Gabriel wrote this:
I feel that in recent years there has been a move away from (in US Taido) teaching the theory and underlying principles (i.e. why moving a certain way is effective). I’m not saying that this reflects poorly on the instructors, who I happen to look up to, but i definitely feel that the vast majority of participants have little or no understanding of theory or even all the terminology. I will say that there has been some efforts in the upper level classes to address this, though most of the learning is based on learning the Japanese names of more advanced techniques. I feel that i am woefully behind where i should be as far as the depth of my knowledge (I find myself looking up some of the terms on this site). As a shodan i think that it definitely time to get serious about learning and applying the theory behind techniques. if you have any suggestions of where to start studying I would appreciate the advice. I have some resources (such as the Taido binder my father compiled), but am not completely sure the best method for acquiring this knowledge. I feel that understanding the principles will help me become more creative as far as expanding my technique base and becoming a better instructor.
Here was my reply:
Your best bets for learning theory are the materials from your father. I say this because I know that good deal of those materials originated with me. I can vouch for their accuracy. Also make sure you download the .pdf files from Taido.net (which I’m pretty sure your father also had collected), as these are a more-official-ish version.
The important thing is not memorizing the terms though. It’s learning to apply the ideas to your practice. I suggest reading through the materials you have and highlighting things that are either interesting, important-sounding, or directly related to movement. Keep these sheets in your bag and review a few of your highlighted areas before each practice and again after practice, just for a couple of minutes or so.
This will functionally connect the information with your practice. You can think about what you have read while you work out and then reflect on your practice in light of more reading. Only two or three minutes is enough. The key is to become aware of the concepts that constitute Taido’s theory. See them in action. Then, you will find that memorizing them is no problem because you already understand how they work.
I want to add a little to this, because I feel it’s an important point.
Making a functional connection between Taido theory and what you actually do in practice is vital. otherwise, your theoretical knowledge is meaningless. Yes, meaningless. Meaning is the result a piece of knowledge has on events in the real world. If your knowledge is purely theoretical, it is not acting on reality. this is not necessarily the opposite of practical knowledge, but it’s still pretty close to useless.
There is an old saying that knowledge is power. I agree with the dozens of others I’ve encountered who insist that knowledge is only potential power. It can become power only if applied. Furthermore, knowledge must be applied selectively and consistently in order to have its maximum power realized. Selectively because not all knowledge is always applicable — some principles are more applicable to certain situations that others. Consistent because outcomes are cumulative — there are no such things as endings.
As Taido/Blog readers are well aware, I spend a good deal of time thinking about Taido theory. Some of the results of that thought are recorded here — though I spend much more time thinking and practicing than I do writing. I obviously believe that theory serves a purpose in Taido. I believe that purpose is measured by the extent to which the theory improves application.
The exercise I advised Gabriel to follow above is one example of a discipline I have personally followed for a good number of years now. I always have a specific bag for Taido practices in which I carry my uniform and a couple of belts, a small towel, notebook, pens, chalk (for marking the floor), medical tape, and a beverage. The notebook is for writing my practice log and any ideas I have while working out, but stuffed between the pages are always a few printouts from the archives that form Taido/Blog’s resource database.
I usually review these notes while changing before and after practice. When I used to have a four hour train ride to the dojo, I had ample time to review any quantity of material en route. I actually learned katsumei hokei in one evening by studying the Taido Kyohan on the train and then getting Fukunaga Sensei to correct my form and breathing. More often, I’ll read an unrelated book on the train, but sit down for a cup of coffee before practice and decide what I want to work on during the evening’s practice. I often envision specific combinations I want to attempt in jissen or think about ways to improve some specific movement I’ve been working with.
Indeed, it is important to study the theory that makes Taido what it is. I present my “two guys sharing a car” parable, originally posted in my bottom eleven article:
Suppose two men share a car. They can do this because one of them works at night and the other works during the day. Both of them drive the car and have no problems getting to work every day (or night). One of these two men understands the concept of the internal combustion engine. The other man believes that there are gasoline-drinking elves living under the hood of the car who spin the wheels by means of various levers and pulleys.
Both men get to work, but one of them is stupid. Let’s not be the second man.
On a related note, I have a post called Less Talk, More Rock which stresses the need for more “doing” in Taido and a refocus of our talking about Taido. This article takes the apparent converse to the attitude of what I have written here, but they are really just two sides of the same coin.