How to observe techniques to learn them?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by dcroteau, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. dcroteau

    dcroteau New Member

    Hello everyone,

    this is my first post here.

    So here's my question:

    How do you observe someone doing a technique which you try to replicate? (Ex.: Techniques done by the teacher in front of you)

    What I mean by that is that I always have a hard time to "see" someone in front of me doing a technique. I don't know if it's because the person is moving in a mirror-like position and when I try to replicate it I'm all confuse or if because I'm left-handed and my brain is all screwed up! ;)

    Seriously, I see other friends picking-up techniques way faster than me and sometimes I have the impression I'm the only one not being able to "catch" and understand a technique. Sometimes someone will do a movement in front of me and I'll just register the first 3 seconds...afterward everything starts to be confused movements.

    What do you think I can do to improve the way I understand the techniques being presented to me? Anybody else feeling the same things? Is my brain that disconnected from my body? ;)

  2. Theek

    Theek Valued Member

    Have it done to you, not in front of you, experiencing the technique is much better than just watching it.
  3. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    you have just asked the best question ever.

    this might take a while to brainstorm so i'll answer in another post later. also, i'll pre-emptively suggest this thread be stickied once it gets some more answers :p
  4. 6footgeek

    6footgeek Meow

    Yeah i get the same problem with kata and some techniques. Usually our teacher takes the name of a technique before demonstrating and having us perform it, so i try to remember the name and basic description of how it was done, then pull aside a senior and ask him to help me out with it =)
    lol. sometimes the conversation is funny =P

    Me: Hey! Atif Bhai. *brother Atif*
    Him: Yeah.
    Me: I need help with the dowashimashigeri...
    Him: The WHA?
    Me: You know. the kick where the left leg goes back and the right leg swivels around and then the right foot is placed at approx 45 degree and then leg is raised uptill knee and kicked....
    Him: O.O....... -_- um... the spinning back thingie??
    Me: YES!!! =D lol.
    Him: lol
  5. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Standing opposite someone doing a technique can sometimes be a confusing and rather unintuitive way to pick something up. Especially if you are not training on a very regular basis eg. twice a day five days a week. I take it for granted that I pick up combinations easily... but I can because I train and teach every day of the week pretty much. So I must go over my left and right sides and limbs about a gazillion times in one day as I show people movements. So I do notice that it can be frustrating for people just starting out or sometimes even experienced people... if they are not standing side by side with me facing the same direction as I show the technique.

    I suggest that when someone shows you a technique if you stand side by side with them and slowly replicate it. Some teachers/schools teach like this at times during the lesson others don't. It does help to be side by side so your brain isn't working off of a mirror image. If you do that in front of a mirror - so that you can look over and see the person on your right or left doing the technique and look straight ahead in the mirror and make sure you are mirroring his movements and positions then you might find you can follow things easier.

    Try side by side and when they move the left foot you move your left foot... when they snap the right hip you snap the right hip. Break it down like a color by numbers until you have that part down... it will be mechanical and rigid... but at that point you're only looking to get the key positions down... fluidity comes with practice and repetition.

    Give it a shot.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  6. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    ok, so i've been thinking, and i can't really say how i do it, because i have no idea, i just do it subconsciously :p

    what i CAN do though, is give you general pointers regarding how to recognize and imitate techniques.

    first: learn to move and use your entire body. movement quality aside, the more comfortable you are with the different ranges of motion in the body, the better a notion you will have of how to perform different movements without having to think it through, and you will have greater facility recognizing what others are doing.

    second: try not to lock yourself into the "left-right" paradigm. this sounds a bit weird, and will probably come with time as you learn to use your whole body, but obsessing over which side of your body does something is one of the most widespread newbie mistakes i've seen so far. basically try to think of the movement first, and THEN about which side does which part, instead of trying to decide which to use before you even know what you have to do.

    third: start watching and observing BEFORE they show the technique. another thing i've seen a lot is that some people tend to not really pay attention until you're halfway through the movement, and so don't register what you did or how you started it. you may or may not be doing that, but it's still something to avoid. after all, you're asking about observation, and the first thing you need in order to observe and understand what is happening is to actively pay attention to how and why it happens instead of registering it while it's happening, and missing half the relevant data.

    fourth: get some physical or spoken corrections/instructions from your teacher, or one of the seniors. some people simply have difficulty learning via watching, and sometimes all they need is someone to physically show them how to move or where their posture is off, or someone who can concisely give you a set of instructions that you can translate to movement.

    hope that helps :)

    edit: oh, one more: visualize yourself in the other person's body. helps a bit with the mirroring problem, IMO.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  7. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Valued Member

    People tend to learn in three distinct ways, and each will be more or less dominant in any individual. The three forms of learning (which is really just the way you take information in) are audiotory, visually, and kinesthetically. Basically, an audiotory learning method is when you have something described to you, a visually based learning form is obviously where you see something performed in front of you and can take in information from that (for the record, both Bruce Lee and Ueshiba Morihei were supposed to be able to simply watch a demonstration of something once, and immediately be able to replicate it, which is an extreme form of this type of learning), and kinesthetic learning is based on physical and sensory experience.

    As said, although everyone learns as a combination of these methods, everyone will have an individual form of learning that is dominant for them. For the vast majority of people, it is kinesthetic, with audiotory being the least common, or least dominant of all three. But a good teacher should ideally give all three methods of learning in their demonstration and teaching methods.

    When it comes to teaching a lesson in a kinesthetic way, there needs to be a frame of reference first. That means it needs to be explained, shown or both. Often when demonstrating a technique on a student, they need clarification afterwards, as they didn't see what was happening, and are unsure of how to achieve it. So the initial "learning" takes place with verbal explainations (audiotory - "I just shift off to the side and drop to avoid the strike... at the same time, I deflect upwards with a forearm block, then shift my weight forwards and strike the side of the neck with my thumb" etc etc), which is coupled with a demonstration of the actions on a training partner (visual). When required it is also demonstrated without a partner for clarity as well.

    When we go through the techniques, they are then performed solo by everyone in a circle (which is so everyone can see another person for reference) as they are called through a few times. The description on the first one is detailed, the second less detailed, and removed for the last run through. That's the kinesthetic learning (solo) for everyone. That is then followed by the partner training, during which people get more individualised attention... and that most often takes the form of a multi-faceted teaching (explaining that this is why you hit them there, showing them where you hit them, then hitting them so they can feel it... seems to get the point across pretty well!). So that's our approach to this issue.

    If you are not learning from a visual form, that just tells you that visual learning isn't what you are dominant in. Trying to force it may not actually do anything, so I'd suggest looking at the other learning methods and seeing which one works best for you.
  8. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    You aren't alone, there are a lot of people that have difficulties learning things visually. It could be as simple as bad eye sight or holding your breath. It could just be the way your brain is hardwired.

    We had a student that couldn't do some movements and it turned out it was because she was holding her breath, this made her tense and lose balance. Just working on her breathing helped her pay better attention and learn things.

    Anyway, I can suggest that you break the movements down. For instance, focus only on the foot movement. Then focus only on the hand movement. Then put the two together. I mean, sometimes I find myself not getting a technique and I end up maybe looking only at the hip movement, then next time only at the breathing, then the time after that only at the eyes, etc. to break it down until I have all the pieces to put together.

    Also, you might be a really good tactile learner and so if you can, maybe you could take some private lessons until you get up to speed.
  9. Blade96

    Blade96 shotokan karateka

    maybe u dont really learn that well visually. Thats ok, I suck at auditory in karate, i have to see it and experience it. so i learn by kinesthetic and visual.
  10. dcroteau

    dcroteau New Member

    Actually, I've always thought that I was the visual type. That's weird.

    Maybe it's just a matter of looking too much at the trees and not the forest, so I get stuck on small details instead of looking at the big picture (get the feeling and afterwards slowly refine some details).

    But I'll try some of your tips and comments.

    I guess it's also a matter of focusing harder on the present moment and leave "normal life" behind when training.
  11. Simon

    Simon Moved on Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    The other thing you can do is get to class 15 minutes early and ask the instructor or any other senior grades to show you the move you are stuck on.

    Several students come to class and mill around while waiting for others to arrive. This is a great time to grab 10-15 minutes crafty practice. That time soon mounts up.
  12. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    In TKD I mirror for students, ie I shout, "Step forward with your right leg and punch with your right hand" whilst stepping forward with my left leg and punching with my left hand. This method seems to work for most students, they don't have to translate the movement so much.

    In the karate class I attend they don't do this, and it completely foxes me. The students there don't seem to have a problem though so onviously it's something you can pick up.

  13. Taizu

    Taizu Valued Member

    Echoing what some of the others have posted previously, try and break the techniques down. Concentrate on getting the first section of movement into your head. Say for a front kick, you lift your knee to be parallel to the floor, second movement, extend the foot out, etc.

    What I find helpful is just to do a little reading up(or just talk to the instructor/senior students) on the art. If you understand the ideas behind the art it makes applying/copying the techniques a bit easier.

    I know too well what it's like, went to an Eskrima class a few months back(it was great, plan to get into it later) and it confused the hell out of me, hitting people with sticks?! Give yourself some time too, it takes a while to get used to movements your body finds strange.
  14. Blade96

    Blade96 shotokan karateka

    i'm one of those hehe i just mill around waiting for class as im always early and one of our senpais told the white belts on tuesday that if they need help they can just grab a yellow belt and they should know all their basic stuff for white belts. The two white belts know me and said they might like some help on friday with heian shodan kata.

    I did that too when i was a white belt grab a milling student and ask em for help with stuff
  15. Jezzikial

    Jezzikial Valued Member

    I know this was quite a while ago... and I'm not even sure if this will work but hey I will give it a go.

    Not sure if this will work but I learnt this in part of my psych degree studies; There is a mirror test that they use to measure certain types of memory. Basically you follow the lines of a star with a pen but your hand is covered so you only see it in the mirror. Initially it is really hard but eventually you learn to be able to do the star in mirror image. So I wonder if you practiced doing things in mirror image more, that maybe it would help your ability to co-ordinate the actions?

    Obviously the easiest way is to have the person next to you and not in front... but that isn't always possible. I have a lot of trouble with it too but luckily my instructor usually shows us things next to us. I remember watching a tai chi DVD and man that was so hard!!! Good luck.
  16. Princess Haru

    Princess Haru Valued Member

    I have this problem a lot too and really only pick up techniques that are explained, not necessarily demonstrated, but then I do have a tendency to daydream and also when watching a technique I can then be in awe thinking that looks really cool but not manage to break it down then when it comes to me trying to repeat it.

    I try to look at the kamae, is it mirroring uke or the same foot forward, is the first movement inside or outside, was there a block, is it front or back hand...
  17. LawOfEye

    LawOfEye Valued Member

    watch both people , the person who does the moves and what the other person did to bring it out . and practice it . if you cant get it , spar with the person and watch it from inside the fight or ask them to break it down for you .
  18. Simon

    Simon Moved on Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    This may have something to do with your learning style.
  19. azumor

    azumor Valued Member

    I usually watch the whole thing first time it's shown then the footwork and timing and then what the hands/foot do.
    when I then try it. I use the same method: try the whole thing, if that doesn't work then just the footwork and when that works the whole shabang again. most times this will be enough, but if it isn't then I ask my sensei to show it on me, that usually gives me the last pointers to get the kata/waza/teknik
  20. Knight_Errant

    Knight_Errant Banned Banned

    I usually fumble through it to begin with and pick up the finer points later.
    Seriously, if I had this question figured out I wouldn't be wasting time on message boards. I'd be teaching, leading seminars and making a packet.

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