In life we can know about something through a textbook or the internet, or we can know of something through personal experience. Reading about World War II in a text book will provide a very different type of knowledge than having personally lived through it. Similarly, I have a much deeper and personal knowledge of my wife, Danielle, than anyone who follows her on instagram but has never met her.
In order to differentiate between the two types of Knowledge, many languages have two different words for what it means. In Spanish, for example, there is “Saber,” to know about something or someone. And there is “Conocer,” to know something or someone by experience. In German, there is “Wissenchaft” and “Kenntnis.” But in English, there is just, “to know.” And that’s it.
Experiential learning has many benefits. Not only does it provide a deeper and more intimate understanding, but by virtue of being personally relevant to the student, it results in a greater motivation to retain information (Its not surprising to see students who I’m told have “severe ADHD” nevertheless display lazer sharp focus when learning about rear naked defense, after having just been choked out by a more experienced student half their age and size).
Our kids are already at an experiential learning deficit by virtue of the English language not having two words to differentiate between the two types of knowledge. But over the past twenty years, this deficit has been exacerbated by our education system’s increased emphasis on standardized testing, the increased availability of information on the Internet, and the increased accessibility of smart devices to consume the information.
Your kid’s curious about frogs? Just give him a tablet and have him search for Frogs on Youtube, right? Wrong. Take him to a pond. Put a frog in his hand. Have him feel the slime with his fingers, hear a “ribbit” with his ears and see it jump with his eyes. He’ll be a lot more interested to then learn about it on Youtube or in a text book.
Dr Frank Wilson, professor of neurology at Stanford, says medical school instructors are having more and more difficulty teaching medical students how the heart works as a pump, because they have all been deprived the real world experience as a child of playing in the backyard and in the tool shed, fixing a car, hooking up a garden hose and siphoning fluid, in favor of indirect learning through computers.
Leonard Sax writes in his book, Boy’s Adrift, ignoring experiential learning can have serious consequences on the development of a lively and passionate curiosity. He cites Louv, in his book, Last Child in the Woods, who reminds us that “Cultural Autism” is the end result of a childhood with more time spent in front of a computer screen than outdoors (or by extension, on the mats). The symptoms of which are tunneled senses, feelings of isolation and containment and a wired, know it all state of mind. That which can not be googled does not count.
Fortunately for our kids, there’s Jiu Jitsu! Jiu Jitsu is unique because you can not possibly “know” Jiu Jitsu, without having had a great depth of personal experience training it. A student can read all the Jiu Jitsu books he wants, watch a million techniques on BJJ fanatics, and watch a thousand fights on Youtube. But unless he has personally drilled those techniques on a cooperating partner, used them countless times in live sparring against fully resisting opponents, suffered the pain of defeat, the glory of victory, overcome physical and mental hardship, learned to control his emotions, can he rightfully say that he knows Jiu Jitsu.
– Coach Jordan