An Unsettling Fact

Do all educators need control over their students’ information intake, or is it just certain martial artists that feel that way?  That question has bounced around my head before, but it returned with a vengeance after Saturday’s intoxicating, impromptu lesson in Xing Yi.

This is as it should be, I found myself thinking as I loosened up my legs muscles on my roller before leaving school Saturday.  Learning something new should be as simple as asking.  After all, acquiring knowledge or a new skill is a good thing.  Right? 

Not always.  There’s the potential to have a new skill or form cut short the time and dedication given to the old. At least that’s the theory I once heard suggested.  Part of me wants to be a good little soldier and just accept that theory as truth, but the part of me that has no patience for equivocation just can’t see her way clear, and here’s why.

I’m super conscious – self-conscious even – of looking bad on the floor.  By bad I mean, old, injured, slow, awkward – you get the idea.  I tend to practice everything I know at least once a month, just so I don’t look like a dweeb to a ten-year-old when he asks me to show him the take down move in the Dragon Fist form, for example.

Then, there are the forms I do best, the ones I do in competition.  No black sash in any style or discipline would allow herself to become mediocre at the forms with which she hopes to win a medal in a tournament.  So there’s no chance of ignoring the old in favor of the new under those circumstances.

Here’s the kicker: I am not unique – at least not among the kung fu folks that I call family.  Even the young and healthy ones don’t want to be wrong or look weird when they help an under sash student.  Even those who don’t have the time to compete anymore still perform demonstrations during monthly testing, in front of the family and friends of the testing candidates.  Practicing the old will always be necessary.  It will always be embraced.  There’s no need to withhold the new.  So why do it?  I wish someone would clearly tell me.

I’ve always been the kind of type-A, overachieving multi-tasker who likes to get as much work done in a sitting as possible, and I can’t recall a single teacher I had in secondary school or college who was bothered by my having reading ahead.  I’ve never known an educator displeased with a student wanting to know more. 

This control thing is a martial arts phenomenon – one that may exist only in the school where I train, for all I know.  That’s an unsettling fact that I either have to accept as best I can or come up with a counter strategy, because I don’t want instances like Saturday to be so rare.  I want to be regularly thrilled with learning something new.  And even the part of me that wants to be a good little soldier doesn’t care who knows it.

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About T. D. Davis

Baker and former journalist. View all posts by T. D. Davis

4 responses to “An Unsettling Fact

  • terraburrah

    “Do all educators need control over their students’ information intake, or is it just certain martial artists that feel that way?”

    I am an instructor/educator, and your question intrigues me.

    I would say the answer is yes – and no.

    The only time when controlling a student’s progress is “wrong” – is when it is done in a situation that extends the profit the instructor may make. Meaning, there are instructors who impede progress in students, because it means a loss of income if they allow that student to “graduate.”

    Otherwise, I can see the point of keeping a student at a certain pace of learning – in order to be certain that they are absorbing the information accurately, and not rushing through – and missing something.

    • T. D. Davis

      Thanks for responding. I thought about that and even mentioned the fear that one will stop dedicating time to the things they already know when something new is introduced. But since there are so many reasons that wouldn’t happen, I still tend to think there should be another explanation.

      • terraburrah

        I took Kung Fu. Another reason?

        Envy.

        But, maybe things are simply going slower than you would like.

      • T. D. Davis

        Hmm. Envy didn’t occur to me, but it’s certainly possible. And many things move slower than I like, which is why I like to get a reality check on when I’m being unreasonably impatient. A year of working on the same thing seems like enough to me, especially when I can’t remember the last time I had a correction. Seems like I’ve got it down. Next! 🙂

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