ‘pizza abstinence’ – 5% better off! And so on.
A couple of 5% improvements and the whole problem begins to unravel at an exponential rate. Because a problem at 75% strength s=often seems very solvable – but a problem at 100% strength seems insurmountable.
Want to get out of side control – or pass an opponents guard – ask the right question. An initial speed-appraisal may fool us into believing that the problem is not solvable. But can we improve our situation by 5% - almost certainly!
Ask the right question.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
I have had so much feedback about my blog on the Emergent Event that I thought it worthwhile following up with more on the subject.
Everyone experiences Emergent Events. Our lives are filled with them, but we rarely notice. We don’t notice, because the associated learning has probably been effortless. When each of us learned his or her native language, we did so with no apparent effort. And if someone had taken the time to track our learning, they would almost certainly have noticed that it was not a gradual process. We stumbled along with a few words and a few badly constructed sentences – until suddenly – BAM – we were chatting away like little miniature people – and so it went, until over time, we gained competence. But the gains were comprised of stagnant periods, interspersed with monumental leaps in fluency.
In my view, these big jumps in our ‘learning curve’ are very closely linked to making connections – or more importantly, making the RIGHT connections.
The right connections are those ones that open the way for even more connections. If I may make an analogy, using our ‘social networking’ as an example, it goes like this:
There we are living our lives, mixing with our usual circle of friends, and slowly, over time, our social network expands, because our friends may have other friends who, upon occasion, they introduce us to. Normal growth. The we meet someone outside of our circle of friends, whom we like, but this person has a whole new group of friends, perhaps his friends are all into real estate, or surfing, or martial arts – things that we have never been intimately involved with. Now, as we are drawn into that new landscape, our social networking undergoes a huge jump – Emergent Event. Some of these new connectios have the potential to take us off in completely new directions and open even more connections.
I believe that the connections are important when we are learning – but the RIGHT connections account for some of the huge ‘skill spikes’ we undergo in our development. So it is with social networking, so it is with learning and so it is with skill development.
Hope you are finding this interesting …