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Fun with a Capital "PH" or 3 Ways to Learn from Snakes

“PH” as in Phonics – get it? Fun = Phun

I know. If you’re scratching your head wondering what was in my tea this morning, I don’t blame you. But stick with me and I'll tell you a little story about snakes... and 3 ways you can take advantage of what I got from them.

When I was in second grade, they introduced a new learning system called “Phonics” based on the sound of letter combinations.

It’s a great system if you are primarily an auditory learner, but kinda sucked for people who were visual or kinesthetic learners like me.

In this system, the customary alphabet poster cards placed above the chalkboard had pictures to go with the letters.

The letter “S” had a can of hairspray.

I totally didn’t get it.

“Like a chicken talking to a duck.” To quote an ancient Chinese saying.

So, I raised my hand and asked the teacher why there was a CAN of HAIRspray for the letter “S”.

She said its because the sound of “S” is “sssss” and that’s the sound hairspray makes.

Yes, but “Can” makes a “K”, its Round, and Hairspray begins with an “H”. It doesn’t make any sense (I didn’t know the word incongruent back then.)

Why not have a picture of a snake? Snakes go “ssss”, they start with “S” and they even make the shape of an “S” and they have “SCALES”.

“Ewe, snakes are icky.” Screamed one snowflake to my left. (Well, I wasn’t thinking snowflake back then since they were simply a weather phenomenon when I was in grade school.)

The discussion went downhill from there. Soon I was writing…

“I will not talk back to the teacher” 25 times.

Ironically, write-offs are one technique I took from a strict Catholic school education which helps me to this day, whether practicing Internal Kung Fu or doing anything else. The art, of course, is in how you apply the technique. More on this later.

As a grade school student, I had stumbled on what are called learning styles. These styles are based on one of the five primary sense systems: visual (sight), auditory (sound), kinesthetic (touch), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste). Most people use all five senses to one degree or another but tend to prefer one as a primary mode of experiencing the world.

In North America people are primarily visual with auditory second, and kinesthetic a distant third. Smell and taste are usually tertiary systems for most people.

Our words and communication patterns often reflect our preferred system.

“Can’t you see what I’m talking about”

“I’m totally not feeling it.”

“That sounds right to me.”

When two people with very different representational systems talk, sometimes they don’t understand each other’s meaning even it they understand the individual words perfectly.

It’s what we call in the West “Talking past each other” and the Chinese say “Like a chicken talking to a Duck.”

Which is why the most effective teachers use multiple representation systems when teaching. They combine demonstration, explanation, and actual follow along practice, creating the easiest path for students to follow.

This is the reason, when developing the Meditation & Qigong Classes, Yinong and I carefully assembled diverse sets and taught in a variety of ways. There are routines that involve movement, sets that involve sounds, guided imagery and visualization.

Having all these sets in one place makes it easy to find something that resonates with you.

Another key benefit is the ability to replay any part of the program to get anything you missed the first time around.

As for Write-Offs

Repetition is the mother of learning – you’ve probably heard that before.

To be clear, no one likes write-offs, but they work. I took what worked and I use the concept to this day.

The reason write-offs are so effective is they combine three of the key senses in one activity. You see the words, say the words to yourself, and feel as you write them out.

Whenever I listen to a training, I write it down, word for word. When I do this, I remember close to 90% of the material. Then all I must do is review the notes to get the last bit.

If I don’t take notes, thinking “Yeah, that makes sense, I got it.” I’ll forget most of it by the next day.

Likewise, when I learn a new movement, I repeat it several times after class and then write it down.

Your Action Takeaways

Here are a few key things you can do to improve memory and up-level your skill right now

Identify your preferred learning style: Do you prefer to see it, hear it, or feel it? How does that impact your communication with your friends, family, or co-workers?

Write it down: When you learn something new, write it out longhand. How does that help your memory?

Extra for Experts: Use the write-off technique to write your favorite affirmation 25 times every day.

Love and Light,


PS – Deepen your Qi mastery with our Tai Chi and Qigong Classes. Enrollment is limited so act now to secure your place.



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