You Tube professor ...
You-tube Sensei …
Some twenty years ago, it was made clear to me that we had all shifted, many unknowingly, from the industrial age to the age of information - and what a paradigm shift that was! Many of our parents struggled with it, we are adapting into it and more than likely, our children will wonder what all the fuss was about. Nowadays people have access to information that is only limited by their ability to tap into it by making sense of the internet and it’s many faces – Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. To put it simply, there is just no excuse nowadays, for ignorance.
A quarter of a century ago, when I started Blitz Magazine (Australasia’s Leading MA publication), I did so in an effort to share my passion for the martial arts with others. I wanted to open martial artists eyes to the amazing possibilities of what lay beyond the familiarity of our shores; because quite frankly information on combative culture beyond the mainstream was extraordinarily hard to come by. Back then, there were few books, fewer magazines, and no DVD’s, no internet to speak of; I literally had to cut and paste the magazine together by hand and drive it down to the printers. Yikes!
They were challenging times indeed; particularly if you wanted to stay abreast of martial arts developments abroad. Nowadays, teenagers can readily tell you who won in the UFC and with what technique. This is a huge shift in the martial arts landscape; but like any ‘big shift’ it has both positive and negative consequences.
The flood of information available to any who care to look, is astronomical to say the least. The benefits are fairly obvious; people can make far more informed decisions about the types of training they choose to undertake. People can see martial arts pressure-tested in a variety of environments and can therefore make decisions and form opinions less based on the theoretical and more grounded in actuality. In short, if results are what people are after, they can now more easily sort the chaff from the hay. We are less-dependant on the opinions of others and can now more easily form our own opinions and ideas. The positives are many.
All of this comes at a price though. One obvious downside to this flood of information is the fact that people can confuse entertainment with foundation-building. In the grappling world, arguably the fastest growing sector of the martial arts industry, we see teenagers learning flying armbars before they learn how to hold the mount. In other words, they are taking control and making decisions about what they want and what they need, based on very little or no experience. The instructor is playing less of a role than ever before, in their development as martial artists.
There is nothing at all we can do about this; after all, information is there for the taking and people are grabbing with both hands, as fast as they can. And perhaps this is the way it should be. But we should not lose sight of the fact that good quality instruction and professional guidance cannot be replaced by doing technique searches on You Tube. Training students to a high standard of technical excellence is an art in and of itself. The right things need to be taught to the student and taught in the right order. It may help to think of the process in terms of an artist painting a canvas. He or she begins with a blank canvas and a palette of colours and in applying the paint to the right parts of the canvas, in the right combination of colours, pressure and in the right order, something beautiful can be constructed. Someone else, starting with the same blank canvas, the same, small set of paints can fail, again and again to produce the desired result. In other words the process of producing artful results goes well beyond simple access to the right materials. And this is where the You-tube phenomenon let’s us down; it is easy, particularly for the novice, to be distracted from the fundamental training that he or she needs by the sheer flood of information that is available to anyone with an internet connection.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am absolutely, all for more information. I love how technology helps my daily life and my training. It’s just that I also understand that for every benefit that technology and the information age offers us, there are also subtle dangers that we should be aware of and always, a price to pay. Log on and do a Google search by all means – but also pay close attention to what your flesh and blood instructor has to say. A good instructor or coach can give you something that You-Tube cannot - in a word it is this - context!