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Individual Curriculum vs. Class Curriculum

Take one of Bruce Lee’s personal day-timer diaries and lay it next to any JKD school class curriculum. It doesn’t matter whether it is the curriculum from the Seattle school, the Oakland school, the Los Angeles school, or any JKD school for that matter, you will see quite a difference. The class curriculum lays out a basic structure of the training program for the particular school (such as the "Twelve Week Lesson Plan for Jeet Kune Do" that is included in the "Bruce Lee Jeet Kune Do" book published by Tuttle Publishing). Lee’s notes on the other hand, record a continual personal refinement of the various combative tools and skills (such as throwing over 18,000 punches in a single month) and the development of his body to support and enhance the use of those tools and skills. One is an example of “class” curriculum and the other an example of “individual” curriculum.

Class curriculum is geared for a group of people. It is designed to lead a group of people in a particular direction, to help guide them. Class curriculum is designed by the teacher to supply the group with whatever the instructor feels they need at a particular time. This will obviously vary depending upon both the level of the students, as well as the knowledge and teaching ability of the instructor. And while there will obviously be differences in skill levels amongst individuals in a class, the curriculum is designed to move the members of the group forward at a steady rate of progress.

In addition, most class curriculums are primarily designed to teach towards the middle of the curve, or the majority of the group. If the information being taught is too complex or difficult, then those at the lower end of the curve will feel lost or get left behind. If, on the other hand, it is too simple or easy, then those at the higher end of the curve will probably become bored and lose interest.

Part of the reason for designing class curriculum in such a way is a matter of necessity. It would be very difficult in a class setting, for example, to have all the members of a class throw 500 punches or kicks in one workout, especially if that workout is one hour in length. Do the math for yourself. If a person threw 10 punches every minute it would take them 50 minutes to complete. I’m talking about good punches as well, not simply thoughtless, mechanical repetition. You would also have to add in the boredom factor. The average martial art student today would get bored very quickly of doing the same punch over and over for an hour straight.

In comparison, individual curriculum is something designed for you specifically. It is about personal cultivation, and doesn’t stop at the classes you attend. With individual curriculum your focus is on what you feel you need to work on or want to work on at that time. You decide the length and the pace or intensity of the training session. Whereas in a group class you may have only had enough time to throw fifty repetitions of a punch (such as a three-minute round), now you may choose to spend thirty minutes on it and throw three hundred punches instead. Perhaps you decide that you want to develop your ability to bridge distance very quickly, or that you wish to develop an extremely powerful side kick. It’s totally up to you. Individual curriculum can not only include physical techniques or movements, but also non-technical aspects of training such as strength, agility, coordination, flexibility, etc. that support the delivery of your techniques.

In order to develop yourself to your true potential, you cannot simply rely on going to classes several times per week. It doesn’t matter if you’re going everyday. Yes, you will develop, but you need to go further. A lot of it will depend upon how you view your training. If, for example, a person views their martial art training solely as a form of recreational activity or some kind of social event, they’ll more than likely go to class 2 or 3 times a week and that’s it. They will probably give little or no thought to it the rest of the time. If, on the other hand, you view it as a vehicle personal growth in all aspects of your life, you will expand your training to include work outside the class lessons.

Whether you attend group classes at a professional school or work out in a small backyard or garage training group, I feel that it is important for each person should have their own individual training curriculum in addition to the class curriculum (As long as what they are working on in their individual curriculum is not going against what they are working on in their class). Don’t bifurcate into an either/or frame of mind. Instead, utilize both class curriculum and individual curriculum as part of your overall development as a martial artist.

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