How Do I Learn Taido Theory?

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 (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.

Additional Thoughts

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.

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