Martial Arts – Taking Notes

Learning Martial Arts is something you can’t do online, folks. I’ve seen a ton of programs, and even heard about people who have purportedly reached high ranks by completing and online curriculum.  Really!?  I don’t know…I’d be highly uncomfortable claiming a rank without the experience.  It isn’t so much the being found out when you roll with someone at that level who far surpasses your skill and knowledge, but rather the inability to react quickly should you need to rely on your muscle memory in a rough situation.

You have to be in the thick of it, or you simply won’t be able to replicate the techniques the way they are intended.  You might conceptually understand the movements, but without doing them – repeatedly (read: thousands and thousands of times) – those motions will not serve you as you might want – or worse, NEED – them to.  It is both an injustice to yourself, as well as to the Art, to endeavor to attain ranks this way.  

Books, DVDs, online seminars and video tutorials – all of those things are WONDERFUL…as supplemental tools.  I use them often myself (though, more importantly, so have many of the “Greats.”)  Simply put, you have to come to the Dojo and be hands on, or you just aren’t going to “get it.” Martial Arts isn’t just about a sucker punch to the gut, or a kick that sends a heavy bag reeling.  And it’s definitely not about saying “hey, check out my new black belt (that I didn’t have to earn.”)  

Videos are often not permitted at Martial Arts schools either – my Grandmaster (8th Taekwondo, 9th Degree Hapkido, Swordsman, knife throwing, Kumdo etc) is the real deal.  And, he won’t stand for it.  NO VIDEO. Period. You have to show up and put in the dues in order to progress – relying on a video of someone who you replay over and over in effort to imitate isn’t going to get you there. And, as above, on that principle it is forbidden.

The idea is that you learn in the class from an instructor, you practice what you can, and retain what you are meant to retain in that time (everyone is different.)  

Each class allows you to build on previous lessons – with each one, you string more of the “words” or “vocabulary” together until finally you begin to make “sentences” with your movement (I like to refer to the movements in this way – the Art is very much a language where each small piece is a word, or a form of punctuation – once you are able to connect them into fluid meaning, you have your sentences.  As with your own native tongue, the options are endless!)

While in Taekwondo and Hapkido, I relied a great deal on memory, I still had to write a lot of things down.  I would also take videos of myself after learning a movement so that I could refer back when I had a question.

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These days, I never show up to a class or lesson without a notebook – it’s either my Curriculum, or a notepad, and the notes are ample. There is ALWAYS a new detail to pick up, and always improvements to be made – I like to take note of any “Kuden” (secret knowledge in Ninpo / Ninjutsu), tips, tricks, or feedback on what I’m missing…not just the steps of the drill at hand.  

The act of taking notes itself helps to solidify some of the details discussed, but it is also a great resource when needing to refer back.  Sometimes I am the only person jotting things down – we all learn differently and “doing” may be enough for others.  I don’t mind taking an extra moment with my book if I have to, though – I never feel awkward about it.  

Personally, I’m a choreographed athlete – skaters and dancers create routines in advance much of the time, so we know exactly what’s coming.  You show me, and I’ll repeat.  It won’t be perfect, but I’ll have the broad gist, and I can recreate it pretty quickly.

But life doesn’t exactly work that way, does it? Most of the Arts are not designed to be staged (getting mugged on the street isn’t going to play out the way you might think!)

Movements are complex and are there to give you a framework that can help you deter or alter an attack, let’s say – while you need to recreate those steps, they aren’t always going to come out so scripted. It is therefore important to pay as much attention to the details so that you have as much “vocabulary” as possible at your disposal in a non-choreographed scenario. . .which is MOST of the time!  

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I encourage students to take the time to take notes for that very reason – if you can sneak them in during a demonstration, do it.  If you have to take five minutes after class, take a seat and get to it while it’s still fresh.  You won’t regret taking them…but you might regret not doing so.  When you review a technique down the road that you are SURE you had before, it is incredibly frustrating to start over – with detailed notes, you can always catch back up to speed leaving room for further learning, and assimilation of more detail.  

When push comes to shove – and in a rouge altercation in the street, it will! – you want to have as many neural pathways laid down.  Doing is KEY – you have to be present and physically doing the activity.  Taking notes while you’re there will take you deeper into the experience of learning as well, making those memories even stronger.  

DEFINITELY look to additional sources of information for more angles or tips about application, failures, etc.  But don’t expect an online-only course to deliver a certification that’s worth its purported weight – you need to show up first.  Go the extra mile while you’re at it – you will be thankful you did.

 

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