Wednesday, June 17, 2009 be transmitted orally

"This volume is to be taught and learned by teacher and student in actual exercises, and need not be detailed in writing."
"The following...must be learned in actual exercises, for they are difficult to explain in writing."
"These six approaches must be learned and explained orally in actual exercises with your master, so they are not detailed in writing."

The examples above are from The Sword and the Mind. It was recognized early on that you couldn't pass on some knowledge in writing, so disclaimers like, "This is to be transmitted orally," are very common. Of course there is part (even most) of the art that has to be taught and learned by touching and speaking to each other in person, but what part of the arts can be taught via book or blog?
  • History - Who founded the art and what was he like? How did his life and his environment affect the development of the art?
  • Culture - Culture can refer to both the national culture of the founder and developers, or to the local culture of your club. House rules, preferences, unique exercises - these are all examples of the culture of martial arts - not just how to eat with chopsticks or how to tie an obi.
  • Mindset - How your thought processes affect the physical performance. What and how you need to be thinking during a conflict - why that helps and what it does for you.
  • Metaphor - Similar to mindset, I see metaphor as a way of tricking the mind into controlling the body in a particular way when you can't figure out how to explicitly tell the student the mechanics. "This technique is like..." or "visualize a great whirlpool drawing..." or "imagine you arm is a water hose with water blasting out the end..."
These things are all teachable in print. Movement and touch, nuance, aren't. What other aspects of the arts do y'all think are or are not teachable in print?
Which reminds me of an interesting story about the late aikido master, Terry Dobson. I read that whenever people asked him what he did for a living, he told them he was a "transmission specialist." They, of course, dismissed him as a mechanic, but he meant it as an inside joke. He meant that he was a specialist in transmitting Morihei Ueshiba's touch to people who the founder could not have otherwise touched. Ueshiba touched people through Dobson. Check out the books:

Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282
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