Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Whole Thing

As I do every morning, I was listening to National Public Radio's Morning Edition on the way into work, and they presented an article about a failed educational experiment. The program was called the "whole language approach to reading". The premise of the whole language approach was that children were taught to read by teaching them individual words. No phonetics, no clues as to how to decipher new words, just whole words.

One of the proponents of the whole language approach was interviewed. This person claimed that people could learn to read if they were told what each word meant and then read it enough times. Isn't that analogous to saying that children can learn not to play in traffic if you allow them to get run over frequently?

This whole language concept boggles the mind. I mean, it leaves no room for spontaneous perception or creativity. In a whole language world everybody would have to rely on someone else to explain what new words mean. Think about it. If you were taught through the whole language process, every time you encountered a new word you'd have to find someone that knew what the word was. Sooner or later, we would reach the point where no one knew the words and language would atrophy.

Fortunately, the inadequacies of the whole language approach revealed themselves in short order.

On the other hand, do we really recognize the futility of the whole language approach? Think about it. How do we teach Judo? Most Judo is taught through a "whole skill approach". In other words, most of the time we see Judo techniques taught as isolated incidents. Coaches simply get in front of the group and show Seoinage or Osotoagri without demonstrating how the throw is related to the process of gripping, or footwork or newaza.

Worse yet, we almost never explain the building blocks of skills. The building blocks of ALL Judo skills lie in the mechanical actions that you use to execute a maneuver. Everybody knows about Mechanical Actions. They’re the way you move and arrange your arms and legs. It’s how you get yourself into the best possible position to push the opponent's back toward the mat.

The Mechanical Actions of Judo are parallel to the phonetics of language. When a young person is taught phonetics he, or she, is able to "sound-out" new words and spontaneously expand his/her vocabulary. When a Judoka understands the Mechanical Principles and Actions, required to execute skills he, or she, can learn any throw, hold-down, arm-lock, strangle or sankaku. More importantly, when a person understands the Mechanical Principles and Actions he, or she, can expand his/her Technical Vocabulary spontaneously.

"Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it." The whole language fiasco has provided ample evidence that development is based in a strong foundation of basic principles. Can't we see that the same standard applies to learning Judo?

Hasn't the "whole skill" approach gone on long enough? Can't we see that the whole skill approach to Judo does nothing to further our sport?

Your players must be taught how to build their own skills. Your players must be taught the relationship between the various aspects of Judo play. Your players must be allowed to experiment and make mistakes and ultimately create their own new Judo. If you deny your players the basic building blocks then you doom them to the fate of the whole language experimental group, which is fundamental illiteracy.

It's your choice. You can provide your players with the tools to build Judo or you can leave them dependent on the limited knowledge of others. I opt for creative Judo.

No comments:

Post a Comment