Introduction: TAO of Teaching

Welcome to the Tao of Teaching blog, a review of educational theory as it applies to the martial arts. Whether you are a teacher or a student you are involved in martial arts education. It is my hope that this blog will become a resource for practicing and aspiring martial arts teachers who want to explore theories of teaching and learning. We'll talk a bit about pedagogy, psychology, inclusion, and other aspects of learning. We'll explore the concept of authentic learning and try to figure out why studying martial arts can be such a powerful and transformative experience.


My name is Geoff Wingard and I've been involved in the martial arts for over 30 years. I've also been an educator and a historian for more than two decades. I've taught in public schools and colleges, with honors students and with at-risk youth. What I've learned is that theory without action is meaningless, but that action without theory is purposeless. We, as martial artists, sensei, sabumnim, and sifu, need to be masters of both action and ideas. I hope this blog - and your commentary on it - helps clarify how we can connect the skills we have devoted years to master to the best practices we hope to employ as we teach the next generation of students.

Let me offer a few words on what this blog is and isn't. First, this blog is a tool. It is intended to help clarify key concepts in educational theory and explore how those ideas apply to learning martial arts. Second, it is largely based on a review of literature and informed opinion. We're not conducting experiments or engaging in original research. This isn't Enter the Dragon and I don't have Han's Private Island with a captive population on which to test these theories, my observations are solely based on my experience as an academic and martial arts teacher and in my research on the application of learning theory in those environments. I hope you'll contribute your observations, too. This blog is also intentionally not focused on certain things. I will not tell you how to run your school. I will not try to sell you the next great program, supplement or training aid. There's no product placement in this blog. And I won't ever engage in the commercial vs. traditional martial arts argument. There are other blogs and other venues for those sorts of things. What I am interested in - and what I hope you will join me in exploring - is how we can be better teachers of the martial arts by applying the concepts that scholars of education have developed in the academic world.

One final thought; "learning theory" is a very general term. It refers to the collection of ideas pertaining to how people acquire and develop knowledge based on cognitive, social, and environmental characteristics. It is a lot of "thinking about thinking." As martial artists though, we are people of action and we want to be able to apply our knowledge in our classes and in the real world. In educational terms the action of teaching is called pedagogy. All of our teaching and learning is based in pedagogy and some of our pedagogies have stood the test of time. Other practices, however, may no longer be relevant or effective means of transferring the skills and lessons of our arts. Many of our arts have ancient roots, but that shouldn't prevent us from becoming the best teachers we can be by basing our teaching in the best science available. So let's engage in a pedagogy of perfection, the pursuit of perfect teaching and learning.

Byline: Geoff Wingard, M.A, M.Ed. is History Department Chair at Bangor High School and Instructor of History and Education at Husson University. He teaches Shotokan karate at Heisui Dojo. He may be reached at gwingard@tao-of-teaching.com.

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