Students Bypassing Technique

Discussion in 'Aikido' started by gpseymour, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    NOTE: The art I train in (Nihon Goshin Aikido) is not Ueshiba's art, but also falls into the category (not the art) of Aikido.

    I often get folks from other styles asking why we don't spar/roll/randori more often. I was teaching a class last night that happened to have only one student, and he managed to demonstrate the issue quite nicely.

    This student has been training with me for almost 2 years. He is currently a yellow belt (progression is white-yellow-orange-brown-black). He has currently learned 15 of our 50 core techniques (though I've exposed him to some of the others by way of explaining the limitation of other techniques).

    So, we did some free-flow work. I'd step up and give him an attack (grab an arm, grab and pull him in by the lapels, take a swing at him, etc.), and he had to defend. As I would expect, his movement isn't nearly perfect, but he does get the job done. Here's the issue: he quite rarely managed to use any of the techniques he'd learned. What he did was apply the principles. He actually stumbled into some technique he didn't have yet, because they are (obviously) based on the same principles.

    Therein lies the quandary. The more free-flow work we do like that, the less he learns to execute cleanly. It's good practice in problem solving and applying the principles (far better than I'd have done at his level, IMO), but doing that too often would leave him working off that small part of the curriculum, and having to invent bits to fill the gaps. So, we work most of the time on technique, to fill his toolbox and give him better execution than just stumbling upon those tools.

    I've often thought about moving faster through the curriculum, but then all they learn is techniques. By slowing the pace (minimum of about a year to yellow, 18 months to orange, 2 years to brown), students have fewer individual tools, but get the principles faster, so are more able to execute against intent, and even against resistance (by being able to flow to where it isn't).
     
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  2. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    That's the pickle. It's a matter of priorities and emphasis in your art. What's more important? That the techniques are executed exactly right or that they work? I understand that you might be thinking to yourself, "Hey! If they're done right, they work!" I get it. It's a matter of direction.

    Sparring creates a dynamic environment where people start figuring things out. I personally prefer this method. I do an armbar, and to get it to work, I have learned to do it "this" way. You do an armbar, and you do it a little differently. The principles are the same. The technique was taught to us the same way. The basics are the same. But I do it differently because I'm built differently.

    it's true that in this kind of an approach, there is some backward movement sometimes. There are times when you will have tried something, and it works sometimes and not in others, and you're like, "What am I doing wrong?" That's when you stumble onto a detail. Whether you discover it on your own or your coach says, "that isn't working because [insert detail here]" you will retain it because you fully understand the context for it.

    The other direction is to teach technique and enforce compliance. I don't personally like this approach. It tends to put the onus of responsibility for techniques working on the technique (not the individual), discourages experimentation, and focuses on techniques over principles. It does have a few advantages. It's less chaotic, and provides for a very well structured curriculum.
     
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  3. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Is there a reason he's only learned 15 techniques in 2 years? I'd understand if you were teaching an art (like boxing) which uses only a handful of techniques and polishes them to perfection in actual application. However if you are worried that randori time will take away from covering the full curriculum, then it seems like you could move through the curriculum faster.

    BJJ doesn't have a specific curriculum, per se, but I and some of the other instructors in my gym put our heads together a few months back and came up with a general set of guidelines for what we'd like to see in students being promoted to blue belt. Blue belt is the first rank after white and is generally reached in 2-3 years, although some people manage it manage it quicker or slower. The following is what we came up with. (Honestly, this might be a little more exhaustive than typical requirements, because we combined the expectations from different instructors who have slightly different priorities. Still, I'd want a newly promoted blue belt to know at least 90-95% of what's on the list.)


    What I'd like to see in a blue belt.

    Note - I expect a student being promoted to blue belt to have encountered and be working on more items than are on the list below. This is just a list of what the student should know well enough to demonstrate cleanly.

    Standup

    Basic break falls

    technical standup in base

    distance management and clinching against untrained puncher

    basic pummeling

    basic arm drag

    sprawl

    duck under

    basic defense against common untrained street attacks (haymaker, headlock, shove + punch, bear hug, etc)

    at least two takedowns polished enough to be usable in sparring against experienced white belts



    Guard bottom

    Fundamentals of defending vs punches with closed and open guards

    principles of distance management and controlling posture using guard (primarily closed guard and basic feet on hips open guard)

    basics of disengaging and standing up from guard

    basic arm bar, kimura, guillotine, cross-collar choke, and triangle performed with clean technique

    familiarity with common fundamental sweeps (scissor sweep, hip bump, pendulum, butterfly, tripod, sickle, maybe more?) with at least two sweeps from closed guard and two from open guard being solid enough to regularly use during rolling



    Guard top

    Fundamentals of establishing and maintaining good posture and correct hand positioning

    Understanding principles of breaking and passing guard

    At least two guard passes solid enough to use regularly in rolling. Should be familiar with and working on polishing more

    Straight foot lock



    Mount bottom

    Basic punch protection

    safe hand positioning

    solid trap and roll escape - basic variations

    solid knee-elbow escape - basic variations

    ability to use trap&roll and knee-elbow escapes in combination



    Mount top

    Principles of controlling mount and countering basic escapes, applied solidly

    basic armlock, americana, cross-collar choke, and arm triangle with clean technique



    Side mount bottom

    Safe hand positioning

    knee-elbow escape

    escaping to all fours



    Side mount top

    Principles of controlling position from common side mount variations

    basic transitions to other common top positions (mount, north-south, knee ride, kesa)

    americana, kimura, arm lock, arm triangle, bread cutter choke



    Back mount top

    Principles of controlling position

    transition to mount when opponent starts to escape

    rear naked choke, at least one collar choke



    Back mount bottom

    basic principles of escape



    Half-guard bottom

    basic principles of defensive positioning

    recovery to full guard

    at least one solid sweep



    Half-guard top

    basic principles of control

    at least one solid pass



    In general

    Solid movement for bridnging, shrimping, and turning over to all fours

    Familiarity with fundamental concepts - posture control, distance control, frames, isolating limbs, using technique rather than strength, what different grips are useful for, etc

    Good control - safe to work with - can be trusted to work with smaller beginners without hurting them

    Has at least a basic gameplan for what to do in the common ground positions, both on top and bottom

    Starting to use moves in combination rather than just individual techniques

    Able to roll at a level generally expected of blue belts, i.e. able to dominate most white belts unless giving up a significant disadvantage in size or athleticism, able to start hanging in there with other blue belts, able to demonstrate clean technique rather than just athleticism
     
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  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    As with everything, there's a balance. Being a school teacher, I get too focused on mastery of the material I'm teaching. It can and does sometimes slow me down.

    My principal is the opposite way - she keeps telling me "exposure" to the material. Basically, she feels as they move on, that exposure will eventually turn into mastery.

    I'm right, she's wrong:)
    She's right, I'm wrong:(

    There's a balance between the two. I want my students to know what I've taught them inside and out, so when they move on and get more advanced education, things are easier. When we apply the skills in lab, it makes sense.

    She wants exposure to the concepts. My feeling is when they do the lab, they see it work, but don't fully understand why. That way seems more like entertainment than education to me.

    But in the end, they need depth of understanding and volume of exposure. It's a balance. She keeps me from getting carried away and going further than I realistically have to and then have to play catch-up the last quarter, and I keep the pace moving along.

    Teaching MA isn't really much different IMO. Teaching is teaching.
     
  5. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    It's very difficult to commit to technique because our brain always thinks that it's not going to work as it was train, as a result we alter it. I have the same problem with some student so on any sparring day you can hear me yell "Trust the technique" on any regular class day you can hear me say "Don't think about the attack. Just do the technique." I've been saying that for 2 years now and the students still don't get it. One day they will learn the same way I did. I just decided to trust the technique 100% and by doing so, a new world opened up to me. Once the students and the other instructor experiences this, they will start trusting the technique.
     
  6. oaktree

    oaktree Master of Arts

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    Teaching I would want my students to develop principles over technique. Principles develop variations and adapting to what it is going on this is especially important in fighting. Technique is the execution of principle in a set pattern in my opinion.
    Here is my example of me in an aikido class I recently took, I do not know the technique of say ikkyo in an aikido setting however I know Ippon dori which though technique wise they have difference in execution, their principle are the same.
     
  7. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    Techniques are not fighting, They are studies of fighting; so, what we did was teach fighting from a set, which allows for anything within logical confines; so, they aren't ever messing up or feeling like they have messed up. Unless they screw that up too. :D
     
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  8. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    Actually, the issue is that if they don't practice the techniques enough, they don't actually do the techniques. They get into things that are like the techniques, using a variation of the principles. But they are not as useful for building upon. For instance, the students was able to off-balance me and either make me stumble or even topple me. But he wasn't able to throw me most of the time, because he wasn't using the last portion of any technique. It just hadn't ingrained enough yet (he was working closest to his newest techniques, which hasn't practiced as much, of course).

    The way I learned, it was all about the techniques for the first few years. I'm at a middle ground: I know how to teach from the techniques, but I also know the best flexibility and adaptation comes from working from the principles - playing in the grey areas between techniques. My students move more slowly through the curriculum, because I spend time having them do things that build their ability to adapt. But if not enough time is spent on the techniques, it has been my experience that students end up with pseudo-techniques. They work, but neither as well nor as often, nor as predictably, as the actual technique. The closest comparison I can think of would be comparing my version of some of the ground techniques I do to your version - perhaps just looking at a basic bridge-and-roll. Mine is more rudimentary. I can practice it a lot, but I'm working off a more limited understanding of the technique. Practicing it more under my understanding will improve it a bit, but it will not get as good as yours unless and until I spend some time (with an instructor) learning the technique properly, and practicing it properly.

    With many techniques, there are so many failure points, students usually miss the key ones. I've even seen instructors muddling about fixing the end position of a failed technique, missing the error made earlier in the technique that caused the failure. This is what I was working on some with the student last night, and is something that I find is learned more quickly when they work the technique in isolation, since they get to work the same technique over and over. In a free flow, there's rarely the opportunity to use the same version of a technique multiple times in a row.
     
  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I should clarify that it's 15 of the "Classical" techniques. That's the formal part of the curriculum. Normally, it should take a student about 15 months to get to this point (15 techniques), by my estimation. Here's what it looks like:

    Basic Self-defense Set (about 6-10 weeks)
    • Simplest defenses against some simple attacks (grabs, standing choke, simple punches, etc.)
    • Basic blocks (plow block, one-hand blocks, hammerfist blocks)
    • Basic strikes (front kick, hammerfist, straight punch, etc.)
    First Classical Set (about 10-20 weeks)
    • 10 Classical techniques
    • Several applications to each technique
    • Long-form kata for practicing the 10 techniques as a flow
    • Long-form "application" kata for practicing a variation of each technique, finishing with a strike
    Practice time and review (until they are ready to test)
    • Many weeks of polishing and practicing
    • A focus on the principles in the techniques
    TEST - Promotion to Yellow (minimum is probably 6 months to this point)

    Intermediate Self-defense Set (about 6 weeks)
    • Simple escapes from mount (basic bridge-and-roll and some simple variations)
    • Single- and double-leg takedowns from the ground (kneeling)
    • Basic counters to more probable attacks when you are on your knees
    • Introduction to "always a weapon" concept
    2nd Classical Set (15-20 weeks)
    • 10 Classical techniques
    • Several applications to each technique
    • Long-form kata for practicing the 10 techniques as a flow
    • Long-form "application" kata for practicing a variation of each technique, with a strike leading into the technique
    So, there's a lot more than the 15 techniques in his training, thus far. We add to that some sporadic attendance due to his business travel the first year, and the first 3-4 months was once a week (I only had one class at the time), and we get to where he is today. He'd probably be at the end of the second and in his next "practice time" phase set if we took out those factors.
     
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  10. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    There's a tradeoff there. I like to show a lot of small details for even basic techniques like the bridge-and-roll. However my experience is that most students don't really absorb all of the fine nuances from my explanation at first even if I come around and correct them individually. But once they have experience trying to make the techniques work in sparring and sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing that they come back and ask "why can't I make this work against Lucas when it works fine on Bob?" Then I show them the relevant detail that they're missing and the light bulb goes on. Now it's not just some arbitrary step they have to memorize to make me happy. It's the solution for a problem they've been actively trying to solve so it makes more sense.
     
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  11. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Hard to argue with anything in this thread. I think what should be kept in mind is we're talking (in a general sense) about students with a just a couple years of training.

    Even Sugar Ray Robinson threw some punches that missed.

    But it sure is nice when those light bulbs go on. :)
     
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  12. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    That makes more sense. Thanks for the explanation.
     
  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I can see that. I've really argued back and forth with myself over the order and flow of the curriculum. I'm using an approach that's fairly different from how I was trained, so I'm still seeing how it works out. So far, I like the progress. Someday I might shorten the introduction time for each set of techniques, and get them to the flow more often and for more weeks between Classical sets.
     
  14. thanson02

    thanson02 Green Belt

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    Lots of good stuff mentioned so far and Tony makes a good point.

    I have noticed this in teaching my students the application lesson plans for our art. It is a matter of information saturation. If I am trying to teach them 5 submission methods from mount for example, some they will get right away and some they will not and it may vary from person to person. But they might get the submission they are having issues with in mount when they are in side mount or even in guard. Over time it comes together.

    Sent from my XT1096 using Tapatalk
     
  15. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    Gerry, in our/my Tomiki aikido (which does derive from Superman... wait, Ueshiba) himself, with a very liberal helping of principles and philosopyhy of Kano's judo, we have even more technique limits than you do. The Randori-no-kata (or Junana-no-kata) 17 basic technique kata has only 19 techniques in it.

    No, wait, only 17. From white to brown and ready to go to black, all you do is a movement exercise, release movements from grasps of the wrist, ukemi and those 17 techniques. My first Tomiki instructor had a saying, walk through the techniques to learn the principles. Techniques will fail, principles won't. He's right. What you're describing as free-flow, we call the hand randori (free practice limited to only hand exchanges of position - which sounds uber-stupid and you'd have to see it to understand how my limited explanation palys out) is how the techniques "show up" during normal movement.

    Personally, I'd say you've probably got a good mix going if your yellow (we'd call it green, but same-same) guy is able to just flow into stuff he "doesn't know yet."
     
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  16. Flatfish

    Flatfish Black Belt

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    All I want to say is that I envy the students who have teachers as thoughtful and dedicated as y'all
     
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  17. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    That was my reaction to it, JP. I'm never pleased with where yellow belts are vis-a-vis actual techniques. They nearly always look awful, especially in actual flow. I'm pleased to see a student at that level actually able to use the principles. I'm going to repeat the exercise with another student tomorrow (one with almost as much time with me, but less prior experience) to see what happens. It's only one data point, thus far, but it's a good one.
     
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  18. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    Yup-yup. Report back when you get some few more data points. What I've found is that if I maintain a balance of about 4:1 of time with kata (you're calling them techniques but same-same) to time spent doing free practice (randori or your words, free form) the students seem to get the most benefit. Too much kata leads to tunnel-vision and the self-referencing loop of "My stuff always works" when it obviously won't, but you have to hedge against people simply going into a brawl, principle-less engagement and stop learning what you are trying (key word, that ... "trying") to teach them.

    My classes are usually about 75 minutes long, give or take. Say the first 15 minutes are warm-up, slaps (backfall, i.e. lifesaving, practice) then rolls, then the Walk (movement exercise for muscle memory development a couple times), then grip releases (and variations sometimes) and all of his is in the first 15 minutes. The next hour is spent in partner-training on kata techniques, keying on "why" things work (learning principles), and then... I really like to get in the last 15 minutes of the free practice, every class, to get them out of the "molded" form practice and into something with a live, moving, not necessarily cooperative (and sometimes combative) partner.

    I don't always get the time to do the free practice, and I can tell when I've been leaving it out for too long. It becomes obvious when I toss a variation in attack at them. If I toss in said variation and it's taken in, absorbed and dealt with with a minimum of fuss, we're good. if not, not.
     
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