The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Terra Cotta Warriors

In the current National Geographic (June) Magazine, there is an article on the Terra Cotta Warriors. The article is about how they would have been painted and actually looked. You can read the article online here, and see a short video.

Monday, May 28, 2012

One Night

One Night is a single from a new space rap record by Apeface and Crumplezone entitled Escape to Mizar 5. The 16 track album is due out this summer and will feature a 12 page comic which will tell the story behind the music.

To find out more, here are some links:

Mediafire - One Night Single
Mediafire - Entire record
Soundcloud
Twitter
Facebook
iTunes
Spotify



Ladies and gentlemen, I give you One Night:


Friday, May 25, 2012

Good Aikido Demonstration


I have a lot of trouble with aikido demonstrations. For the audience to be able to see what is going on, the demonstrator usually needs to use very large, slow techniques which look fake. You also rarely see the uke making hard, fast attacks. If he does, it makes it more difficult to respond with a large slow technique that can be seen.

Having said all of that, here’s an aikido demonstration that I really like. The uke is making attacks that we can identify with, and shite is responding in kind. Enjoy.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kushida Sensei Passes Away

 The Winter Lion
Issuing his last roar,
Leaves all behind.

I just learned that Kushida Sensei, one of Gozo Shioda's first Uchi Deshi passed away on May 10th. I studied aikido under Kushida Sensei in the late 70's and on and off into the early 90's. He was a great martial artist and a great human being. I can honestly say that he's had quite an impact on my life.

I had previously posted a short video of Kushida Sensei. I thought it was appropriate to post it again. There is a black and white sequence in it from the 80's of him doing freestyle. That's how I remember him.




If you click on the link above, you'll be directed to the Gottsupidia wiki article. Below is an excerpt.


Kushida Takashi, born May 2, 1935, is an aikido instructor and founder of Aikido Yoshokai. Kushida began studying aikido under Shioda Gozo during the very early days of the Yoshinkan Dojo, which he entered together with Inoue Kyoichi. Not long after he began his training, he was asked by Shioda to become one of the first uchideshi (live-in student) at the Yoshinkan Dojo. For ten years, Kushida lived in the dojo as an uchideshi. He became a certified instructor in 1964 but continued to focus on his own training in addition to teaching students junior to him.

For twenty years, Kushida stayed with Shioda. During this time, he was Shioda's number one uke (for demonstrations and in class). In addition, Kushida handled Shioda's administrative duties. In 1973, a request for an instructor was sent from Kimeda Takeshi, who would later go on to found Yoshinkai Canada and currently lives and teaches in Toronto, Canada. In response to the request, Kushida left his position as chief instructor at the Yoshinkan honbu dojo and went to North America.

In 1976, Kushida started the Aikido Yoshinkai Association of North America (AYANA). In 1991, Yoshinkai Aikido in Japan established the International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation (IYAF, now defunct and replaced by AYF. See article Yoshinkan). Representatives of various countries discussed the mission, policies, and activities of IYAF with Kushida and Yoshinkai leaders in 1990. However,

Kushida did not wish to change AYANA's standards to conform with those of the IYAF and was subsequently dismissed from Yoshinkan by Shioda in August 1990.

Much like Tohei Koichi after he left the Aikikai, Kushida's contributions to early Yoshinkan Aikido have since been all but erased from the official records.

In December 1991, Kushida changed AYANA's name from Yoshinkai Association of North America to the Yoshokai Association of North America and began operating as an independent organization. Kushida's headquarters for the Aikido Yoshokai Association of North America in Ann Arbor Michigan is the Genyokan dojo.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Old Dogs

After 16 1/2 years, we're had to euthanize our beloved dog Annie.

In people years, she'd be about 90. She's had issues over the years as she's aged: blindness, deafness, an injury to one of her legs from a fall; but inspite of it all, she was full of life every day.

She had a bad decline over the weekend and we had to take her in.

Always, right to the end, she was a good dog.

We'll all miss her very much.

Our house seems so big and empty without her in it. I never realized how many little rituals we had every day. 

My wife has been sobbing non stop. As Annie grew more infirm, my wife's life increasingly centered around taking care of her dog.

My oldest daughter took the initiative and tracked down a puppy that met all the criteria my wife has ever mentioned "if we ever got another dog." They are picking her up tomorrow. I think Annie would approve.

A book I wrote about once that I think any dog lover would love is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It's written from a dog's point of view. It's about an old dog who is at the end of his life looking back over his days and forward to what comes next. It's a beautiful book.

Another book about dogs that I enjoyed very much is Inside of a Dog by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz. Dr. Horowitz is a biologist who explains why dogs are they way they are and how they got that way. She uses her own dogs frequently as examples of her explanations. A dog owner would get a much better appreciation of his pet by reading this one.


A couple of years ago, I posted an extract from the book Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs by Gene Weingarten.I thought it would be appropriate to post it once again.

They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.

Not long before his death, Harry and I headed out for a walk that proved eventful. He was nearly 13, old for a big dog. Walks were no longer the slap-happy Iditarods of his youth, frenzies of purposeless pulling in which we would cast madly off in all directions, fighting for command. Nor were they the exuberant archaeological expeditions of his middle years, when every other tree or hydrant or blade of grass held tantalizing secrets about his neighbors. In his old age, Harry had transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination—a dutiful, utilitarian, head-down trudge. When finished, he would shuffle home to his ratty old bed, which graced our living room because Harry could no longer ascend the stairs. On these walks, Harry seemed oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed in the arduous responsibility of placing foot before foot before foot before foot. But this time, on the edge of a small urban park, he stopped to watch something. A man was throwing a Frisbee to his dog. The dog, about Harry’s size, was tracking the flight expertly, as Harry had once done, anticipating hooks and slices by watching the pitch and roll and yaw of the disc, as Harry had done, then catching it with a joyful, punctuating leap, as Harry had once done, too.

Harry sat. For 10 minutes, he watched the fling and catch, fling and catch, his face contented, his eyes alight, his tail a-twitch. Our walk home was almost … jaunty.

Some years ago, The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”

It’s no big deal to love a dog; they make it so easy for you. They find you brilliant, even if you are a witling. You fascinate them, even if you are as dull as a butter knife. They are fond of you, even if you are a genocidal maniac. Hitler loved his dogs, and they loved him.

Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckleheaded matrix of behavior we find so appealing—his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.

Kafka wrote that the meaning of life is that it ends. He meant that our lives are shaped and shaded by the existential terror of knowing that all is finite. This anxiety informs poetry, literature, the monuments we build, the wars we wage—all of it. Kafka was talking, of course, about people. Among animals, only humans are said to be self-aware enough to comprehend the passage of time and the grim truth of mortality. How, then, to explain old Harry at the edge of that park, gray and lame, just days from the end, experiencing what can only be called wistfulness and nostalgia? I have lived with eight dogs, watched six of them grow old and infirm with grace and dignity, and die with what seemed to be acceptance. I have seen old dogs grieve at the loss of their friends. I have come to believe that as they age, dogs comprehend the passage of time, and, if not the inevitability of death, certainly the relentlessness of the onset of their frailties. They understand that what’s gone is gone.

What dogs do not have is an abstract sense of fear, or a feeling of injustice or entitlement. They do not see themselves, as we do, as tragic heroes, battling ceaselessly against the merciless onslaught of time. Unlike us, old dogs lack the audacity to mythologize their lives. You’ve got to love them for that.

The product of a Kansas puppy mill, Harry was sold to us as a yellow Labrador retriever. I suppose it was technically true, but only in the sense that Tic Tacs are technically “food.” Harry’s lineage was suspect. He wasn’t the square-headed, elegant type of Labrador you can envision in the wilds of Canada hunting for ducks. He was the shape of a baked potato, with the color and luster of an interoffice envelope. You could envision him in the wilds of suburban Toledo, hunting for nuggets of dried food in a carpet.

His full name was Harry S Truman, and once he’d reached middle age, he had indeed developed the unassuming soul of a haberdasher. We sometimes called him Tru, which fit his loyalty but was in other ways a misnomer: Harry was a bit of an eccentric, a few bubbles off plumb. Though he had never experienced an electrical shock, whenever he encountered a wire on the floor—say, a power cord leading from a laptop to a wall socket—Harry would stop and refuse to proceed. To him, this barrier was as impassable as the Himalayas. He’d stand there, waiting for someone to move it. Also, he was afraid of wind.

While Harry lacked the wiliness and cunning of some dogs, I did watch one day as he figured out a basic principle of physics. He was playing with a water bottle in our backyard—it was one of those 5-gallon cylindrical plastic jugs from the top of a water cooler. At one point, it rolled down a hill, which surprised and delighted him. He retrieved it, brought it back up and tried to make it go down again. It wouldn’t. I watched him nudge it around until he discovered that for the bottle to roll, its long axis had to be perpendicular to the slope of the hill. You could see the understanding dawn on his face; it was Archimedes in his bath, Helen Keller at the water spigot.

That was probably the intellectual achievement of Harry’s life, tarnished only slightly by the fact that he spent the next two hours insipidly entranced, rolling the bottle down and hauling it back up. He did not come inside until it grew too dark for him to see.

I believe I know exactly when Harry became an old dog. He was about 9 years old. It happened at 10:15 on the evening of June 21, 2001, the day my family moved from the suburbs to the city. The move took longer than we’d anticipated. Inexcusably, Harry had been left alone in the vacated house—eerie, echoing, empty of furniture and of all belongings except Harry and his bed—for eight hours. When I arrived to pick him up, he was beyond frantic.

He met me at the door and embraced me around the waist in a way that is not immediately reconcilable with the musculature and skeleton of a dog’s front legs. I could not extricate myself from his grasp. We walked out of that house like a slow-dancing couple, and Harry did not let go until I opened the car door.

He wasn’t barking at me in reprimand, as he once might have done. He hadn’t fouled the house in spite. That night, Harry was simply scared and vulnerable, impossibly sweet and needy and grateful. He had lost something of himself, but he had gained something more touching and more valuable. He had entered old age.

In the year after our move, Harry began to age visibly, and he did it the way most dogs do. First his muzzle began to whiten, and then the white slowly crept backward to swallow his entire head. As he became more sedentary, he thickened a bit, too.

On walks, he would no longer bother to scout and circle for a place to relieve himself. He would simply do it in mid-plod, like a horse, leaving the difficult logistics of drive-by cleanup to me. Sometimes, while crossing a busy street, with cars whizzing by, he would plop down to scratch his ear. Sometimes, he would forget where he was and why he was there. To the amusement of passersby, I would have to hunker down beside him and say, “Harry, we’re on a walk, and we’re going home now. Home is this way, okay?” On these dutiful walks, Harry ignored almost everything he passed. The most notable exception was an old, barrel-chested female pit bull named Honey, whom he loved. This was surprising, both because other dogs had long ago ceased to interest Harry at all, and because even back when they did, Harry’s tastes were for the guys.

Still, when we met Honey on walks, Harry perked up. Honey was younger by five years and heartier by a mile, but she liked Harry and slowed her gait when he was around. They waddled together for blocks, eyes forward, hardly interacting but content in each other’s company. I will forever be grateful to Honey for sweetening Harry’s last days.

Some people who seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog. People who find this behavior distasteful are often the ones without pets. It is hard to understand, in the abstract, the degree to which a companion animal, particularly after a long life, becomes a part of you. I believe I’ve figured out what this is all about. It is not as noble as I’d like it to be, but it is not anything of which to be ashamed, either.

In our dogs, we see ourselves. Dogs exhibit almost all of our emotions; if you think a dog cannot register envy or pity or pride or melancholia, you have never lived with one for any length of time. What dogs lack is our ability to dissimulate. They wear their emotions nakedly, and so, in watching them, we see ourselves as we would be if we were stripped of posture and pretense. Their innocence is enormously appealing. When we watch a dog progress from puppy­hood to old age, we are watching our own lives in microcosm. Our dogs become old, frail, crotchety, and vulnerable, just as Grandma did, just as we surely will, come the day. When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Traditional Roots


I remember back when I was a kid that the “Korean Karate” guys were considered the tough guys on the block. Sadly, the reputation of Taekwondo has suffered. In general, modern Taekwondo isn’t what it used to be.

Still, there are a few teachers out there who follow a traditional approach, have a deep root in the strengths of Taekwondo practice and yet are keeping up with the times.

One of these is Mr. Colin Wee. Mr. Wee was kind enough to write a guest post for Cook Dings Kitchen which you’ll find below. Enjoy.

What has happened to Taekwondo? By Colin Wee

“Taekwondo is the biggest joke and it SUX.”

Try telling that to any Taekwondo practitioner in the 1950s to 1960s, and you’d be asking for a world of hurt. Taekwondo then was hard hitting, literally a take-no-prisoners system. In both the Korean and Vietnam War, Taekwondo practitioners were feared as ruthless and effective killing machines.  

Out of Korea, students of Korean Karate instructors, such as GM Allen Steen (GM Jhoon Rhee’s first black belt student) in Texas, continued this trend and carved a reputation in the 1960s to 1970s as fierce fighters in the ‘Blood and Guts’ era of American martial arts.

So what has happened to modern Taekwondo that it has found itself in such a sorry state?

The answer lies in how you define what Taekwondo is.

In my world view, early Taekwondo comes up tops because it took an overly rigid Karate system as it was practiced in the 1920s and 1930s, and it injected innovation, mobility, and relaxedness into the system. How much of that influence came from the practise of Taekkyon is up for debate, but the inclusion of faster footwork and long range kicks allowed for freer body movement. It allowed for both phenomenal power and blinding speed.

At the heart of that Taekwondo however was still an engine driven by hard style linear karate. Yes, early Taekwondo’s hyung had been mostly repurposed from Shotokan’s kata but it was still all about kime or ‘focus’. Kime is the locking down of muscles upon impact. It creates immense striking power because the decelerating body structure is used to transmit a larger mass into the striking tool. Taekwondo then became as devastating at long range as it was at short range.

Where I trained as a young black belt it was always known that the best fighters are also pretty good kata practitioners. This is a correlation which defies logical explanation unless you understand that ‘good’ kata is linked with good kime. And good kime is fundamental to having the kind of scary power that Taekwondo was famous for.

If you however subscribe to the view that Taekkyon is the progenitor of Taekwondo, and that Taekwondo’s 2000 year old history establishes a direct lineage with Hwarang warriors, then that bypasses the unbearable truth of Taekwondo’s Japanese connection, fully differentiates it from Shotokan karate and, as you can see from how hyung and palgwe are now performed, has had kime excised from the heart of Taekwondo.

Now, I’m not saying there are no redeeming features about modern Taekwondo. It hasn’t become the world’s most popular martial art for nothing. What I’m saying however is that its evolution from the 1960s onwards has changed its intrinsic nature.

The mantra of modern Taekwondo has to be kicks, kicks and more kicks. Of course there is also General Choi’s positing the Sine Wave as a point of power differentiation for Taekwondo. But that hasn’t metastasized into modern skills for modern practitioners.

What modern Taekwondo has is a phenomenal array of long and mid-range tools, and an impressive sport training approach – all capitalising on mobility, relaxedness and speed. Ironically it is the focus on these strengths which draw the greatest disdain from other stylists. Not because of the strengths per se, but of course what the style has given up in search of that excellence.

When Rick asked me to write about Traditional Taekwondo, my immediate thought was not to grandstand. But the truth is that given we pride ourselves on a ‘less is more’ philosophy, we’re hardly going to make waves. Our approach - simple techniques applied with generous variation, has always been what it’s all about.

Traditional Taekwondo cannot be all things to all people. Even in a progressive school such as ours, I can only offer so much from the pattern set. I make no apologies for it, and my students know they can and should go fill in the gaps in their knowledge. They however often find themselves stuck on early Taekwondo’s very compelling story. The story begins with very hardy people, their idea to improve on the world of hurt they were experiencing, and the innovation they gifted their new fighting art.

I owe thanks to Rick, Cook Ding’s Kitchen and its readers, and readers of Traditional Taekwondo Blog http://www.joongdokwan.com for giving me the chance to continue telling the story of Traditional Taekwondo and the little slice of history we represent.

Colin Wee is a 6th Dan Black Belt in Traditional Taekwondo. Over the last 29 years he has practiced three martial arts in three different countries. Currently Chung Sah Nim or Chief Instructor at Joong Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do, he leads a small group of dedicated adult students, and shares his perspective at Traditional Taekwondo Techniques Blog http://www.joongdokwan.com. He is affiliated with American Karate and Taekwondo Organization and Molum Combat Arts Association.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Developing YOUR Martial Art

I ran across a quote recently. I regret that I'm not sure to whom I attribute it:


"When you learn this stuff, you try to get the essence of the tradition first, but then later modify your practice so it works for you. You still pass down the tradition because it is a good way of training, but after a certain amount of time, your practice must become your own."


I am a believer that once you learn something thoroughly, it YOURS. Not some organization or chief instructor; YOU. Further, as you advance in your mastery of , you can't help but give it your own personal expressions. 


Mr. Charles James has studied, taught and practiced Isshin Ryu Karate for decades. He is the proprietor of some excellent blogs (Martial Arts Terms, Isshin Do, Karate Questions and Kenpo-Gokui). Please pay them a visit.


Mr. James has been kind enough to provide a guest post here, describing the evolution of his Karate Do. Enjoy.


My System, My Way, My Isshinryu:

I have practiced for about 36 years this art of Isshinryu, this gift we received from a karate master by the name of Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei. He allowed us, the Marines, to study his system beginning in the late fifties. Sensei Don Nagle was his first Marine of note to take on Isshinryu.

The goal of the martial arts is to achieve a greater self. To take the gift of Tatsuo-san, in the case of Isshinryu practitioners, and make it our own. I didn't come to this realization to many years into my practice and it came to me as inspiration. I am not advocating one move off the path Tatsuo-san provided but rather one to allow it to speak to your spirit and the spirit in time would then speak to you, the person, the individual making the system "your own."

I remained dedicated and diligent keeping the system I was taught by Sensei Warner Henry intact as he learned it through the Nagle-san way of Isshinryu. In later years as I began my spiritual journey in Isshinryu I sought out knowledge through the ken-po goku-i. This short "Karate koan" inspired me first in its interpretation through my personal perception in a "literal" way. Progressing in my studies I came to "see," "hear," and "feel" something unique.

I started to see "connections" that were not apparent before this time in my practice and training. The connections to terms and symbolism and meanings through things like "Shin-gi-tai," "Shu-ha-ri," and "Chinese-Japanese cultures" as they related to Okinawan cultures, beliefs and perceptions, i.e. Tatsuo-san as the lead, the mentor, the master.

I suddenly realized that staying strictly and doggedly attached to exactly what Tatsuo-san gave us would be just the exact opposite of his intent for Isshinryu. I connected the constant differences in Tatsuo-san's practice of kata as another indication we should not remain dogmatic in our practice but to reach out beyond the stars.

Consider one literal point, most of the masters who created systems or styles at the time were taking what they received as a gift from their Sensei and creating their own, i.e. Isshinryu, Gokuryu and Shorinryu to name a few. I don't mean that I must create a whole new system or style but still "make Isshinryu my own."

This influenced my view, perception, imagery and visualization of my practice and training. I began to see things like bunkai in a light that matched my time, my environment and my cultural belief systems. I began to "see and feel" things that fit me as to my personality and ability, i.e. uniqueness of me. It meant that I needed to change things in small ways to fit "me."

I also realized that this did not affect Tatsuo-san's system as it is and should remain for future generations. It is the blueprint and foundation that should remain intact so that those who go after me or any Isshinryu Sensei can achieve the same epiphany I did, make Isshinryu my own or your own or his/her own. Teaching it and practicing it as your own if it comes at the time that is natural to the individual makes it easy to carry forward in its dualistic form.

I realized as I traveled this path that my original blueprint of Isshinryu was a "one wholehearted system" as Tatsuo-san intended and like the Great Tai Chi the "one" divided into the "two" or "yin-yang" of Isshinryu. The yang being Tatsuo-san's Isshinryu and the yin being my Isshinryu. The duality I carry today.

This process is not easy and it takes many, many years of practice, training and contemplation. It came about because I was very lucky to realize that it involves not external persons, things or validations but rather an openness to my "self" for self-reflection and as I traveled this new path self-transmutation which lead to my transforming or morphing Isshinryu into my own Isshinryu.

It was a beginning of one wholehearted melding of mind, body and spirit through my physical and spiritual training that led me to reach higher into my self and allow for change. I realized that change is natural, instinctual and a part of our very being as humans. The I Ching, as I was led to from study of the gokui, speaks to generations to the "art of change." The changes must come or we become stagnant and I have come to believe this is why many systems and practitioners become lost and change out of the martial arts.

The journey is long and I have reached the "HA" level of Shu-ha-ri but at the very edge and expect that my efforts will continue for a long, long time. This path led me to writing and other endeavors that also result from this effort.

I hope this short meanderings has some success in conveying the how I traveled this path. I don't have or do I expect that there is any particular steps or practice or direction one must follow to achieve the realizations I have been provided but hope that it inspires other to reach beyond the sky, the moon and the stars and reach further out into the cosmos - it is there, waiting, expecting and hoping to "see," "hear," and "feel" you.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Karate Applications

Over at Martial Views, the author has posted a couple of stories about how two of his students have applied what they learned in Karate outside of class. Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here.

...Stories like this are meaningful because they illustrate how valuable karate practice can be. Marge's case was extreme; her life was at risk and she had no choice but to resort to the jutsu or technical aspects of karate to protect herself. Thank god she's alright, and I've been given good reason to believe that this episode won't repeat itself for her.

Stan's story was far less dramatic - he was never in any physical danger - but his self-respect was at stake. He was not acquainted at all with the co-worker who took his parking spot and had no idea how confronting him would turn out. Given this uncertainty, Stan was nonetheless resolved to fix this problem and conducted himself admirably.

Both students exemplify the spirit of karate-do: The ability and willingness to take one's training outside the dojo with effective and positive results.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Learning Resources

It's been my experience that anyone who has been studying well, anything is always trying to determine if they are going about their study in the most efficient way possible. That question leads us to areas such as learning theory and resources.


Below is a guest article by Estelle  Shumann on learning resources. While the target is more of a general audience, I think the readers here at Cook Ding's Kitchen will find it very useful. Enjoy.

Online Learning and Constructivism
The constructivist view of education can be contrasted with the objectivist view, which has traditionally dominated formal education. The objectivist view of learning says that knowledge can be transmitted from teacher to learner with the help of lecture, instruction, and practice. Reality, in this view, is made up of a body of facts. Different views and understandings are discouraged, experiences and different contexts of individuals are disregarded, and the individual is seen as a passive recipient of factual material. Emphasis is on teacher-control and learner-compliance.

The constructivist view emphasizes the active role of the learner. It emphasizes things besides facts, and suggests that our views of the world are in continuous flux, building on past experiences. Constructivist learning at its best involves active self-directed cognizing by the learner; the teacher, if present, is more of a guide.

Online degree programs can cater to individuals’ need to build their own knowledge,  and in that sense it can be regarded as a constructivist approach. But if the structure of an online learning environment is fairly rigid, relying on lecture and online discussion and using pre-ordained inflexible metrics to determine student learning success, it is more in tune with the objectivist mode.

It has been shown in several studies that it is difficult to foster active online discussion in an online course. Architects of such courses tend to feel that those who participate actively are the students who are truly learning, while the quiet students are merely ‘lurkers’ relying on the thoughts and the efforts of others. But the expectation that students will respond to fixed discussion questions about course material is not a constructivist expectation. Lurkers may not trust the situation, or they may be even more engaged in the course than those who actively discuss, using their time to reflect rather than respond. Teachers must resist the need to always see evidence that students are learning and trust that lurkers are learning on their own terms.

Online classes, aimed at transmitting a certain body of information, with specific syllabi, and fixed assignments, all assembled under the authority of a powerful instructor who assigns grades, may not be constructivist learning environments at all. Khan Academy, a free online resource, is an example of a delivery method that helps students learn at their own pace, and build knowledge based on their own specific experience. Khan Academy may be used in the classroom, in which case the teacher does take on the role of guide, even though he or she may use a dashboard to see individual students’ progress. Khan Academy’s ten-minute videos are followed by “modules” so students can monitor their own progress, and the classroom setting is not necessary.

Other free online learning resources are Harvard’s Open Learning Initiative and the Open Culture website, both contain entire courses with the click of a mouse. While these courses are structured, the learner is completely free to direct his or her exposure to the material, and will not be graded or asked to respond in any prescribed way.

Incorporating constructivist learning  methods into education may require many changes to our current system, expectations and attitude. Some of the possibilities for change are reflected in the newest constructivist models for online learning. They offer a range of rich learning platforms. If successful in the long-term constructivism may profoundly change the common view of what learning is and could be.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Japanese Martial Arts Terms

Martial Art Terminology is a blog which is growing into quite a glossary of Japanese martial arts terms. With each term, the kanji is given along with the definition and some additional thoughts by the author. Please pay a visit.