Half Knowing is Not Knowing

Just knowing a bit of a technique or recognize it doesn’t mean you “know” it at a competent level. This is a key frustration for most instructors, the student who knows it all yet can’t perform the technique. Here are some of the complaints I hear from these students.

  • “Oh, I know that technique. Can’t we learn a new one? That one is too simple.”
  • “I know that one already. I just forgot how it starts.”
  • “Why do we have to go over this again. I already tested out of it.”

The common characteristic of this student is the inability to perform the technique upon request. This student also seems to rush the technique by not applying proper stances, positioning and intent. They rush through the technique like spaghetti monsters or robots in fast-forward mode. The student doesn’t know the technique they only recognize it.

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

Learn all your material, not most of it. The entire sequence of moves must be memorized AND recalled upon command. This is a sign of muscle memory. At later skill levels or belt ranks, you will be required to perform the technique on the left side, blind folded, or with a non-compliant uke. Other complications will be introduced forcing you to adapt the technique. If you only remember “bits” of the sequence, you won’t be able to accomplish these tasks.

Practice until you can demonstrate or teach it to someone else whom doesn’t know it. This doesn’t mean you are authorized to teach others, but the exercise of explaining it to someone else is valuable. It means it is clear in your mind, or it will reveal little details you forgot. Also, questions others bring up can be revealing. When I was in our dojo’s Leadership Team (of instructors-in-training) I was stuck several times when beginners asked me questions I didn’t know the answer.

A quick discussion with the chief instructor and I had the answers. Both the beginner and I were informed about the intricate nature of the martial arts. What this should demonstrate is you’re never advanced enough I the art to learn something basic. There is always something to learn.

To bring this digression back to the point, you must practice your moves a lot to understand them, perform them and know them. At each stage of “learning” the technique, you acquire more insight. Sometimes the insight is advanced concepts. Other times it is fundamental basics in a new light. Often a basic concept reiterated leads you to a core theory of Kempo in application — the links and threads of its effectiveness.

Here are three signs that you know your material:

  1. You can perform it correctly when the instructor calls for it
  2. You can talk or think about something else while performing it correctly
  3. You understand where to make changes to the technique to adjust for different ukes and reactions

So practice your new techniques a few more times and throw in a few “old” techniques. There is no such thing as doing a technique too many times. Knowing the technique is the journey not a destination.

Have you ever forgotten a technique you thought you knew? Or remembered a technique you thought you forgot? Tell us please.