Learning By Video

By Buck Pittman

Not long ago, Jerry suggested that:

“You can’t learn this stuff from books, the internet, or YouTube videos.”

I think the point is overstated. Modern approaches to teaching recognize that people learn best in different ways. Effective teaching and learning incorporates auditory, visual and kinetic methods. Simply put, some people learn best through their ears, some through their eyes, some through touch or movement. I happen to be very visual. Perhaps one reason I have connected with Aikido is that it is very visual. In fact, I have learned a lot of Aikido through books, through the internet, and via YouTube.

Books offer insight into Aikido that is extremely helpful in understanding its history, culture, and practice which is often remote to Westerners. Still photographs and drawings help communicate and clarify techniques that can be confusing and blurry on the mat. I refer regularly to books written by the former Doshu and the current Doshu that focus on basic techniques. I have returned to the mat many times with a slight adjustment or new-found insight in mind that is energizing.

Even more, I’ve found videos incredibly helpful for remembering techniques that were demonstrated in a seminar and for learning new techniques. I return to the NY Aikikai’s 30th Anniversary video regularly for insight and inspiration. That video features many shihans who are no longer with us and it is now an invaluable source for their teaching. Not long ago, I learned the 31 jo kata from an excellent instruction video on YouTube. My knowledge of jo technique over 17 years made this easier to do than perhaps for a beginner, but even a beginner, especially one who is a visual learner, could get good after-class reinforcement through this video. The 31, in particular, is hard to remember once you leave the mat.

While nothing can replace on-the-mat training, especially with shihan instruction, I think it’s important to recognize and embrace visual methods of teaching and learning Aikido that can take place off the mat.

5 thoughts on “Learning By Video

  1. Nice post, Buck. Thanks.

    Here is my comment in full, from 2010:

    One more point.

    All of us at the dojo are very fortunate. In addition to Dee, we have other instructors who studied under shihan, personally and over a period of years: Mike, under Lorraine DiAnne, John, under Clyde Takeguchi, and Christina, under Roy Suenaka.

    Because of my experience with Dee, and the opportunity she gave me by introducing me to Yamada Sensei in New York, (as well as the other incredible shihan in our Federation), I have strong opinions regarding personal transmission in Aikido.

    I’ve said it before, but budo is not a correspondence course. It’s faintly ridiculous that I even have to say this, but Aikido, like all budo, is transmitted personally, from instructor to student. It’s the essence of how we train. You can’t learn this stuff from books, the internet, or YouTube videos.

    Obviously, the preference is for a prolonged apprenticeship, as was (and is) the case with Dee. Otherwise, the answer is seminars. Lots of them, with the leading shihan and shidoin. And there really is no excuse not to attend seminars, with the ones we host every year, and the plethora of training opportunities in central and south Florida. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really.

    Over the years, I’ve heard that high level instruction is not really necessary. (Honestly). That training, say, in New York, is a waste, or that the internet somehow changed several hundred years of received wisdom regarding budo training.

    Complete bunk.

    (And for the record, the people who say this to me are always the ones who’ve never had real, long term experience with a shihan. It’s never the opposite.)

    For both instructors and students, it is imperative that you have an honest to goodness teacher. (Surprisingly, not always the case.) And if you want to learn Aikido beyond some rudimentary stage, you need to spend time with a high level instructor. Barring that, you need to learn Aikido under an instructor who has received personal attention from a shihan over a period of years (like Dee), AND attend seminars yourself. Anything less is delusional.

    My point? Attend seminars. Often. Pay attention in class, because what Dee is giving us is a gift, and a rare one at that.

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