I just spent my fifth weekend with Immediate Action Combatives, assisting once again with Cecil Burch’s basic combatives for self-defense curriculum. I’ve talked about the class on OHO before, and continue to believe it’s an excellent introduction to the physical skills that can help keep you alive and allow you to fight back against an attack, and is especially (though not solely) applicable if you carry weapons of any type. As is usually the case, I saw a mix of students brand-new to the subject matter, students familiar with the general concepts but not this particular class, and students who have trained with Cecil before. It’s that last group of students I want to talk about, because they illustrated something really important about self-defense training that’s not always immediately obvious. Most students who take a one-day or weekend seminar will file away the experience and move on with their lives. Those who go back again and again get something different and special, and I’d like to encourage you to considering being one of them yourself one day.
The obvious reason to retake a class is to review the material. We often get a couple weeks or months out from a learning experience and realize that we don’t remember everything we know we were taught. We might go back to our notes and realize we can’t remember what they mean. Even when we think we have internalized the lessons, going back to the same class can surprise us with how many details we lost. Even if we get a pretty good handle each one of the broad topics and techniques, we can often benefit from having our memories confirmed and refreshed, and perhaps polished up a little bit because of some piece that didn’t make it into writing or memory. If you have been able to practice or train with others in the time in between, you might find that retaking the class is also a good way to see if the work you’ve been doing has been productive because now you can perform the skills more comfortably or more effectively than the last time around.
The longer seminars can also be an absolute fire hose of information, with enormous amounts of new knowledge thrown at you over a relatively short period. It’s very common to hit your saturation point well before the end of the class, so that after a certain point, you are simply going through the motions. While the experience is still worthwhile because you are exposed to that material, you can’t really internalize it because your brain just feels so full with everything else it has been presented with. The next time through, though, the things you learned will be a review and you will be fresher when you get to that stuff you couldn’t wrap yourself around before. The retake is useful, then, for the topics you know were there but you just weren’t equipped to take in at the time. That’s also true when you’ve learned more in the interim and can now better contextualize and make connections about the class material so that it makes more sense to you now than it did the first time around when all you picked up were some key words and ideas.
Sometimes, the detail you didn’t pick up last time shows up when you repeat a class not because you missed it, but because it hadn’t been included then. Outside of very regimented, set curricula, almost all classes evolve over time as the instructor responds to direct and indirect feedback from students and as the instructor themselves continues to think through and educate themselves about the subject matter the class covers. This weekend’s class has gone from two separate one-day classes taught back-to-back to a 2-day class to a 2-day class with an extra evening of instruction over the iterations I’ve seen. As a result, the topics covered have shifted, not to mention the particular teaching points used and the drills that students performed. In addition to the benefits of review and refinement, seeing the class again means getting a wider or deeper dive into the material. If you were interested enough to take the class once, then signing up again might be just what you need to feed that fascination even more because it won’t be an exact repeat so much as one that is richer.
And not for nothing, showing up again often comes with a sense of homecoming, or at least of returning to somewhere familiar. Those of you have who have been to a class know how by the end, you have becoming friendly with those you have trained with as you have shared struggles and triumphs. For hands-on self-defense classes especially, you’ve shared close personal space and probably a bit of sweat with your fellow students. The end of the day or weekend is often filled with a flurry of contact information exchanges, and some of those new friendships persist for years. If you go back for more with the same folks or others who have had that experience, you’ll renew those relationships and build new ones, often far more quickly than that very first, nervous hour at your very first, nervous class. That nearly instant camaraderie is a really lovely feeling. It’s something I enjoy so much that I specifically want to share it with all of you, especially those of you who seek community and don’t really know how or where to look for it.
As one of the repeat students this weekend told me, you never read the same book twice. Even if you finish the last page and start over again right away, the next time through is a refreshed experience. Taking a good class once is a good start. Taking it again? That’s where the money is.