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On learning strategies and progressing from Form to Principle based teaching and learning...

Putting aside the "Why learn?" for now, as this is a separate topic. I thought it best to first re-cap on the different learning strategies we all have.

There are different learning strategies in processing what is new and important enough for us to learn, and the following is one way to look at this:- • Visual - see it performed followed by processing • Digital /Auditory - have it explained in words by mouth or by reading, followed by processing • Kinesthetic - physically doing it and taking part followed by processing

We all tend to favour one of the above, but we all use a mix of the three for processing information to learn new skills.

As a general principle - currently a large amount of processing is generated by visual stimulation through TV, internet, advertising etc. There seems to be a growing tendency to learn visually, while Auditory learning seems to be falling behind due to a shortening attention span. Learning martial Arts should (hopefully involve a fair amount of physical and Kinesthetic activity.

It is useful to know your own learning strategies to help you speed up your learning process and to make the process easier both for yourself and for the person teaching you.

Taking myself as an example, the learning process goes something like this: 1) Visual - watch the task performed ...process mentally. 2) Kinesthetic - do it yourself. 3) Auditory - ask questions ....process/ understand. 4) Kinesthetic - try it again...loop it back.

As a teacher it is important to keep the different learning styles in mind to cater to all students and their particular strategies, to allow them to process the information at their own speed.

To do this requires an ability of the teacher to build rapport with the students to fully understand not only "Why" they are learning but also "How" they easily process information. This to help, support and motivate the students on their journey.

I have been very fortunate to have spent one weekend per month for 4 years with Tuhon Pat O'Malley during my course, and as a result I have gotten to know my fellow students well, with Pat having picked up what it takes to get us "Learning" very early on.

Pat has also always encouraged questions. He normally responds straight away, or if he doesn't have an immediate answer, then later in the day. He also very often modifies and moulds the day’s session to incorporate the answers. This is a sign of mastery.

So back on topic with a short definition as I see it; • Form based teaching..."if this happens do this"... • Principle based teaching... intent, structure and movement.

It should be mentioned that the RA Elite Training course has been more Principle based than Form based throughout. This has meant that initially it took longer to grasp the concepts, but as the course progressed the outcome has been different to what I have experienced before in Martial Arts.

As an example; Pat gave us an early introduction to the importance of the principle of "Intent" in Martial Arts and in RA in particular, and then followed up with the practicalities of structure and movement in relation to the weapons in use.

Following the principle of "learning is a question of smaller and smaller distinctions:" The course has taken us through a pattern of going from large and wide to smaller and tighter movements as a way of preventing sensory overload / overwhelm while keeping both structure and movement going in the students.

This has been accomplished by going from long weapons and sticks to smaller and smaller weapons, and tighter and tighter action patterns for each new topic taught.

Pat has also used progression and layering techniques in teaching the course based on: Hands; structure; movement; hands, using the same progression with different weapons to layer the understanding of the application, body structure and relevant movement.

Pat has continuously shown and later explained the importance of "Keep structure and perform the art properly as a teacher, even when teaching beginners". The reason for this: "Keep improving your muscle memory as a teacher, and transfer a sensory / subliminal teaching to beginners on a subconscious level.

Eventually moving on from drilling "Form / Pattern" during the first 3 years of the course to a stronger emphasis on "Principle" based teaching in year 4, I have seen a remarkable improvement in my understanding of the concepts, while still drilling the basic structures and movements.

The aim of Principle based learning is to place yourself in a position where pre-learned "Form / Pattern" is less essential in a real-life situation. You aim to get to a stage where what you need to do should be obvious to the subconscious mind resulting in automatic reaction when needed.

Getting to that position is a question of strategies and tactics based on Principles; a higher level of the Arts, taught with the help of framing and dynamic structures.

We have also been encouraged to do overlapping training / comparison with other Martial Arts groups, e.g. SSBD, SV and London Arnis (part of RA) to reinforce learning of the RA Principles.

Do I prefer Principle based teaching to Form based teaching? Yes, I do. Having said that you do need to practice the physical movements to build up muscle memory, speed, strength and stamina, but I do think that Principle based teaching gives you a deeper understanding of the arts. It may not be for everyone - it takes time and dedication - but for me it is the way to go. It is more likely to carry you in a real-life situation where remembering Form on its own may be a struggle.

So, in conclusion: Am I fully there yet? No. Can I see the need for Principle based teaching and learning? Yes. Have I thought about it a lot? Oh yes. Have I physically applied what I have been taught so far? Yes.

Time to ask Pat for further clarification - and so we will try it again out on the floor. The Journey continues…

Lennart Wallgren; Brown Belt 2 (Instructor level) Rapid Arnis Elite Training Group

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