Kayaking Technique Forum

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Self Instruction Vs. Teaching - Rolls/Whatever

Hi Folks

I find the thread has taken an interesting turn. Now we are discussing teaching methods, whether the self taught or instructed approach is best. Learning to roll is a motor-set, that is, a set of instructions from the cortex, the cerebellum, the equilibrium centers, muscle spindles, very complicated, physiologically. Motor sets must be learned through repetion. It is a case of matching the feedback from your limbs and body, which tell you about body and limb position, with responses to that data. The response might be to sweep less vigorously, move hips more, tuck torso less, all at the same time. Much more work than sitting in a boat with the rudder in the water jus' paddlin'.

I learned my first lesson about motor skills in the adult learner when I started martial arts. I acquired generic skills such as balance, flexibility (not much, but some), faster reaction times, honed survival instincts, awareness of the hip and spinal mechanics, and strength (mostly ligament and tendon strength, not muscular power per se). So I discovered that without a teacher, my efforts had resulted in very cheesy martial arts, kind of a pseudo Bruce Lee, but without any skill. My teachers corrected stances, movements, and to this day, 12 years later, I am still a baby in karate, when I get instruction from my teacher, I feel as though I know nothing. I move like wood, and seem to do everything in slow motion. But slowly, I am learning, from detailed criticism of each movement and suggestions for improvement, how to become a bit better, despite the fact I think I am a lousy karateka.

My next encounter with self vs. instruction learning was in telemark skiing. I have always been Mr. Self Directed, a high school drop-out, eventually went back and got a PhD, just to prove to the bastards I could do it (or to prove it to myself). So it had gotten me pretty far, just following my own good sense. Well, just like karate, tele skiing had me floored. I had only cross-country skied before, never been on a hill before. I nearly got killed when the chair-lift came around, everyone was screaming at me from the line-up on a busy Saturday..."watch out, you idiot!". I got on the lift after they emergency stopped it, being held on the chair by a more experienced student. We got to the top of the lift, and I got out of the chair, and zoomed down the hill from the lift, a simple 3 foot run, wiped out several people, and couldn't get up, so people kept getting off the lift behind me and narrowly missing me. I got to the hill, where other students were practicing tele stops. I stood up, immediately fell, stood up, immediately fell, again and again, for 2 months. One day I got my first tele. Now I teach tele and can ski some fairly challenging runs. Until i got instruction, I was a loser on the hill. You need instruction to just learn how to position the body, motor set-wise, for the telemark turn. In regular downhill, this isn't as demanding, nor is cross country. Tele is such a whole body integrated movement, like kayaking, that you need someone to put it together

What I have found is that motor set skills, such as hip snapping are not easy to learn. Why is that? Face it, snapping our hips is not something we do anywhere else in life (although a crude joke does come to mind). It is a difficult motor skill, when combined with sweeping a paddle up and over our heads in various arcs, all while upside down, underwater, with our PFD pulling is around. This is a situation where a foreign motor set is learned best with help. At least for me.

If you learn on your own, please post me and let me know how you did it, ie., what critical steps made the difference to get that first roll going?

All the Best

David