Learn About Learning Strategies

Why reading a book on a new martial art or stage combat will do very little for you:

The Cone of Learning

The Cone of Learning

This image is from an article called Learn Anything on Litemind.com

Why People Put Down Book Smarts

Learning from a book is often frustrating precisely because it is limited. You know that you can’t fully learn a skill from a book, especially if it is only described in words. Many classic books on slight of hand have few images, they’re all description. It’s up to the illusionist to interpret the words, and work in front of a mirror to achieve their version of the trick.

Fortunately, producing images in books has come a long way since the first magic manuals. New books have lots of pictures and diagrams. But if you’ve tried to learn a complicated skill from a book, such as a martial art, you know that you still need description, because you can’t get a good sense of movement from still pictures.

Video Training

So, knowing that people are frustrated with books, a huge video market has sprung up. This is not just a “money grab” by marketers… learning by video really is better. They teach all kinds of skills by video, even accounting and psychology. And that works because of the learning pyramid: the combo of hearing and seeing (and reading slides if they use that) means that you remember things better, and for a longer time.

The biggest value comes from learning physical skills from a video because you can see the movement. You don’t have to follow picture 1A, 1B, 2, 3… and read the descriptions of each one to get the flow of a technique. You watch the expert and listen to the voiceover simultaneously. What an excellent way to learn!

But that’s not the best way…


It has been said that to truly be a master at anything, you must teach it. That’s because you actually learn by teaching. If you’ve never taught your skill to a student, try it. You’ll find that you have to explain things in more than one way to get them to truly understand it. You may have to invent a metaphor by saying “It’s like painting a fence… up, down.” And by trying different approaches, you solidify your own knowledge.

Just Do It

If you like the shiny books, put them into practice with a training partner. Better yet, take a class. Your instructor will be able to correct your form… the book just sits there. Video instruction is obviously better, given this learning theory. Still, the video can’t correct you. Only an expert instructor with a good eye can tell you if you’re doing it properly.

When you think you’ve got a combat skill down pretty good, try simulating a real fight scenario. It will teach you where your skill might be weak, and solidify the motion into your body even better.

Never start learning a skill in a high stress situation or when tired. You’ll learn it wrong and teach your body to do it badly. It will be difficult to correct yourself later. When learning a new skill, warm up (not to exhaustion), then slowly perform the movement. If you have a teacher, get corrected on your form before you try to go faster. If you have a book or video, watch yourself in the mirror and see if you match the image. When you think it’s right, go faster. Then do it with a partner slowly. Then faster and controlled. Only after going through these steps should you try to do it “for real”.


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