The Correct Use of Technology
© 2009 Kim Taylor, all rights reserved
I am sitting at my cabin table, with a folding keyboard, a netbook
computer and an old scavenged monitor typing this onto a usb data stick.
On my Ipod touch is a film of a couple of menkyo kaiden doing a set of
kata that I am learning. I tuck it into my gi and pull it out to watch
while practicing. I have previously made notes which have been
transcribed onto my computer, sent to all the other students who were
at the seminar where we learned this set of technques. I sent it by
email and they sent their comments and corrections back to me by email.
I then incorporated their comments into the file and printed it out so
that I can also refer to it while practicing.
Can anyone tell me why I would ever simply try to remember what sensei
said a month ago to a jet-lagged set of students who all have a
slightly different set of recollections as to what was said and shown?
Can anyone tell me why trying to do this is somehow better than
learning from my book or my video?
And yet I continue to read on that very same internet that allows us
students (scattered over three cities and many hundreds of kilometers)
to chat with each other, that one should not try to learn the martial
arts through videos or books. It boggles my mind. I've been practicing
the martial arts for 29 years and when I started nobody ever said
"don't read books" or "don't watch video" In fact when the first video
recording cameras appeared we all jumped at the chance to get sensei's
performances on tape. He encouraged it, and encouraged us to watch.
Those same menkyo kaiden 8-dans watched us video-tape them and nodded
their heads and even repeated things when we asked. They were teaching,
not trying to keep things from us.
Since that time three decades ago when I started, I've been on the
"bleeding edge" of iaido and jodo in our area of the country, at least
for our organization, so I have had to get my instruction where and
when I can. That meant, in a very large degree, watching as many videos
as I could make or find, and reading anything I could get my hands on.
I didn't have a sensei to check me at every practice but there was no
way that any of my sensei ever said to me "don't practice on your own
or you'll develop bad habits".
And yet I read this very advice on the net over and over. If you
practice without supervision you will:
Develop bad habits
Learn it wrong
Never understand the correct timing
Hurt other people
Here's my response to those points. If you practice, with or without
supervision, you'll develop bad habits. If you don't practice you won't
develop any habits at all, good or bad. You can correct bad habits,
it's called learning!
You can't learn without practice and the more practice the better. It's
easier to say to a student "no the other foot forward" than to say "OK
now you move your right foot forward.. no your other right foot.. and
then you twist your wrist upward and.... Aaargh, go learn it wrong from
the book and I can spend a lot less time correcting you than I would
teaching you. In fact go learn it from some other instructor in another
line of my martial art and when you become my student I'll teach you
the "right" way to do it in less time than I would spend teaching a raw
beginner. Yes there is a "right" way to practice the art, it's the way
I do it. When you're in front of that first teacher than the "right"
way to do it is how you learned it from him.
In other words you can't learn it wrong, you can only learn it
The timing changes with each and every teacher. It may seem that many
teachers in the same style have the same timing but put them in a row
and have them do the same kata. You'll see different timings from
students and teachers and students of the same teacher, let alone from
two teachers of different lineage.
Hurt yourself? With a sword presumably? OK go do something safe instead
like rock climbing or sky diving or skateboarding. Same with hurting
other people, go ride your bike down the sidewalk or drive to work
And don't talk to me about learning from books and videos from a place
of complete beginnerness. I've seen it done, and I've done it myself.
It's entirely possible.
When I started we had books and photographs. A bit later we had video
tape, big shoulder cameras and tube televisions. Now we have tiny
cameras that take video and tiny screens that we can tuck in our
keikogi. With all this at our disposal it is a downright insult to our
instructors to come back class after class without having learned as
much as we could be learning. Don't be afraid of technology, it won't
bite, it will record faithfully what sensei taught you last time, and
every time you watch it, it's as if you had one more class. What
teacher would object to that? Certainly not me, and not any of the
teachers I've been fortunate enough to study with.