Failure: Pro's and Con's

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Utahblaine, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I suck at martial arts. I am fine with that. I just aim to suck a bit less over time.
     
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  2. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I am still trying to reconcile the fact that I resemble that remark. That sucks too.
     
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  3. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I saw this the other day. It reminded me of this thread...
    A15D1CE1-AAC9-4072-93E7-29EDDD372E26.jpeg

    I thought I posted it yesterday, but I guess not.
     
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  4. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Life if all about interpretation. I feel I have always got the "fake it until you make it" saying. When things come crashing down on you, don't put your head in a hole and stop. Maintain the course even when sometimes you are just spinning your wheels. When I was younger I used to hate that idea. "I had to be moving forward" or what was the point. As I get older it has a deeper meaning.
    I have something call surgery induced MS. Sometimes it flares up. This and also having a seizure made for a rough weekend. I did NOT want to go teach class last night. Was a breath away from calling to say I was not coming. But I followed what
    @JR 137 's poster says. I was faking it at the start of class. But as we got into the second hour I was feeling much better and we ended up having a great class.
     
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  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    From a purely psychological perspective, we actually learn more from failure than from success. Our brains react more to unexpected outcomes (read: failure) than expected outcomes. With this in mind, I think failure is essential to efficient learning. Is it possible to reach the same level of learning without much failure? Probably, but only in theory, IMO.

    Now we get to the necessary question: what is "useful" failure? Is it necessary to have students fail tests? Probably not (though some students will benefit from it). Is it necessary they fail to frustrating levels? Probably not (though some students will benefit from it). Is it necessary to actually fail with techniques - even ones they're good at? Yes, absolutely. That failure teaches what works, when, and how often. There are techniques I LOVE and am VERY good at, but they are not techniques you can expect to work anything like every time. If my partners just let me do those, never preventing me, then I will develop a false understanding of how and when they work. How do I know? Because I was there and trained that way for a significant part of my training in my primary art. And I had the false sense of reliability that comes from it.

    It's useful to be stymied. It's useful find out someone dramatically outclasses you. It's useful to find out your superior skill doesn't necessarily stop someone from outclassing you if they have other advantages in spades.

    Yep. We need failure.
     
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  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    If we change to that to using a MA technique, then that's the desired outcome. If you keep trying it, and it keeps not working, then something is wrong. If you can't find someone who can do with it what you can't, then the problem is the technique, and you should be "afraid" (so to speak) to try it again.
     
  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I wish I could click "agree" twice on this. I can't, so I'll just say this:

    Agree.
     
  8. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I assume you mean doing things where failure is likely (like competing, sparring against someone who will certainly outclass you, etc.). I'd agree.
     
  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, I'd rather spend 4 hours tinkering with technique than one hour of hard strength exercise to support that. Gotta do both to get the result.
     
  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I see where you're going, but I'd argue that when you try to do something (test, or a technique) and it doesn't work, that's a failure of some sort.
     
  11. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I think there's a couple of types of "failure" being discussed in this thread, which are completely different discussions. One is a lost game, the other is a failed exam. The "lost game" is whenever your technique was not good enough to succeed in the drill or to beat your partner. You lose a sparring round, you try a takedown and it fails, etc. The "failed exam" is when you are being evaluated for promotion and do not succeed.

    Where these differ is in whether they should be a "teaching moment" or a "wake-up call".

    A lost game should be a teaching moment. Why did this technique fail? What can you do to make it succeed next time, or what should you do if it fails next time? For example, in a hapkido technique, maybe it failed because you didn't use proper footwork, in which case you should fix your footwork. Or maybe it failed because the person is locked against that technique, which means your technique is fine, but you need to reverse direction and try a different technique in order for your defense to be successful.

    However, in an examination, if the instructor's mindset is "this person needs to be taught a lesson, so I will fail them" it comes from a place of vindictiveness. However, if it comes from the mindset of "this student really needs a wake-up call", then it should be followed up with teaching moments in class.

    I do believe that beginners should be insulated from failure. When someone is first learning a technique, the partner should just go along with it, until they've built up the confidence and proficiency enough to add resistance. Beginner belts have to grow in their technique, but also in their understanding of how the school works. Someone who is a white or yellow belt testing, it's their first or second time testing and they're still figuring out how that part of class works. Someone who is a red belt should know what's expected at the school, and if they're trying to coast through they need a wake-up call that they're starting to fall behind.
     
  12. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    I disagree with this. People need to learn to deal with failure. First to accept it, then to learn how to use it.

    People also need to learn what failure is. Failure is not an indicator of a persons character or abilities or worth. Failure is like wearing a colored thing to hold your gi closed. It means you tried to do a specific thing, at a specific time and that time it did not work out. It doesn't mean you can't do it, that you won't do it or anything else. You should probably look at the failure and figure out what caused it, then figure out how to fix it.

    The whole process of self analysis is the process of identifying new areas where we are failing, so that we can work on those things in order to succeed at them. In order to become good at doing something, we need to learn this process... the master won't always be right there to correct you, and if you are in a class with 30 other students, he doesn't have time to tell everyone individually, what they need to work on. You fill that in with your self analysis.

    Insulating beginners from failure, to me, is bait and switch. At some point, they will wake up and realize how much they suck. And because they never saw it before, it can be a shock. Additionally, why hide from them, one of the most powerful tools they can use to improve?

    Note that this does not mean that I advocate beating them to a pulp on their first class. (usually first classes are free... wait until they sign the paperwork and the check for the startup fee clears... ;) ) There is a middle ground, where you can work with them, at their level. They can still fail, because they will. They can still succeed as well. Helping them learn to take a big failure, and break it into a bunch of little failures, many of which they can immediately address... will give them a skill and allow them to experience success, even when they can't do the whole form yet. Maybe their success for the day is getting the right foot forward to start, even though the rest of the form is completely wrong. They should feel success for getting that right foot forward. They should understand that they fail, when they put the wrong foot forward and they should understand, that the rest of the form is failing. But each class they can have success, adding the next piece on, until they can do the whole form. Once that happens, then we start to realize how badly we are doing each of the pieces of the form, then each of the transitions and then... I have yet to meet someone who got to the end and did their form perfectly, with nothing else to work on. Thats why we all still train.
     
  13. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Learning should be a progression. I've brought it up in other threads, but when you first learn a technique, the usual process is:
    1. Drill with no resistance to build muscle memory
    2. Drill with passive resistance to build correct technique
    3. Failure drills to build correct reactions
    4. Drill with active resistance
    5. Spar, experiment, and apply variations to the technique or situations
    If you skip straight to step 2 or step 3 it can be a lot more difficult to learn the proper technique, because you're meant to apply it before you've really learned it. If you stay in Step 1 or Step 2, then you won't grow. And I agree that if you skip from Step 1 to Step 4 or 5, then you will have a huge shock. This is why the progression is necessary. You start off fairly insulated so you can learn the technique before applying it.

    Now, for a beginner, every single thing you learn is a new technique. Every combination you learn is multiple NEW techniques coupled with combining them together. You're also learning the vocabulary of the school, which can be fairly simple or it can be complex. For example:
    • A student might think a spinning hook kick is a "roundhouse kick" and try the wrong thing when told to roundhouse kick
    • Young kids sometimes have to learn the difference between a punch and a kick
    • If your art uses a language other than what you speak (i.e. using only Japanese terms for the techniques used in an American Karate school)
    When everything is new, and they are struggling with everything, they should be encouraged that they are doing the right thing. The right thing to be listening and following directions. At this point, mistakes are okay, because they're learning something entirely new. They're even learning how to learn the martial art.

    When they get to the point where they have a pretty good idea how class works, where they've got a good grasp on where they are with their techniques, that's when it's time to start letting them fail and learn from it.

    If you never progress beyond "good job", then it's a problem. But if someone goes into their first class and spends ten minutes on sweeps and never takes anyone down, ten minutes on sparring and never gets a single point or blocks a single kick, and spends 10 seconds on the heavy bag before hurting their hand, that's a student that's not coming back for Class #2.
     
  14. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    I am not arguing your process. But you said:
    They should not be insulated from failure. That doesn't mean that there is no process. As I mentioned, it does not mean to beat them up on day one, but to work with them at their level. However, it is possible to fail at every one of your five steps... I know, because I fail at every one of those, on a regular basis. The students, especially the beginners should learn to recognize their failures, and deal appropriately with them.

    If you are asked to step forward with the right foot, punching with the right hand... and you step forward with the left foot.... thats failure. If its your first day or 10,000th day, you need to recognize that as a failure and correct it. If its your first day, it might be the only thing you correct all class... thats ok. Thats progress. I have been studying martial arts for ~25 years. There are classes I go to, and spend the entire class trying to get the correct foot to go to the correct place in a kata. I consider it a success, if the only thing I do, is get that one step fixed. This is the same process that a student should start day one. Being insulated from failure, on day one, helps them gain bad habits that become harder to break later. The more important habit to start developing is how to use all the failure to our benefit.
     
  15. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    We might be agreeing with each other, but you're talking about how the elephant is a wall and I'm talking about how it's a rope. (If you don't know the reference, lemme know and I'll explain it).

    Regarding the 5 steps, I'm saying that if they can't succeed at Step 1 or Step 2, we stay there until they get it and are ready to move on. We don't give them the failures of Step 3 and Step 4, until they're done fixing the major failures in Step 1 and Step 2.

    I was more addressing your concept of knife and gun defense, and building false confidence. I think that at first you have to build confidence, then you build competence. If you go the other way around, most people will be discouraged and quit. Now, if someone thinks they're good and they move up and fail, that's when failure is a teaching tool. But at first, you don't want to put them in deeper waters than they're capable of swimming in.

    Moving on to the left-foot right-foot thing, there was a kid who started at my school that I corrected his foot position too many times, he got overwhelmed and quit. In fact, I'm sure several beginners quit during my first year or two as the instructor at my school, because of little things like that. For an established student, they would know that I'm just trying to help. But a beginner doesn't have the confidence yet, and so it overwhelmed him with embarrassment. You can say "well maybe he couldn't handle martial arts", but I also think that's the kind of kid who really needs something that can help him build his confidence. There's another girl, something similar happened. She was a yellow belt, and I made her cry and she left class very early on. However, her parents brought her back, they talked with the Master, and he explained to the girl that I was just trying to help and made a mistake. That little girl is one of our best students. She is close to getting her black belt, she is one of the youngest kids on our demonstration team, and she's been nothing but excellent as far back as I can remember. It was the same reaction (left class crying because of me being overly critical), but I backed off a little bit and she thrived.

    When you focus so much on correcting every little detail, some students appreciate it, but others feel like they can't do anything right. For you, with 25 years of experience, you've got a lot of history to look back on and think "okay, I've done this process thousands of times before and it's always worked out in the end." But for a beginner, with only a few weeks worth of experience, they might not see that light at the end of the tunnel.

    That's not to say that we don't keep correcting it, but that at the beginner level we don't harp on it. We point it out, and if they can fix it - good! If they can't fix it, we keep class going, and we work on it the next class. We might point it out a couple times a class, and maybe every once in a while really focus on it, but the process is about continual improvement, and not instantaneous perfection.

    We don't let beginners think they can just coast. But when someone is just starting, they've got so much to learn, that focusing too much on details can slow them down on learning everything else.
     
  16. mrt2

    mrt2 Purple Belt

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    You make some interesting points, especially the difference between failing in class and failing at a test. I think there are students who don't take the lessons to heart in class and then as a result, fail, or marginally pass on testing day. From what I see, it is mostly, but not exclusively a problem with younger students.

    One student at my school comes to mind with this discussion, but I don't know if he learns from failure. This kid, age 16 actually tries really hard; maybe harder than most kids his age. He has good power but terrible control. And he has serious problems remembering the curriculum, which is a serious problem at a test as our head instructor might overlook a mistake or two if, when given a chance to correct it, the student identifies the mistake and corrects it. ,But he won't pass a person who forgets big chunks of curriculum at a test. Sadly, despite good effort and regular class attendance, this kid is at least 4 or 5 belt ranks behind where he should be and has failed at least two belt tests and voluntarily not tested at least 2 or 3 other times just because he knew he couldn't pass. Honestly, I fear that if he fails another belt test, he might just quit. And based on what I saw last night with this kid's forms/kata and basics, I am not optimistic he can test the end of this month.
     
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  17. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Maybe the lesson is he shouldn't try so hard.

    My guitar instructor always tells me "I'm impressed by accuracy, not by speed." If his only thing is power, but not control, technique, or curriculum, maybe he needs to dial his power back and focus on the other things.

    When people don't take lessons to heart, that's when they should be allowed to fail. When they don't learn what the Master wants them to learn, that's when they should be allowed to fail. Beginners haven't had time to take anything to heart and are still figuring out what the Master wants them to learn.
     
  18. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    I would not want to build up a person's confidence in a skill that they are not competent in. That is exactly what I was saying about weapon disarms... don't give them a false sense of confidence, by insulating them from failure at weapon disarms... because they might actually have the confidence to try something that they are not competent in. Why give them the confidence in a punch that they are not competent in? They may actually try it, believing they are good at it, only to find out in the real world, that they are not very good at it. They will experience real world consequences. Just work on helping them become competent... the confidence will come.
    This sounds a lot like instructor issues. You don't beat them up physically for failing, even though you allow them to fail. You also don't beat them up mentally for failing. In these cases, the instructor working with the kids failed and hopefully, learned. In my opinion, the instructor's instructor failed to properly train the instructor how to be one. Hopefully, he has learned as well... sounds like he lost a few students in the process though. That might be a topic for another thread, how to correct people as an instructor or how to properly train an instructor.

    However, students from day one should be allowed to fail. They should know that they have failed. They should be given things that they can succeed at that day, in that class, that will lead them towards a bigger success later. They should be taught to realize the success of getting the next piece right, now matter how small that piece is. No matter how much experience a person has or doesn't have, the path is the same. I think there was another thread titled something like "You suck at Martial Arts." Without knowing that you suck and where you suck, you can not improve. And once you improve, you just find more places where you suck.
     
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  19. mrt2

    mrt2 Purple Belt

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    Yes, indeed. Focus, and calm would be a good thing. Maybe some visualization exercises as well. That is what I suggested to him. I said, watch one of the black belts practicing the forms, then visualize yourself doing the same forms, step by step. But I just don't know. I am willing to bet he won't test for another couple of months, which would make just one belt advancement for this kid in over a year, which might be a record at my school for fewest color belt advancements for a student continuously training.
     
  20. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    You're not building their confidence in the skill, but in their ability to learn the skill.

    No student, whether competent with gun disarms or not, should seek a situation where they can try it in the real world.

    Did you miss the part where I said "during my first year or two as an instructor"? How about the part where I showed that I learned my lesson?
     

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