I kinda have a thing for learning new stuff. I want to learn as much as I can about everything I can but I have a hard time just dipping my toes in.
Nope, I gotta take a flying leap and free dive as deep as I can go. When it comes to physical endeavors like martial arts, gymnastics, parkour, and whatever else catches my eye, I’m the worst.
Rather than blindly fumbling around in the dark, I always reach out to a teacher to learn the fundamentals correctly and get myself on the right path. I’ve had some amazing coaches help me out over the years and I’m grateful for all they have taught me.
My most influential teachers taught me more than just skills; they taught me how to learn. For that, I am especially thankful.
There are tons of books, blogs, and articles on how to “hack” learning (yuck), but having a solid student/teacher relationship can really make or break the learning process. Whether a student improves or not isn’t always dependent on how the skills are being taught, but rather it’s how the student has prepared themselves mentally in order to learn.
I really want to stress the importance of finding a teacher that you feel comfortable working with. Someone you feel you can truly learn from. A lot of people ask me which martial art or movement-type gig they should enroll themselves or their kids in. I always suggest that they shop around and look for a teacher that feels right. It doesn’t matter how strong the martial art is or how popular a particular program is, if the teacher isn’t cool, it’s gonna ruin you and your kid’s impression of that art. And that makes Ryan sad.
Decide what you are interested in and then search for a good teacher because it really does make all the difference. It might take a couple of tries. Check out all the schools in your area, do a trial lesson, and talk to other students to get the real story. If you’re considering online training, the same applies. There are plenty of forums and places to get a feel for different teachers, but remember to take some of those online opinions with a grain of salt. 😉 And even after you start working together, if your teacher doesn’t turn out to be a good fit or ends up treating you like dirt, just move on. It’s your life and you get to decide who you want in it.
After you’ve found a teacher, it’s time to put your student cap on. Forget to put on your learning lid and you could be in for a rough ride. Do this right and you and your instructor will have a great experience.
3 key points for getting learned good.
1. Try first; question later.
Ever been in a class when the instructor is explaining something and someone butts in with a “What if?” or a “How about if I do this?” This happens to me a lot when I’m teaching seminars. I love it. Just like I love it when my dog farts next to me while I’m reading a book on the couch. Fortunately, I can screw my face up and curse as I get up to leave the room. Doesn’t work so well when I curse and stomp out of the room in the middle of a seminar.
Don’t get me wrong. I do feel that questions are good and they sure as hell have their place. But that’s just the point; they have their place.
Questions are important but there’s no need to bombard your teacher with questions before you even practice the move. Even worse, interrupting your instructor with a question when they are trying to explain something? Dude. If you don’t understand what to do once they’re done explaining it then sure, ask. But if the directions are clear then just go try it out. Once you practice it and your instructor sees it, in person or on video, I’m sure they’ll have advice for you and will be available to field your questions.
NOTE: If you put in plenty of practice, quite often the answer will appear without you even asking. So go practice.
2. OK, instead of, I know.
After your instructor explains something to you just say, “OK”, rather than, “Yeah, I know.”
Even if you think you know, there must be a reason your instructor is explaining it. Chances are you don’t know it like you think you do and that’s why they are probably showing you this move again for the umpteenth time. You searched for and found this instructor and are paying them to teach you, right? So let them teach you what they know.
I saw this in action recently at a BJJ class. A new student, who had some judo experience, made it known that he already knew a particular technique. The instructor asked the student to demo it on him. Poor guy! It didn’t work out too well for him at all.
The thing is, that student probably knew a similar technique in the context of judo, but the reason for it and application of it was different in Jiu Jitsu.
My point is, stay humble and put yourself in a beginner’s mind.
Over the past two months, I’ve been taking private online lessons from the super-duper, incredible, awesome, cool-as-a-cucumber Shira Yaziv. Did I mention how wonderful I think she is? 🙂
She is teaching me movements that “look” similar to some things that I teach in GMB, but I’d never say, “Yeah, I’ll pass on that cause I already know it.” Shira has her own reasons for teaching me these moves and if I were to have a preconceived notion of how I think a move should be, I’d miss out on Shira teaching me more about that move. Hell, I’m not even gonna mention that I do anything similar in GMB. That would mess up the whole vibe. I just try and look at that move with the eyes of a beginner and listen to how Shira is teaching it to me. Then I say, “OK”, and go practice.
3. Trust in the process.
I say this a lot at GMB seminars – like a broken record – and I know it’s something that can be difficult for students, especially when they’re in a hurry to improve.
If you’re working with a solid teacher then, know this; they have walked the path. They know what’s in store for you. They are gonna get you there much more efficiently than they did themselves.
Here’s something that I see all the time with students, maybe you’ve even done this yourself.
You roam the interwebs for the thing you want to learn. You realize that getting a professional to help you is the best route, so you do your homework, get a coach, and start training. But because you really, really want to master this move as quickly as possible, you continue to scour the net for more info on it so you can see how others are teaching and learning it. You think, “Wait a minute. Other people doing this move are training a bit differently. Why isn’t my teacher doing this? Maybe I should add that into my practice too . . . ” You start doubting your progress, then your teacher, and it creates stress in your training. Let me tell you, this unneeded stress will hamper your training in the long run. You probably already know this, so why do it?
We all get excited. It’s mighty tempting to just consume everything you can possibly find about the new thing you’re learning. The Google makes it easier than ever to get sucked into the murky murkiness of “5 things wrong with your squat” or “3 worst ways to punch a duck” and “10 things you need to know about nipple-ups.” It can get pretty confusing.
When your instructor shows you a move just practice the crap out of it the way they show you. Don’t check Dr. Google to see how others are doing it. Don’t go looking for different variations of that movement online. Just stick to the program. With me and BJJ this is an urge that’s near impossible to control. 😉
Keep yourself from muddying the waters. Focus on that one move, that one variation. That one thing your teacher has asked you to practice. Do it over, and over, and over. Make it pretty. Show your teacher and they’ll give you the next thing. Say, “OK”, and do it again. Then you’ll get the next thing, and the next, until you have mastered the thing that you were so impatient to get to in the first place.
Trusting the process and your teacher will get you there faster than adding extra things to the mix.
Adding other stuff instead of trusting the process tells your instructor that you think you know better. You don’t. You’re just slowing yourself down and trampling your teacher’s trust.
Remember, your teacher has your best intentions at heart. They want to see you achieve your goals. Please don’t insult them by comparing them to the latest trending video you find on the internet. Listen to them and let them guide you. Once you achieve your goal you’ll look back and realize that things were easier because they were there to show you the way.
If there are times when you find yourself worrying about your progress or how things are being taught, let your teacher know. You know they’ve got their reasons for doing things their way, they’ll explain it if you ask.
Try it, say OK, and trust in the process.
These three points have helped me learn so many cool things. Sticking to them keeps it fun, steady, and rewarding for all involved. I’m hoping it will help make your learning experience awesome as well.