How we learn: The nueroscience of skill acquisition

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

By Jo-Sifu Mark Ringer

With Tao Te Kung Fu we use the most modern teaching concepts. This means students can develop new skills quickly and efficiently.

Often instructors have great personal skill in their chosen style but without any understanding of how to teach those skills to others. The most skilled driver may not be a good driving instructor. Many martial arts are taught in a way that is entrenched in tradition. Some styles developed within a military context and the teaching style was suitable for large numbers of young men learning simple skills without understanding concepts. Other styles were only really taught to individuals who would effectively live with their teacher for years. The training methods in some styles still reflect these origins because each generation replicates the previous without taking into account changes in culture. Tao Te Kung Fu is not just a martial arts style but an entire approach to teaching. We have carefully analysed all techniques and skills that the style incorporates to develop a program in which skill acquisition accelerates through a spiral curriculum.

With modern understanding of neuroscience and physiology, it has been possible to develop teaching strategies that enable students to acquire advanced skills as well as the strategic concepts involving their use. Using these accelerated learning protocols you are able to become an expert in the shortest possible time.

The right training methods enable you to make the transition from performing actions consciously to being able to perform the same action intuitively. These methods combine the development of muscle memory as well as transferring the neurological commands from the cerebrum to the cerebellum thus techniques can be performed without conscious thought. Your progress has been strategically planned, which is why we can offer a course that will take you to a level of black belt expertise instead of merely the opportunity to participate recreationally.

By keeping class sizes small and differentiated by levels of progress everyone gets a focused learning experience. In a large class with students at many levels everyone can train for a lot of time without making any progress. The most efficient way of making a journey is by continued step by step travel. Your progress in Tao Te Wing Chun has been carefully planned to enable you to take rapid and continuous developmental steps. The most efficient use of the instructor’s time would be to have larger, longer classes but our teaching methods are developed for the most efficient use of the student’s time for maximum progress.

You will advance through 6 levels of skill acquisition that combine Cognitive (intellectual capacity, knowledge, thinking), Affective (feelings, emotions, attitude) and Psychomotor (manual and physical skills) domains.

The different domains overlap to a great extent and one domain can be advanced beyond others depending on prior learning.

Levels of skill acquisition

Knowledge: The student develops the movements needed. Initially this is by imitation, then they can perform the move independently.

Understanding: The student appreciates how, why and when a particular action is used. This understanding of the movement is to be developed with precision. (A stage that continues thereafter and is never finished) Here, the student first becomes aware of how the emotions impact on physiology.

Application: This is the ability to use a particular and appropriate technique in response to a given attack. The movement/action is integrated into muscle memory so that it happens fully once the decision is made. This continues until the action becomes automated (and beyond). Here, the student is able to manifest some emotions to add power, stay aware and in control, rather than be subject to uncontrolled emotions.

Analysis: Picking apart the technique to see how it works to make it work better for you. Perfecting of muscle tension and whole body application of simple movements. Being able to combine with other skills and make adjustments to compensate for context. Includes development of the most appropriate emotion and beginning to understand how to deliberately generate it.

Evaluation: Comparing and contrasting different techniques and their relative effectiveness within various contexts and for different people against different opponents. Adaptable proficiency. Competence at generating a chosen emotional content with control.

Synthesis: The stage of creating and modifying one’s own technique. The point at which one moves beyond technique and the real artistry takes over, when it’s not what you do, but what you are... The controlled aggression becomes an automated response.