Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do We Need Explicit Knowledge of Techniques?

One of the shodan gradings in Jan de Jong's jujutsu grading system is a theory grading. The theory grading is an oral examination of the candidate's technical knowledge. A common question De Jong posed was: 'What are the forces involved in a tai gatame ude kujuki (body set are breaking)?' The candidate was required to answer the question verbally with no physical demonstration.

This is an example of explicit learning or explicit knowledge. The Australian Institute of Sport provide the following explanation of explicit learning which is contrasted with implicit learning:
Explicit learning can be related to traditional coaching approaches where verbal instruction is used to coach a learner about how to perform a skill. This process typically results in the learner being able to verbalise how to perform the skill, although it does not guarantee the learner can physically execute the skill. In contrast, implicit learning methods typically contain no formal instruction about how to perform the skill yet result in a learner being able to perform the skill despite being unable to verbally describe how they do it.
Do we need explicit knowledge of techniques? De Jong obviously thought so given he included an explicit knowledge grading within his shodan grades. The 'traditional' teaching method of Asian martial arts involves implicit learning where techniques are demonstrated and the student attempts to imitate them. Does the student need to be able to verbally describe techniques in addition to being able to perform them? Does the instructor?

De Jong saw his dan grades as producing instructors in addition to practitioners. He expected his instructors to possess an explicit understanding of techniques. Many others in the martial arts do not expect either their students or instructors to possess an explicit understanding of their techniques. One possible explanation for the traditional Asian martial arts teaching model being based on implicit learning may be because the instructors did/do not possess an explicit understanding of the techniques. If you come up under an implicit learning model, where do you gain the explicit knowledge?

Why would an instructor need to have an explicit understanding of techniques if they use implicit learning methods when teaching? One reason is that it provides a through understanding of the mechanics of the technique. It enables the instructor to analyse techniques and provide instruction to correct errors and improve performances. The problem is that an explicit explanation of techniques is hard to come by in the martial arts.

Let's return to De Jong's question; 'what are the forces involved ...?' De Jong intuitively knew that forces are important in understanding how a technique works. Unfortunately, neither he nor the candidates knew much about forces. My work remedies that shortcoming.

Forces are what causes every technique taught by every martial art work. The good thing is that forces is a simple concept for the layperson to understand and apply. First you identify all points of contact between the 'defender' and the 'attacker.' Next you determine if the force applied at each point of contact is a push or a pull. Then you describe the direction and relative magnitude of each of the forces. Finally you determine the intended effect of the applied net forces. This approach provides an explicit understanding of every technique taught by every martial arts.

A very good and rare example of this approach at work is with Jigoro Kano's Kodokan Judo. When you understand the concept of forces and adopt the approach described above, you'll see that Kano consistently describes all his methods in these terms. In this way, Kano focuses on the important elements in the techniques to provide an explicit understanding of judo techniques for the reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.