Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bass Ackwards

Hah! I finally cleared Kusanku. Last night was my first lesson on Sunsu (or Suansu, depending whose pronunciation/spelling you go for). This will be my second-to-last empty hand kata, with only Sanchin left to learn. Sensei says he will also start teaching me Tokumine no Kun (bo kata) now, though he intends to start by showing me individual moves first, rather than teaching front-to-back.

I'm kind of tempted to ask him if he can teach it to me back-to-front, to test out a little theory of mine. The rule of thumb in dog training is that you start with the last thing first, so that the animal is always working from the least well known stuff towards stuff it knows better. In theory it should work the same way with human learning. I've done it succesfully with piano music and with memorizing text. With piano music it is frustrating, but it works exceptionally well. It forces me to break the piece up more, and since the end of the practice section is generally the end of the piece, it doesn't reward half-assing things past the point I'm working on. I'm a good sight-reader, so the temptation to do this is strong if I'm working from the front. Generally if I can make myself work back-to-front, the learning process is neither faster nor slower, but when I get to the point of doing the whole piece, my technical playing is much stronger. Whereas if I'm going front-to-back my playing tends to stall out at the "sounds good to a layman" stage.

However, most people aren't used to learning (or teaching) back-to-front. I've tried teaching that way once or twice, and the immediate reaction is "Man, that's weird!" and a shutdown by the student. They're just too weirded out to pay proper attention. Only one of our current students thinks it sounds interesting, but she's learning simultaneously as her two sons and teaching them all the same kata from different ends would likely be counter-productive to their home practice, since they use each other for memory-checking. She did memorize the karate creed using back-to-front, and reported that it worked well.

I am tempted to ask Sensei if he's willing to try teaching Tokumine no Kun back-to-front. I'm the only one learning it right now, and he's generally pretty open to alternative teaching ideas. We'll have to see. After all, he was originally going to teach me Kusanku and Kusanku Sai simultaneously, but after the first couple of classes, it never really happened again - so it may turn out to be moot.

Sensei thinks he's found us an indoor place to go. We'd be renting space from a Jazzercise studio. Advantages: flooring should be good - certainly better than linoleum over concrete. Hours are good. Space is good. Owner will let us advertise, so we have some good opportunity to add some students. Indoors will be very good as the weather moves into high summer. Disadvantages: Cost is higher than Sensei really wanted to pay, meaning he'd have to charge us more than he'd like to, though still only about half of what our prior place charged us. Neighborhood is not bad, but scary enough that the mother of our youngest student (seven), may balk at coming there. Sensei is worried that Sin & Skin, the tatoo parlor next door, may scare her away.

In other news, Rob is currently in Oregon for his first major trip relating to his new position. He's gone until this weekend, whereupon he's home for a week, and then we head for Minnesota for a mini-family reunion (my parents, their kids, spouses and children). After that we're home for a week - and then school starts. It seems like it's been an incredibly short summer, but I'm looking forward to getting back into my normal routine. Trying to fit exercise and writing in around having the children home full-time is a considerable challenge.

Lastly, I'm moving back into proper practicing mode on the piano. I've been hacking around pretty much since we moved from Iowa - I think being music minister there burned me out a little. I'm feeling a little too much of a hacker lately though, so I'm going back to putting in significant daily time on the bench. If I can figure out exactly how, I may see if I can record pieces as I re-add them to my repetoire and post them up here. If I'm feeling especially ambitious, I may even try singing! That would be seriously courting Murphy, however. Despite multiple attempts by several different people, I've never actually been successfully recorded singing. In high school I tried to record a practice session with my teacher, only to have the tape machine go kablooie. In college the choir was doing a professional recording of the Vespers concert so we could sell it for travel funding. The entire recording was fine, except for my solo, wherein the audio engineer, for reasons that will forever remain mysterious, decided to eat a carrot, while standing next to the balcony mike, which he had forgotten to turn off. We had an extra session, specifically for re-recording that section - and the equipment went haywire.

I've successfully made and e-mailed recordings of me speaking, so it's just the singing that's whacked - but if the playing goes well, I may try it anyway.


Becky said...

I've also seen it spelled Su Nu Su. Good luck in learning it. It is a fantastic kata.

Your back to front theory is a valid one. I studied it in some of my psychology classes in college. It is called Backwards Shaping--if I remember right. When I was in church choir as a youth, our director had us memorize songs like this. We learned the last page first, and so on. I don't know if we necessarily learned faster because of it, but I definitely remember the feeling of almost relief when getting to a part of the song I knew. It is definitely a confidence builder--at least in my case.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Backwards shaping is what it's called in dog training too, so I think your memory is good.

I'm really liking what I've learned so far of Sunsu, even if it's not very much.

M.A.L.S. said...

The back-to-front training sounds interesting but I'm having a hard time picturing how you'd apply it to teaching a kata. Could you maybe elaborate in a future post?