Friday, August 15, 2014

Information = Skill; Knowledge = Mastery

I blame the internet

  I don't remember where I stole borrowed this from on the internet, but I never seen as good an example of the difference between information and knowledge.  I taught high school level students for over a decade, and with the increased availability of the internet, i.e. smartphones, I've seen a drop in both the information and knowledge level of today's students.  Before you stop reading, this isn't a "kids these days" rant.  I am just addressing the problem before I talk about the solution.
   Here's an example of how information gets together to become knowledge.  In my AP Environmental Science class, there was a question to the effect of "How does global warming affect malaria rates?"  You have to have a bunch of pieces of information to answer that question.  You have to know that global warming increases rainfall, increases temperature, moves mosquito lines on mountains, that mosquitoes breed in still water, and that mosquitoes carry the malaria causing agent.  Wow!  That's a lot of pieces to put together.  But its the same thing with martial arts.
  We'll keep the example simple.  The question is "How do you deal with a front punch?"  There are ten thousand different variables that come together to answer that question, including what your preferred martial strategy and tactics are.  I've seen plenty of people in the dojo who can perform individual techniques beautifully.  They are well trained, and they know the terminology, but they can't answer questions about how techniques are related to each other, or how they are part of the over all system of our art.  These are the people I've referred to in the past as martial arts practitioners, as opposed to martial artists.  They haven't made that leap from information to knowledge.  They don't look at the system as a whole, with larger eyes.   They see a collection of individual techniques.  From my experience, that usually means, when something goes wrong with a technique, they can't flow into another one.  They are stuck, again, because they don't see the relationships.
    They probably also not see how life's other aspects are connected back to martial arts.  Music is often compared to the martial arts, as is driving.  That is the difference again between knowledge and wisdom.  The ability to connect unrelated ideas.  In Robert Greene's Mastery, he talks about how the really great thinkers in the world often came up with their ideas while doing something else.  Einstein was famous for coming up with physics ideas while playing the violin.  So try to see things with a wider gaze and ask your instructor questions (when and where appropriate) about how techniques fit into the system's strategy.  Look at your martial arts as a microcosm, see how it applies to the rest of of your life, and try to gain some knowledge.

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