Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Four Stages of Learning

Practicing Martial Arts makes it easy to understand the four stages of learning that apply in any endeavor. They are as follows,

I. Unconscious Incompetence.

You have absolutely no idea what's going. You flail around, you think it's right, but you aren't sure. At this stage of learning you are just trying to figure out which way the pants go, and think someone gave you a belt that is six sizes too big.

II. Conscious Incompetence.

This is the phase where your realize something is different between you and the teacher. You start recognizing what you need to do - but can not make your body do it. The fun part of this stage is that you set goals for improvement.

III. Conscious Competence.

Stage three is where, if you really think about each facet of a technique you can actually get it right. It's the stage where, with a lot of forethought and careful execution you can begin to mirror your teacher.

IV. Unconscious Competence.

This is what I would call the black belt phase - it's where you can perform movements, execute blocks, strikes and movements on instinct. No thought, just action and reaction. A 1st degree black belt should have their basic techniques built into an unconscious competence.

This is why we so often say that training really begins at the black belt. The basics are not just known, but have become a part of you. It's a foundation on which you can build a martial artist of true strength and skill.

Your challenge as a martial artist is to recognize which stage your individual techniques are in. Moreover, your challenge is to figure out what other areas in life the four stages of learning apply.