April 19, 2012

"Being Able to Learn" - Tim Cartmell Seminar Review

When I asked my good friend Scott Stilwell to be my first guest author on "The Ground Never Misses" I never imagined our good fortune as to how gifted of a writer he is!  Scotty and I went down to Portland this past weekend to train with my teacher Tim Cartmell who was in town offering seminars all weekend.  I am sure you guys are tired of hearing me rant and rave about Tim with biased opinions swinging left, right, and center.  So I thought I would offer you a fresh perspective from someone who has never met, nor trained with Tim.  

Much thanks to Scott and the crew at 1914 Kimono's!  Enjoy!

"Being Able to Learn"
written by Scott Stilwell

   For a student, the ability to learn is a skill passed on by their coach.  It sounds pretty obvious; the better the teacher can teach, the better the learner can learn.  Knowledge is transferred from the teacher to the student through realizing the desire to learn – the beginner’s mind.  This ability to teach develops a technical ability for the student, not just for what they learn specifically but how they learn broadly.   

   But teaching is not – at all – as simple as ‘I show you the move, you do it.’  And unless the student has the ability and experience to recognize good instruction, a lot of technique can go glossed over or completely missed.  Acquiring knowledge is a technique built through instruction.  Tim Cartmell, I have discovered, is a master of instruction.   

   Tim’s ability to engage his students during demonstrations proves that his goal is not to show you a move and let you drill it, but to open the students mind and allow them to absorb his teaching.  He does this by showing you exactly what to do, why it works, what to avoid and why to avoid it – all before he even lets you go to start drilling.  I don’t know the skill levels of all the other students joining us in the seminar, but regardless, we were all on the same page, learning at the same rate.  Tim has a real grasp on the beginner’s mind, which is a concept every learning person should strive for.  He doesn’t need to convince you to pay attention; you do it all on your own, with an inherit understanding that you have something in common with the guy in front of you – you’re both there to learn.  

   Saturday afternoon Jake and I arrived at Ecole de Budo (beautiful dojo!) for a session of no-gi grappling instruction.  The day’s curriculum was composed of leg locks – submissions for the first half and escapes for the second.  Right away, my approach to all submissions, not just leg locks, was improved.  Tim does a great job of showing you how to get the most power out of your body, stressing the importance of angles in your setup.  There are very fine lines between getting the tap and missing it, and these lines were made strikingly clear by attacking the legs, which for me, has been an area of difficulty.  Each attack had a corresponding escape, and at the end of the day, Jake and I were able to drill our way through each attack and escape in succession.   

   Sunday morning the second session began, this time with gi.  Similarly to the day before, the first half of class was devoted to sweeps, while the second focused on guard passing.  Once again, Tim was very good about breaking down the sensitivities of angles when you set up your sweep.  I play a lot of open guard with hooks, and as before, I was made aware of how small the margin for error can be when playing off your back when the guy on top is doing everything he can to keep you there.  But this wasn’t really clear to me until we began to work passes.   

   Now, I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure Tim has magnets in his body, pulling his center of mass toward the core of the f***ing earth.  That’s how heavy he feels on top.  Which is pretty remarkable when you consider that the guy is about 5’ 9” and weighs 150 pounds.   That kind of pressure is insane, and comes from total knowledge of how his body works and how to distribute his weight, which is yet another indicator that the guy has some serious knowledge for the art.   

(L-R) Jake and his shiny new 1914 Gi, The man himself
Tim Cartmell, author and general ass kicker Scott!
   As before, Jake and I drilled through each sweep and pass seamlessly.  Doing this, I learned that the keys to success for your setup are the areas your opponent wants to shut down.  Tim did a beautiful job of subtly imposing the general principles of attack and defense through combinations of drills that compliment each other. 

   When it was all said and done, I think we both left the dojo as better grapplers.  Not only is Tim a great teacher but also a very nice person, and his enthusiasm is fantastic.  Like I said, it’s very clear what kind of coach you have when you feel like the guy teaching you is actually participating in your learning.  I’ve been very fortunate to find that in my coach Brian Johnson, whose desire to learn is coupled beautifully with his ability to teach.  Seeing these qualities in my coach has allowed me to recognize them in others, and Tim Cartmell is no exception.  Excellence, in any facet of life, begins with an understanding that you are always learning and striving to improve, and Tim is one coach who personifies what it means to have the beginner’s mind. 

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