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From the Mind of an Archer #7

Advanced Basics


Pedagogy is a tricky topic. When taken out of context, pedagogy can be thought of as 'the fundamentals of transmitting a learning process'. This sentence alone can be developed into a difficult and long philosophical discussion. Many thinkers throughout history confronted questions of epistemology and ‘what does it even mean’ to experience knowledge or to communicate an experience to someone else.


One of the future projects of Movement Archery is to dive deeper into the essence of teaching and teaching how to teach. Funnily enough this helps me also to learn better how to learn. I have decided to develop further and share with you an article from over a year ago which gives an interesting glimpse into some of the thoughts I have about the inner 'mechanisms' of pedagogy. Covid-19 has circumstantially forced many of us to continue our learning and teaching practice in solitude so I feel that this can be relevant to our times.



Reflections on Advanced Basics in a movement practice

The division between 'basics' and 'advanced' is obviously subjective and oversimplifies the endless choices, progressions and setbacks one can experience while dedicating oneself to a movement practice. Nevertheless, the division is fundamental in the context of pedagogy, which to me is also the ability to map the chaos of practice over time.

In my opinion, pedagogy needs to respect the objective (autonomous) idea of 'progression' and NOT the attachment to the personal experience of the individual. Many practitioners tend to refer to 'basics' as the first lessons that they PERSONALLY have encountered on their own path without critically thinking of the wider context. Your 'basics' may not be my 'basics' if we take this as the meaning, and vice versa. This puts our personal experience higher than content in the hierarchy of information. In that sense good pedagogy is sensitive to this dilemma. Of course, those early lessons that we have experienced ourselves might be important as an artistic inspiration or a personal catharsis of beginning a journey – but they still shouldn't be confused with unbiased BASICS.

I suggest that in parallel to our experience of primal exposure we also start thinking in terms of the importance of the information that is optimal to teaching/learning.


So, a definition of basics may help us clear waters that can quickly become muddy (and even stinky of opportunism).

My definition of Basics is a combination of familiar abilities alongside fundamental unfamiliar terminology. For example: many movement disciplines are based on daily movement. The footwork of boxing is based on normal patterns of steps, the arms in Ballet are based on a vocabulary of polite gestures, etc… Even in contexts in which the movement is not so 'daily' the basics always translate into simple movements of specific body parts and/or clear breathing patterns. Understanding this similarity and addressing the contextual language which is particular to the discipline is an important introduction phase for any beginner (what is the 'footwork' of a 'hook' and what gesture is the 'por de bras' in the two examples I gave).

The development of this stage can be very wide and can lead to a lifetime of practice without necessarily going further to advanced basics.

So, what are Advanced Basics?

They would be the ability to connect (unfamiliar which now turned into) familiar terminology to unfamiliar abilities. Following this logic; endless preparations to backflip (rolling backwards, jumping into a mat, learning to tuck into a ball quickly, etc...) can NOT lead into a backflip. At a certain point, only a combination of all of the above with the attempt of a full backflip would lead to the performance of it. Advanced Basics are the first moves that are made accessible by learning how to look differently at common moves. This differentiation between basics and advanced basics is very important in the grand scheme of things. Advanced basics, unlike basics, should be approached through a process and not only through an explanation, drilling and repetition. A process means multiple stages, in which the student and/or the teacher will strategize the in/output of information over various sessions or periods.

It can look something like this:

Basics

-Stand

-Squat

-Roll back wards

-Jump

-Jump and lift knees to the chest

Advanced Basics

-Backflip

-Half turn jump

-Full turn jump

Advanced

-Full or half twist backflip

(Just to clarify, the third phase of this methodology will be Advanced, which is the combination of multiple 'advanced basics' into minimalistic versions)

This example of a process is just an illustration and doesn't represent an articulated and thorough approach (which will probably also need some personal adjustments).

A last note.

People are never Basic, people are never Advanced. This hierarchy of information refers to autonomous ideas and systems (within the realm of a movement practice) with a clear objective of achieving a certain physical and emotional freedom through structured biomechanics and shapes. As much as we would sometimes like to think so, I don't see people as autonomous, I see them as ever interdependent changing organisms without any hierarchy of significance, and with an ever-changing existence which I most likely will never know or understand.


If this article brings up reflections or thoughts you would like to share with us please do!