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September 28, 2003


Learning habits

Have not really been able to reconcile the changes in my Tango after my recent trips to Berlin and Taipei. And I guess it must have been just nagging away at the back of my mind without my knowing. A recent conversation provided the breakthrough I needed, and then everything fell into place.

Firstly, Berlin. I simply could not fully convince myself of the reason for the change in the way I approached Tango, because I took no classes when I was in Berlin, and did not really dance continuously at all the milongas I attended. While it is plausible that, by being in the right environment, with the right atmosphere, one’s body may be able to adapt at a subconscious level, this does not seem satisfactory to me. Was this it really the explanation?

Taipei was easier to reconcile. After all, I was in the middle of trying to incorporate new techniques into my own ‘system’, so the temporary drop is understandable – at least I can sleep soundly after saying this :-)). Also, there is the confidence thing, as usual…

After giving it some more thought, it suddenly occurred to me that these changes are not something unconscious or even accidental at all! In actual fact, this is exactly one of the techniques I use when tackling something new. I have known (and put into practice) that, when approaching a new subject, it is often easier to get the gist of things by ‘copying’. Through this process, it is hoped that internal organisation will take care of the rest. In other words, by fashioning you actions (in the case of dancing) or thought processes after some expert, you get to experience the ‘spirit’ of the actions and it then becomes much, much easier to visualise what needs to be done.

In fact, (visual) art students have done this for years, by copying paintings in art galleries by past masters. I believe this is best suited for subjects which involve complex concepts, and concepts which cannot be explained purely by words, but things that needed to be felt. I had used this approach when I was learning to play chess, and it was also the same for Tai Chi. Perhaps since it has become so natural for me that I did not consciously think of it in this case!?

I suppose, after having read the recommendation in an instructional book on chess about fashioning your style of play after some past champion, I must have been convinced by the argument and ‘secretly’ tuning myself subsequently!?

Maybe, this can be adapted into some sort of generic framework for learning as well?

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  1. how meng
    Oct 28 2003

    Yes, this is not something new. In fact if you know about NLP, the process of ‘copying’ is well documented. Try reading the book ‘Unlimited Power’. Even those people in old times learning martial arts do the same too. And if you observe carefully, a lot of students dance like their teachers – especially if they have not been exposed to a lot of influences.

  2. Oct 28 2003

    Actually I did not expect this to be something radical. However, is it possible to copy “without doing”? I guess this was really the key point I tried, unsuccessfully, to emphasise.

  3. how meng
    Oct 28 2003

    Very difficult question. Maybe we discuss when we meet. But just some thoughts.

    Probably it depends on the level of copying you are talking about.

    You mentioned fashioning your actions (in the case of dancing) or thought processes after some expert, you get to experience the ‘spirit’ of the actions and it then becomes much, much easier to visualise what needs to be done.

    But I can you can copy on different levels. You can copy the pattern, the action, copy the feel of how the person move. You can even copy the ‘spirit’ of how the person move.

    Whether you copy the action or the feel or the spirit, you have to externalise it in some way in order to see the result of your copying. So I am not sure what you meant by copy but not doing it.

    I think what you meant is, is it possible to copy without practising it ?

    If you copy physically, you are doing it.

    If you copy the idea, you capture the concept, internalise it, change it and do it(externalise) in a different way. So you are also doing it but changed from the original.

    Hope i make sense :p

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