Bujinkan is a Symbolic System!

Originally posted by Pertti Ruha

My good friend Ingvar Hulterström and I have for many years discussed the learning, training, techniques, etc.. Ingvar is a psychologist and has been around since the early 80s and has many interesting ideas and opinions about what is the essence of martial arts in general and the Bujinkan in particular.
[My own thoughts and comments I have marked so here // Pertti].

From: Some thoughts about the instructor’s role in the Bujinkan by Ingvar Hulterström

Bujinkan has many similarities with the kind of complex systems that language is an example, and the basic properties of language can shed light on creativity and improvisation is therefore necessary and important concepts in Bujinkan’s Kihon . And now we return to the question of the kind of education which should therefore be implied if the Bujinkan can be likened to a linguistic, symbolic and complex system.

The first thing I then need to point out is, as I already said, that the symbolic systems that are highly structured normal functioning people, the language, have done this on a subconscious level, and it is possible to argue that what we call “the unconscious” is structured as a language. That is, when we hear the word ” was “in a certain context, we are only aware of a meaning. The fact that the dictionary that the word can have many meanings, we are not aware of. Word ambiguity is thus unaware. And this is very important.
Right now, as I write this, it is going on all sorts of chemical processes at the cellular level in my big toe. Am I aware of this? No. Is this then the same thing that I am unaware of the word var’s ambiguity? No, and this is the reason that you need to draw a distinction between what may be called non-conscious (a perverse variety of physiological processes that are constantly going on in my body “and it called for unconsciously (linguistically structured psychological processes).

Children are born with an enormous capacity for pattern recognition (pattern recognition). That is what can make a child drinking orange juice when it is sick and unwell can directly develop an aversion to orange juice that can sit in for a long time. Biologically-based pattern recognition mechanisms quickly creates the indexical link “nausea-poisoning-orange juice”, which means that the child since a long time think that orange juice tastes bad. This is an example of a general principle, ie mammals, from birth, has great ability to quickly create various iconic and indexical connections.
So we are genetically prepared to quickly create the first two character levels. The third level, the symbol, however, we are not biologically prepared for. This is something we must learn. It has also, through the very ingenious experiments to show that it is indeed possible to teach chimps very rudimentary symbolic systems . There’s been quite a long time research into the possible biological basis for autism on the basis that there must be something wrong with these children’s basic biological mechanisms. So it is not at all, instead it is so that biological mechanisms work just fine, but because something prevents them from learning symbolic thinking, they stay in their development.

Since we are not prepared to dedicate ourselves symbolic thinking and symbolic language, but our preparedness for the other two types of characters are much stronger rooted in our biology, it becomes a bit of a tug of war between these systems during the child’s development.
Icon and index system is nice in many ways; they are unambiguous, ie, they always mean the same thing. If the clutch orange juice – married established change it in a hurry, and there need not be any doubt about what the sign really means.

Normal learning usually takes place through the series icon → Index → symbol, but it is the difficult part is to jump between icon → Index and on the other hand icon / index → symbol is a big jump where the previous connections must be learned from to the symbolic system to be created. This means that if the icon / index-linkages become too strong and experienced for the “good” is the risk that the investment will be too great and the necessary symboliseringsprocessen absent.
[Quote: Be careful what your practice, Because You just might be really good at Doing the wrong thing ]

The table in the past where I describe some key characteristics of the different types of characters, I say, among other things, that both icons and indexes increases the cognitive load. The illustration below shows this:

This is from an experiment in the 60’s which examined whether it was possible to get bonobo-chimpanzee a rudimentary symbolic system. It started with learning the monkeys iconic and indexical connections between t. Example. “Get-carrot” or “give-apple”. The three chimpanzees who participated in the experiment needed several thousand attempts before they had managed to create the necessary signs. We see easily that the icon / index system needs monkeys remember 9 characters. It then went on to try to get them to take the plunge into a symbolic system instead, which was stressful for all three, suddenly had it they knew stopped working.

Two of the chimpanzees managed to take this step, the third did not get it and, interestingly, it also dropped it already learned. The really exciting happened, however, when one of the two who managed Notation, added a fruit to. When the icon / index-phase added a new fruit had been required 100’s new trial before the monkey learned the new characters. After they managed to create a symbolic system did they instantly to incorporate a new fruit in the system and could directly use it. And here you can see even more clearly the difference in cognitive load: In the starting position requires icon / index system that monkey remember 9 characters, while for the symbolic system only requires 6 When the new fruit is added to the memory load of the symbolic system only increased 1, from 6 to 7 Thus, while the icon / index system now requires 12th

When I describe this I do it in terms of all or nothing, as if the symbolic hope happens everywhere at once, but it’s obviously not. While this is happening in the natural development gradually, where parts of the icon / index system symbolized. And this is actually something that instructors can see very clearly in some pupils. When they manage to symbolize parts of the Bujinkan increases suddenly their ability dramatically. But since this process is unconscious, they are usually not very aware of what happened, except the pleasant feeling that now suddenly works, even if they do not understand why.

So, what we can say because of the pedagogy that enables the symbolization is that it should be careful not to create the smooth icon / index system. And this is exactly what happens when children start learning languages. Children have poorly functioning cognitive system, ie, the hard of thinking, have poor memory, etc. This means that the very early forced into a symboliseringsprocess, as they have no choice. Because they still have difficulty remembering especially large icon / index system, it is not a particularly great investment for them to instead take the symbolic leap. One of the problems for adults when they learn a new language is that, unlike children, have very good cognitive system which makes it easy for adults to learn icon / index system, which in turn implies symboliseringsprocessen that requires a relatively large investment.

Since I of course mean that the Bujinkan is a symbolic system , but a symbolic system that must be learned by adults, should you be extra careful to use a pedagogy that complicate too much learning on the icon / index levels and instead, in the same way as for children, forcing the exerciser to quickly take the symbolic leap.


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