“The Highest Form of Learning is Teaching”

As a martial artist, there comes a point in your path when simply taking classes is no longer sufficient to progress your training. In order to fully progress from student to master, there is usually an interim phase were one must be a student AND a teacher at the same time. Guro Dan Inosanto, my teacher in so many ways, often quotes Socrates, saying “the highest form of learning is teaching.” These words always made sense to me, and I naturally agreed with the idea, but I never really knew what it truly meant, until I started teaching.


I had the privilege of teaching a women’s self-defense program at The New High School Project, in Monterey, CA. TNHSP is a very unique learning environment; it is an independent high school that specializes in teaching children with Learning Differences such as Dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism. I myself have Dyslexia and ADHD, and I went through extensive after school programs to help me learn simple things like reading and writing. I, like many people with a Learning Difference, don’t learn these skills the same way as most people do. As an adult, I have learned many things through martial arts that made me say to myself, “I wish I knew this when I was a kid!” So I tried to take these techniques and ideas that I think are helpful for those with a Learning Difference, and tie them into my women’s self-defense program.


We covered two martial arts in the women’s self-defense class, Jan Fun Gung Fu and Filipino Kali. Jan Fun Gung Fu is a style of fighting developed by Sijo Bruce Lee, my teacher’s teacher. It is a very utilitarian and street oriented system of fighting. It has very straight forward fighting concepts like western boxing and low groin kicks, but Sijo Bruce also added a lot of Wing Chun, a martial art developed by a Chinese nun. Wing Chun is one of the very few martial arts that was developed by a woman, and it’s techniques are ideal for close quarter combat and self-defense, naturally. One of the hallmarks of Wing Chun is “hand immobilization”, basically trapping someone’s arm or hand in a pre-emptive move so that they cannot attack you. I taught some of these hand immobilizations techniques, but also how to counter hand immobilization as well.

No self-defense system is complete without some kind of offense, so I taught them the finer details of the eye jab! A poke to the opponents eyes really is the easiest and safest way to defend one self, but it must be in self defense. Using this technique to assault someone is a serious crime, as it should be. All the ladies at TNHSP fully understood this, however, and I was happy to teach them some life survival skills.


Towards the end of the class, I taught them Filipino Kali. Kali is a mother art of various Filipino Martial Arts. It involves literally every form of combat imaginable: spears, swords, shields, daggers, punching, kicking, grappling, trapping and wrestling. For this class however, I stuck to the basic double rattan stick training method. This is the first fighting modality that people learn in Kali; out of all the vast choices, two rattan sticks is first. The reason for this is that the rattan sticks are excellent tools for performing various coordination and attribute development drills.


In Kali, the emphasis isn’t on learning techniques first, but in developing the practitioners attributes so that they can adequately execute the techniques. This is atypical compared to most martial arts, that mostly focus on techniques through repetition. In Kali, the focus is on attribute development through repetition. Ambidexterity is a prized asset in the martial art world, and Kali is one of the few martial arts that actively develops this attribute. By using both hands simultaneously and in conjunction with each other, you’re increasing the brains ability to use both hemispheres of the brain. This activity will increase the hemispheres abilities to communicate with each other, which is a valuable attribute for dyslexics in particular to have. So I snuck in a little bit of cognitive training while developing the students’ attributes such as coordination, dexterity, and sensitivity.

This was a very rewarding experience for me as a student, and for me as a teacher. I realized that you really don’t know something until you can teach it to someone else, and than unfortunately you can become so self-aware that you realize you are making so many mistakes that previously had gone unnoticed. And than you realize that there may be a million other things that you’re probably missing, and than you get anxiety because you no longer have a hold on things like you thought you did. And than it all becomes clear, again, and the wise words still echo in your head, “the highest form of learning is teaching…”


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