Teaching the shadow …


I have taught a lot of classes - far more than the average martial arts instructor - well over 25,000 - of you need a number. Over the course of these 25,000 experiments (as it is my nature to view experiences as experiments) I have come to learn a number of useful things. 


On elf the things I see, on the Combatives martial arts landscape - is the ‘over-use’ of lecture/style instruction. Usually, when the instructor is coaching, all the students sit or stand, unmoving, and listen to what that instructor has to say. More often than not, the instructor takes far, far too much time, explaining their point. More standing. More student statues.


I have not found this to be an overly effective way of training people for action-oriented outcomes. Certainly, there is a time to have students stop, and give the instructor their full and undivided attention; but there is also great value to be had by having them learn to ‘take instruction’ whilst in a state of action. After all, we are trying to impart skills that will be needed and used, in that exact state. 


My preference is to lean heavily toward, teaching students to process information and respond to coaching, whilst in a state of action. This is congruent with the outcomes I am looking for. 


When students are sitting or standing there, listening to me talk about underlying principles, or even specific details, I feel I am to a degree, teaching their shadow … I am connected to the part of their mind that likes to ‘understand’ … and though this is important, the ‘state of action’ is where the real skill-uptake is to be found. 


We can talk about ‘property investment’ as another example; someone can pay good money, attend a three-day property investment seminar, learn all the reasons why it might be a good idea, all the strategies, the processes, etc … but how many people, after completing said course, actually take action and buy property? According to several studies, the answer to that question is between 1 and 3%. I ask myself, what is wrong with this model? 


Well …  ‘understanding’ and ‘action’ are two entirely different things. If I were teaching property investment to someone, after a brief introductory overview of the processes and rationale, I would take the student by the hand, and walk them step-by-step through the actual process; until they took ownership of their property. A clunky example perhaps - but one that I have seen work first hand. Humans beings learn wonderfully, by DOING! Doing = Action. Sitting in a chair and listening = understanding. What I call ‘shadow learning’. We need both to complete the picture. One is more about the ‘why’ - the other is more about the ‘how’.

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