Monday, January 5, 2009

Sitting vs. Standing for Teaching Demonstrations

A little while back, Chris and I had a debate over whether or not it was better to have students sit or stand for teaching demonstrations in our Vancouver martial arts classes. Sitting has been used traditionally in the dojos in which I've trained whereas standing was used in the dojos in which Chris had trained. As a result, we each have our biases. While in Ottawa, I met with John, an old training buddy of mine, for coffee who had experienced both methods. As an objective party with experience with both methods, we were able to fully map out the advantages and disadvantages of both and determine whether or not to make any changes to my dojo's status quo. I'll now share what we discussed.

People tend to associate sitting with learning. This is because most institutions in which we learn have us sitting. As a result, we have a built-in association that tells us that when we're sitting, we should be paying attention. Also, when everyone is sitting, it can be easier to read the audience's reactions to the material being taught because all their faces are on a more consistent eye line. Also, because I am shorter, I find it easier to see everyone when seated rather than standing. That being said, taller people might find the opposite.

When people are standing, they have a tendency to fidget and shift more, leading to natural distractions. These problems can be reduced by having students stand in a consistent position of attentiveness. In Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu schools (Chris's other style), students all stand with their left hand cupping the right in front of the bellies when watching demonstrations. Another advantage is that when people stay standing the body stays a little more active so it doesn't cool down as much as when sitting. Not to mention some of my students find it hard to sit cross-legged or kneeling for long periods of time.

I think the best way to determine whether to stand or sit is to ask whether it allows tactile (or kinesthetic) learners to follow along subtly during demonstrations. I, myself, am a tactile learner and I noticed that when I was at Shorinji Kan dojos I was able to subtly go through footwork and movements as the Senseis taught, making it easier for me to then do the techniques when it came time to partner up. That being said, when ground work is being taught, tactile learners can better do this if they are on the ground.

As a result of my discussions with both John and Chris, I have come to the decision that I am going to have my students stand for techniques that are performed standing (using the cupped hands position), and sitting for ground work. If it might help people absorb our teachings better, it's worth trying out.

1 comment:

Ikigai said...

This is a good conversation to have. It's one of those small details that can subtly enhance learning amongst students.

Thanks for sharing both sides.