Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Math and Martial Arts

Tonight is "Math Night" at my son's first grade class.
Despite various posts I have made on the relationship of science to martial arts, few of us realize how close math and martial arts really are.

See if you agree:

The Right Teacher Makes all The Difference
I didn't have very good math teachers in school. I went to public school, and most of them just wrote things on the board and gave us homework. Then in college I met professor Andre for business calculus. He made math RELEVANT. The problems he gave us were real-world problems - you wanted to solve them. From then on I have loved math. Thanks Professor Andre. In martial arts, especially for children, the right teacher makes the difference between fun and boring - between a lifetime of learning and casual disinterest.

Developing Confidence
A good teacher, in math or martial arts, develops confidence in the students and takes them forward at a pace they can handle. There is some pressure from time to time, but the chance of failure should never really exist for students in either. Challenges are presented in order to build confidence and self-esteem. Most people, myself included, believed we were poor at math simply because we lacked confidence - not because we are stupid.

Good drills in math gradually help us develop instinctive understandings about how the numerical world works, just as good drills in martial arts help us to achieve mind/body control.
Both skills develop sound, powerful thinking power.

It is criminal to deny a student the chance to reach their potential in either by failing to help them develop their confidence.

Focus on Fundamentals
I love math becuase, like martial arts, it is built on fundamental rules.
We work the fundamentals a lot in both. They give us the tools to go forward and solve even complex problems by combining fundamentals.

In martial arts, our basic stances and movements become the foundation sones for more complicated and intricate techniques we learn later on.

Weak fundamentals - weak techniques. That applies to both.

Repetition and Drills
Repetition and drills are at the heart of practice - especially if we want to commit things to memory (physical or mental). This does not have to be boring, however. In martial arts and math, good teachers combine and invent new drills all the time to keep student interest and help make the student responses intuitive. All students love a fun challenge, and this can be done effectively by teachers of either.

Logic and Creativity
As we progress in martial arts, we develop both our logic and our creativity. We learn to attack the nearest effective "logical" target on our opponent, and to position our bodies in the most advantageous "logical" location relative to our opponent.

We develop creativity in our martial arts when we truly understand concepts, and learn to apply their logic in unique ways. Ni Tien calls this "flow" (http://www.nitien.com/)

In math, the most elegant and beautiful solutions to problems come when we understand the rules and apply them in a unique way to find the answer. As in martial arts, there are often many ways to solve problems.

Broad Applicability
I have said before that I use my martial arts training every single day. It's true. What I learn is valuable far beyond the dojo. The points above have developed my educational concept throughout my life, and allowed me to find new perspectives that have kept me interested and passionate about life.

Math is the cornerstone of many other bodies of learning, including medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering, architecture, and business. Skill and confidence here can lead to a lot of options later on.

Martial arts training has been part of my life since I was 14, and been largely responsible for the diverse successes I have had in my life.

Lifetime Learning
I have been involved with martial arts for 27 years so far. I never cease to be amazed at new discoveries I uncover every day. math is also like that. Mathematican friends of mine continually find new ways to apply what they know, new problems to solve, and new puzzles to challenge them. Both fields of study are infinite, and worthy of lifelong dedication.

Don't be afraid to pick up a book and discover how smart you really are.
You may surprise yourself and awaken the "sleeping genius" within you.

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