When we learn a new skill whether that be an American Kenpo based skill or just one from our everyday living we need to process the components required to become successful in using the skill. This will follow a set pattern of learning, in American Kenpo we term this as using “The Three Stages of Learning”.
The three stages of learning is a method of interpreting this process in a way the human mind can grasp and easily visualise. American Kenpo is somewhat unique in its use of ” memory keys” to accelerate the learning and recall process, the three stages of learning is just an extension of these memory keys.
The first learning stage is termed, ” Primitive ” This is not intended to be disrespectful or derogatory, it plainly means at this stage of learning the student has only just begun to develop a skill base and their ability is “primitive” in nature. The student will typically make many mistakes and often need correcting and/or reminding on aspects of the skill they are attempting to acquire.
The second learning stage is termed “Mechanical”. This is where a student has internalised the components required for the skill base, but their use of these components is somewhat disjointed and “mechanical” in execution. Movement can appear almost machine like, the student tends to give a robotic type impression.
The third and final learning stage is the “Spontaneous” stage. At this point the skill base has become so familiar to the student they can execute the required components without any forethought or conscious thought. This is the ultimate stage where all movement and knowledge come together in concise and focused execution, what could be termed a form of “unconscious competence”
There is a common misrepresentation of the three stages of learning that I have encountered from American Kenpo students over my years of teaching. Often students just link the three stages of learning to specific belt levels. Primitive is generally linked to the White, Yellow & Orange belt levels. These are seen as the early stages where the students ability to move effectively is compromise by their lack of experience. The mechanical stage follows by being linked to the ranks Purple, Blue & Green belt levels. These ranks are seen as having internalised the type of movement required to be an effective exponent of American Kenpo, but have not yet developed the acute sensitivity deemed necessary to enter the next stage of spontaneity. Therefore the level of spontaneity is thought of as being attached to the instructor levels of Brown and Black belts. This would be a nice way of packaging the three staged of learning, but this is not how it is applied. Everyone, no matter who you are, or what grade you hold, everyone must go through the three stages of learning each time when internalising something new. The only thing that will alter is the length of time you spend in the first two stages of learning before you enter the third. This will also depend on many other aspect of your own personal experiences as much as your physical and mental makeup.
Not everyone absorbs information at the same rate, some aspects of information absorption can be effected by your biorhythm, the time of day or by how much you have eaten prior to your lesson. Even how much time you spend in your day just thinking about a subject you are working upon can affect your information absorption. The main aspect that will support the three stages of learning is having a reason for putting the long hours of study into your chosen subject, this is your intention. The intention you have to work hard and study for long periods (what ever that maybe) will lead your attention to the details within your chosen subject. The more attention you apply, the more critical your work will become.