why

KenpoDave

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I think that very often, "why" is the wrong question. For example, "Why would you spear-hand someone in the throat?"

The answer is self evident. To kill them. Trying to prove a different intent in a court of law will be difficult.

So, the question itself is flawed, yet leads to a discussion of "how" and then onto "when" and/or "under what circumstances." I find that more mature practitioners don't ask "why" as often. That may be because I answer the question as stated, often forcing them to restate what they want to know. I do that because I have found often in that when I am able to state my question clearly and correctly, I find the answer. The question becomes a search for validation of my idea. Often, when I would ask my instructor a question, he would ask me, "Are you asking me or telling me?" I would then get sent to the mat to work it out for myself, leading me to conclude that the answer to theoretical questions is found in real practice.

My father-in-law, a career theologian and academic with multiple Ph.Ds once told me that he felt like he could find all the answers if he could just figure out the right questions.
 

Stephen Kurtzman

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My father-in-law, a career theologian and academic with multiple Ph.Ds once told me that he felt like he could find all the answers if he could just figure out the right questions.

Your father-in-law was very wise. Genius is found in the question, not the answer.

peace,
stephen
 

SL4Drew

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So, "really good and knowledgeable teachers" can decide. But in your lineage, students are not allowed to ask why. Does that mean in your lineage you don't have "really good and knowledgeable teachers"? I mean no disrespect by that question. I mean only to bring to your attention a valid inference that one can draw from your statement.

As a student, let me try to share my experiences. There is a certain unspoken, unstated protocol to asking questions. Not only are questions asked, but sometimes they are asked from a place of doubt or disbelief. So, there are certainly questions out on the floor, but it's going to be hard to fully put into words that culture.

The information comes out like a steady stream of water from a garden hose. You just have to be present, aware, and on track. The term 'to Bode' came into slang usage from Bode's early tendency to want to drink from a fire hose (my metaphor). I've heard Bode say he doesn't ask near the amount of questions anymore because the answers come if he is just patient or thinks about it some first. Good questions at the appropriate time are extremely useful, but a lot of questions with the answers to which you won't fully grasp can frustrate or retard the learning process. And a lot of 'bad' questions will slow down the entire class.

I'd also add Doc VERY much has a vision for a student moving along the curriculum. Because he knows where he wants the student to be at a certain level and has the material meticolously developed, I honestly think you could get by on very few 'why' questions. This is because the answers will come as a natural part of the material he has presented. That is a credit to the decades he has spent thinking about how to teach all this. The learning process is a steady pace, not a sprint.

Your rule sounds like a good one in a group class dedicated to physical training or first-level instruction. It might even be appropriate in other settings depending on the personalities and goals of your students -- i.e., if they lack discipline or seek only to be fighters.

Doc is very much about function first. You don't need understand how or why it works. You aren't going to be teaching the material. In the beginning, the focus is on performing the material at the highest level possible. White belts need to perform first, understand later. It's the warrior and scholar dichotomy.

It sounds like a horrible rule for private lessons, advanced classes, and seminars. And it would run counter to nourishing real students of the art.

Doc didn't say he never explains why, it's just not the approach taken in the beginning. Seminars aren't with his students, so yes those are usually done somewhat differently. As Doc said, it really falls to the teacher to provide appropriate answers at the correct time.

Wow, Doc. I'm sorry to hear you say that. It seems you think a question is a challenge to your authority instead of an exploration of ideas. If that's the case, then that is sad.

No, in fact I think Doc likes it sometimes when someone falls into the trap of thinking something he is showing will not work. He has created the expectation that the teacher always has to be able to demonstrate that what he is saying will work. But I don't think of this as exactly a 'why question', it is more a demonstration.

That is not the attitude I would expect to hear coming from someone who holds a PhD and runs an organization named "The Martial Science University". It is my understanding that the foundation of both the sciences and universities is to always allow the questioning of ideas. I also thought Mr. Parker believed there was always room to challenge what we know or are taught.

peace,
stephen

To borrow from the academic model, you can't show up for first day of basic freshman math and start asking questions about calculus. As the student you aren't ready for it and neither is the class. It's a building process. Doc is a phenomenal teacher. I can attest, if you are patient and build a good foundation, what you need will come. I ask a lot less questions now than I did 10 years ago, but I think I understand it A LOT better now.
 

Stephen Kurtzman

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SL4Drew,

Thanks for your perspective on that. Based on your posting, it seems Dr. Chap矇l did not do himself justice in answering the question the way he did.

peace,
stephen
 

Doc

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Doc, do you discount the value of curiosity? In my teaching, I've found that when a student asks a question, it can mean any combination of a number of things:

1. I've not been clear in my presentation.
2. I've not motivated the material properly to give them context.
3. They are not ready for the material being presented.
4. They require a different presentation to understand the material.
5. They are seeking to make connections in their mind between the present lesson and other lessons.
6. They are using their brains and see possibilities and implications of the material beyond the context of the lesson at hand.

And it is my experience when one student asks a question, others have the same question but are too timid to ask. A good answer to a well asked and/or well timed question can make the difference between a great class and just another drill.
No argument with anything you said. However, our curriculum is unique academically and physically, initially geared to one purpose - to the students benefit in developing physical skills. Nothing else, and anything else comes later.
So, "really good and knowledgeable teachers" can decide. But in your lineage, students are not allowed to ask why. Does that mean in your lineage you don't have "really good and knowledgeable teachers"? I mean no disrespect by that question. I mean only to bring to your attention a valid inference that one can draw from your statement.
No need to qualify. My teachers are the best and most well educated group of Kenpo people around. They come to me with vast amounts of education, and I shape their intelligence to teach the skills, and watch them grow in the process - but it is all measured. However i put not only the skill of my students against anyones of comparable level, but their intelligence as well.
Your rule sounds like a good one in a group class dedicated to physical training or first-level instruction. It might even be appropriate in other settings depending on the personalities and goals of your students -- i.e., if they lack discipline or seek only to be fighters.

It sounds like a horrible rule for private lessons, advanced classes, and seminars. And it would run counter to nourishing real students of the art.
You need to reread my posts on the subject sir. Anyone who has ever had an advanced class with me, or a very rare private, (don't believe in them in general), will tell you otherwise.
Wow, Doc. I'm sorry to hear you say that. It seems you think a question is a challenge to your authority instead of an exploration of ideas. If that's the case, then that is sad.
That's probably as far from who I am as you can get. I have written into our curriculum, (which I write in its entirety), something I call a "Challenge Test." Any student at anytime has the right to challenge the "how" of anything to check its efficacy against another method. I feel this is important so that students will believe in material, and therefore will not hesitate to utilize it. But you may only challenge test something that you can do, not things that you cannot, and until you can actually do, you certainly have no need for why.
That is not the attitude I would expect to hear coming from someone who holds a PhD and runs an organization named "The Martial Science University". It is my understanding that the foundation of both the sciences and universities is to always allow the questioning of ideas. I also thought Mr. Parker believed there was always room to challenge what we know or are taught.
You should read what I wrote. Sprinkled throughout are words like, "beginners," or phrases like "in the beginning." I have professional musicians, more than several doctors, a plethora of lawyers, top level government project computer geeks and code writers, college professors, a slew of gun totin' macho cops, federal agents, sheriff's, a fireman or two who run into burning buildings for a living, and more than a couple corporate executives. High powered hard charging people accustomed to giving orders and having people jump. They all get their questions answered at the appropriate time, but I have to admit sometimes I have to stop and ask them if they are going to challenge me on some of the things I've said. Most of the time they just look at me at say, "No, we know better by now. We'll just wait."

Information overload is a more likely scenario, than withholding answers to simple "why's."

Anyone who has ever had a class or seminar with me will attest to this, but in the beginning, I give you the "why's" as I teach, because I know "where" they are. I'll give you an example. I'll watch Bode or someone do something, and their body language will change, and they'll look at me and begin to speak. Before they can get a word out I will say, "Because ........" and answer their question. It easy when you know the question before the student thinks to ask it.

Until someone actually studies with us, they have no idea of the level of sophistication of what we do, and the teaching method. It is not like any other "martial art" class. It is indeed actually, "Martial Science" lecture sprinkled with biomechanical physical performance training.
 

DavidCC

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I think that very often, "why" is the wrong question. For example, "Why would you spear-hand someone in the throat?"

The answer is self evident. To kill them. Trying to prove a different intent in a court of law will be difficult.

So, the question itself is flawed, yet leads to a discussion of "how" and then onto "when" and/or "under what circumstances." I find that more mature practitioners don't ask "why" as often. That may be because I answer the question as stated, often forcing them to restate what they want to know. I do that because I have found often in that when I am able to state my question clearly and correctly, I find the answer. The question becomes a search for validation of my idea. Often, when I would ask my instructor a question, he would ask me, "Are you asking me or telling me?" I would then get sent to the mat to work it out for myself, leading me to conclude that the answer to theoretical questions is found in real practice.

My father-in-law, a career theologian and academic with multiple Ph.Ds once told me that he felt like he could find all the answers if he could just figure out the right questions.

yeah, what he said :)

Since the first few minutes after I met him, literally, less than 10 minutes, at the airport, Doc laid down the 2 rules of questions:
-No questions that start with "why"
-If you want an answer, ask a question


I've never understood him to mean that questions aren't allowed, but you had to think them through before you asked.

I've found that when I am first shown something, "why" questions arise in my mind. If let those germinate a while, and just learn to do the thing, many of those initial questions are answered just by understanding what I have made my body do. Then I have more detailed questions of execution, and maybe some theory, which are beter than those first questions.
 

Matt

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yeah, what he said :)

Since the first few minutes after I met him, literally, less than 10 minutes, at the airport, Doc laid down the 2 rules of questions:
-No questions that start with "why"
-If you want an answer, ask a question


I've never understood him to mean that questions aren't allowed, but you had to think them through before you asked.

I've found that when I am first shown something, "why" questions arise in my mind. If let those germinate a while, and just learn to do the thing, many of those initial questions are answered just by understanding what I have made my body do. Then I have more detailed questions of execution, and maybe some theory, which are beter than those first questions.

Okay, I see the logic in this. I often get questions that indicate that someone didn't read the directions. Think then ask.
 

DavidCC

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it seems sometimes having some boundaries makes you work harder at something...

like, try going an entire day without using any conjugation of "to be" : am is are was were be been being.

Not only will that shift you into a much more self-responsible mode ("I like it" vs "It is good"), it also makes you think about every thing you say before you say it.
 

Aikicomp

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The "Why?" of a technique is core to the understanding of that technique. "What?" and "How?" are both subordinate to it (as is "Where?" to a large extent).

To me, "Why?" is a very critical question for a student to ask. I certainly don't want anyone I teach for any amount of time to be willing to just accept what I tell them as gospel. Learning and understanding comes from questioning.

It is true that when anyone starts in an art you don't know enough to know what questions to ask - you have no frame of reference. But time reveals that in any established art, particularly koryu ones, there are answers to be found and the student begins to know what to ask.

Very well put and I agree with all you have said.

IMO, the WHY is just as important as the HOW in relation to the level of technique being taught and the level of the student's experience.

I can show a student HOW to do anything in our system, however, without them understanding the WHY behind it makes learning go a lot slower and they become frustrated a lot easier. On the other hand, keep in mind, that when I do teach I explain the techniques in such a way that most of the why's are answered before they have a chance to ask them. That trait/skill does not come over night and has to be aquired/perfected over years of teaching.

Any Instructor who will not take the time to answer a students sincere question about a technique the best way they can (whether it's a who, what, where, when or how) so that the student can understand it better and learn it easier and more efficiently is not a "teacher" and never will be with that kind of attitude.

Michael
 

Danjo

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All of this seems to indicate that the "why" isn't axiomatic in the "how". Very rarely will someone need to ask "Why" if they are shown "How". If they do not know why, then they probably don't know how. If they know how, they know why. If you do a technique properly, then the reason "why" is "Because it works". If someone shows you how to do it differently and it works better, then the reason "why" is "Because it works better"

On the other hand, If I'm reading about some technique in a book, internet or magazine, or looking at one on a video, then "Why" may well come up in my mind. It's why I don't belive in that type of training.
 

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