2014 Dec 17
Yes, please! I don't mean you have to go out in the woods and use fallen timber. (Although that is an option!) The kind of logs I am talking about are records to use for future reference. The reference can be for yourself, for your instructors, for your students, or maybe for an author as they write your biography. (It could happen!) The information contained in a training log can be invaluable to someone in the future, especially if you are a teacher.
The first step to making this magic happen is to get in the habit of writing things down early in your training. Think back to when you first started training in each of the systems you have trained in. How did you feel those first few classes? What was comfortable and made sense? What seems alien and awkward? As time progressed, did those awkward things seems more natural? Did you have an epiphany? If so, how was it triggered? These are the kinds of things you should be logging after every class session!
If you didn't write down all these things when they were happening to you, were you able to remember them instantly as those questions were asked, or would you have to sit and really try hard to remember? I admit, my memory is horrible. Some things stick, most things move on. The things that stick usually are useless. Now, if I need to remember something accurately, I can just go back into my training log and read it first-hand.
A couple months back, I talked about instructors and teachers. As an instructor, your goal should be to become a teacher. To do that, you need to be able to understand the techniques on a fairly deep level. You should also strive to improve all techniques in the best way you can. When you are a teacher, your goal is to get your students to your level of training in a shorter amount of time than it took you. You are able to do this by communicating problem areas ahead of time in hopes students will be able to get through them easier than you did.
Remembering that we are all students at all times, instructors and teachers should also be writing down items like they did as they were coming up through the ranks. In addition, instructors should also be writing notes about things that their students may be struggling with. This gives you a chance to think of the situation in your own environment without other distractions. Extra time to think on a topic often allows an idea to form on how to help that student. WRITE THAT DOWN!
Whether you use a notebook or a digital format, get your thoughts written somewhere. My personal method is actually step based. I carry a notebook with me for all training sessions. Whenever there is a break in training (between sessions, water break) or when training sessions are done for the day, I take some time to write down notes. I often use a shorthand that can be hard to translate for others, but it works for me. When I get back home and have time (usually within the week), I sit down and translate all my hand-written notes to a digital format. I will often print those out and put them in my binder as well.
Everybody should find a method that works for them, and be faithful to that method. Simply relying on your memory to store all the information you've been presented isn't enough. It may work for a few months, a few weeks, a few days probably. Who are we trying to kid? You'll likely lose big portions of it in a few hours!
Now that you have all this paper (or bytes if you're digital), what do you do with it? What can all this really do for your training as a student? (This will be quick!) Remember that pattern you were taught two months ago? On the fifth movement, how far was your right knee bent? ...go look it up.
As an instructor, how are these records going to help in my teaching? (Again, quick!) You know how Billy is struggling with that technique? Didn't Mary have the same difficulty last year? ...go look it up.
As an instructor, how will these records help with my personal training? This depends on how well you kept your notes! Did you record observations of things that students could possibly tweak a little here or there to make it work better? Great! That means you are putting some time into writing your log. Now, is there a technique that you feel needs work for yourself? Of course there is! Time to go look through your observations to see if you recorded hints for that technique regarding a student that may help you too.
Warning, there are side effects to keeping a training log of some sort! You may actually remember things longer and in more detail if you write it down. You may find yourself thinking of a specific topic from your log during a future class to help improve what you are doing. Lastly, you may find yourself applying a similar method of observation to your life outside of martial arts classes!