Being "switched on" to learning

Be "switched on" to learning. Even those of us who are instructors are still students. We learn from our own instructors and other instructors that we may train with from time to time. There are even things which can be learnt from the students in the classes we teach. And as students we can be subject to the same pitfalls as any other student.

Most classes follow a basic format: kihon (fundamentals), kata and kumite. The form that these elements take can vary from week to week or be exactly the same week in week out, depending on the teacher and the club. Some clubs adopt a standard format and adhere rigidly to it which possibly brings comfort to the type of people who like the security of a set routine but may bore others to tear. Classes in other clubs may change on a weekly basis as the instructor decides which aspect to concentrate on in a lesson. In either case there will be occasions when some part of the lesson will be spent practicing kihon, and sometimes when we come to class we want to get through these basics as fast as possible so we can get onto the "good stuff". Yet these basics are the fundamentals of our karate as without them there is not much point in doing the rest of the things that we do in a karate class.

When you feel that basics are not as much fun as what follows in the later part of a class then you tend to "go through the motions" rather than put in real effort - even if it is not a conscious decision. Your instructor(s) do notice when you are not paying full attention to something. To learn, you need to meet them halfway by listening to explanations and following instructions even when it's something that you "already know". In fact, when something is being explained you should try to put what you know to the back of your mind and follow the instructions so that you can match up what you have just been told to the knowledge you already possess. Ths way you can find mistakes in your own techniques and work to correct yourself.

Take a look at the top students in any class. You may find that most, if not all, do the class in this exact fashion. (Note: "top" student perhaps should, but does not always, mean senior student.) They don't think about it, it is just a habit they haev developed. For example, even though they know how to stand in a particular stance, if the instructor is going through the dimensions of the stance, hand positioning etc, you might notice they are checking everything that is being said despite having done so many times before.

So in any class where instructions are being given, stop and take notice. Even if you already know how something should be done, se it as an opportunity to check and double-check yourself. And you might even pick up something more subtle in what the instructor is trying to teach, something which will only be apparent when you have reached a certain level of knowledge and experience.

This is a much better way of learning than just coming to class and trying to soak up the knowledge through your skin. Do this and your karate will benefit. Plus some day you may find yourself in the position of teaching or helping others and then you will be able to pass that benefit on.

- Mick Todd