Sep

19

 Some thoughts about The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

1. The mother is a horse whisperer and horse trainer and the father is a world class fisherman and adventure writer. Much of his talent is genetic rather than environmental.

2. The book has a touch of Agassi's in it. He complains about everything and never lost a match that he should have won. However, it must be hard to play against the Russians when they are kicking you under the table with karate chops and talking to their trainer in Russian.

3. It is unusual to see someone very good at a mental game and also at a physical game. Usually one crowds out the other. And Tom Wiswell said he never saw a champion checker player from the old schoool that had a happy marriage as study of checkers crowds out the ability to be a good family man. I can still see him sighing when he came in every week saying, "Victor, the thing I regret the most in my life is that I never married a girl like ……, but then again if I had I wouldn't have written 30 books."

4. Josh seems to have had a very hectic romantic life. He apparently gave up his home life to follow a girl to Slovenia and then spent day after day fighting with her before going on the next tournament.

 5. There is no mention of the economics of what Josh did throughout the book, and this is one of the gravest defects. Who in the world could spend 3 years without any pay doing Martial Arts tournaments every other week around the world and training every day. He seems to have taken lessons from almost every great chess trainer also, and spent all his waking time studying variations. Who can afford to go to a 2 week tournament with 12 players of the top 1000 in some resort where you are lucky to get expenses if you don't win, which it seems he never did. He travels all over thee world to get lessons and keeps the lessons and training up for years on end with videos of his every practice session. Where does the money come from? And how could someone not completly sponsored or billionaire heir do this?

6. He seems to be a sore loser. Despite all the hoopla, training, talent, and practice he was never able to make grandmaster. He has no acknowledgment of his lack or the skill of the others that overtook him. And a very bad winner also. The book is replete with stories of his heroics in the various national championships he won and never a word for the losses and gaps. There is a video of him fighting a Garcia which shows I believe him getting totally outclassed the way a world champion never should be, but I may be wrong as I don't understand enough about push hands to be sure.

6a. There is interminable detail about how "tiger" played in various push hands "worlds" and I read every word with bated breath but think that most people would find it extremely boring and specialized.

7. I should know something about this subject because I was world class in several racket sports, and could have been a good checker player if I had put in the 10000 hours and 10 years that they say is required. I have a few wins from Tom among our games.

 8. Josh recommends an intuitive approach to learning. He believe you have to go beyond the numbers, develop intuition, play a mental game of deception and heightened awareness when crisis occurs. I had a completely opposite approach. I developed a good game, and it was good enough that I didn't have to go into mysticism. I think most would do well to improve the fundamentals and foundation of their game rather than trying to go into another zone.

9. The book is a great travelogue. He takes you to the Amazon, and to Florida and Taipei and I believe Alaska (I don't have the book in front of me) and I am impressed with his ability in fishing.

10. There is much about performance psychology in the book and he starts by saying don't worry about winning but concentrate on getting better. That part seems right but everything else seems highly specialized and not applicable to anyone but him.

11. I like the part in the book where he compares fishing in the ocean where you are always a wave away from death with his chess and martial arts career where he was always a throw or a move away from elimination. It's quite applicable to market people and I wish I had heard more about the fishing than then push hands.

12. It's amazing how much cheating he ran into. The Taipei people were always cheating the Americans and stacking the deck against them as did the Russians. I guess that's like our field and when I played, everyone wanted my opponent to win and the referees often stole matches from me when they could by calling double bounces against me. 


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9 Comments so far

  1. Lon L on September 19, 2012 3:48 pm

    Per #6, I can’t speak to Push hands, but Josh trains under a Marcelo Garcia.

    Marcelo is arguably one of the greatest grapplers alive. Here is a better video of the two of them training http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrMQQ1IVLTc in a slow roll.

    If we are talking the same Garcia (his instructor), being dominated by Marcelo is no more embarrassing than losing terribly to Magnus Carlson in chess.

  2. admin on September 19, 2012 8:16 pm

    yes.. thanks for the clarification. i am much too ignorant about the push hand world. but what I said about Josh’s sportsmanship and appreciation of his worthy opponents and losses goes way deeper than a random tussle with garcia. vic

  3. Bruce La on September 20, 2012 12:00 am

    Can the most important decisions in life always be quantified? I am thinking here about choosing ones friends or a mate? I suppose they could, the question is… would that method be more effective? I don’t know the answer to this. Sometimes, at least to me, it feels like we are making these kinds of decisions while we are trading. Is that mystical or old fashioned? Sometimes my decisions are made with a horse and plow, these are my old fashioned ice cream-like decisions… churned with sugar and cream.

  4. Bruce La on September 20, 2012 12:15 am

    I might add also, I am no good at those important decisions, so maybe I should change my ways. The old fashioned decision man is quite similar to the underground man:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notes_from_Underground

    He really is just resisting the borg. Maybe he should trying adding ice to the ice-cream…. this might help, who makes ice cream without ice? Some people.

  5. steve on September 20, 2012 7:56 am

    I felt the film Searching for Bobby Fischer is an adorably wonderful family show. Taking out the chess there is so much substance to it. And a healthy discussion could be developed from it.

  6. mike on February 8, 2013 5:12 pm

    What the hell is this piece? This is like a pseudo-review written by an angry, jealous 5 year old who mistakenly believes that his undersatnding of writing, chess, and general athletic competition is FAR beyond his actual capacity. You make concrete assinations of his performance as a competitor in one sentance before assuring us you have no idea what you’re talking about in the very next sentance. You mad, bruh? Basicaly what I got from your little tirade here is a bunch of excuses for why this guy has been more effective at his life than you have in your own (he’s rich, he got to train with all the best, blah blah blah), , and a thinly-veiled suggestion that if given all his benefits you would have outclassed him any day and also handled it with more apparent class than you feel he did (calling him a poor sport over and over throughout the ‘article’). The ego is a marvelous thing, yours is barely a smoke screen for the insecurities that dominate your existence, no matter how much you try to puff it up.
    By the way, he trains under Marcello Garcia in BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU, which in no way resembles push hands and is widely considered the most effective single martial art–Marcello is considered one of the greatest pound for pound practitioners of BJJ OF ALL TIME. Josh is the first black belt Marcello has ever given out to my knowledge, so I think he’s doing just fine there without your comments from the peanut gallery, particularly when you so clearly know nothing about your chosen subject matter. Marcello is also one of the most respected sportsman in the history of BJJ, and is adored by just about every single fan of that sport, so I’m doubting that the first guy he ever promoted to BB has anything less than an excellent attitude and mindset.

  7. Andrew on June 26, 2013 3:55 am

    hhhmmmm. Where does he make his money? He coaches high net worth individuals at 10,000 usd an hour. Trust me, I looked into it.
    Another reason for you to be jelous. Get a life.

  8. Robin Lane on April 6, 2014 7:06 pm

    Oh dear Victor, were you ungloriously named? Several of your comments made me laugh. Checkers is definitely not chess, refer your #7 comment. Did you expect Josh to give you personally, an indepth look at his finances, to satisfy your jealous curiosity as to this? Refer your comment #3. You seem to want to dismiss him as a fisherman!! Refer your comments #9 and #11. Sorry Victor, this isn’t a book about fishing! Especially telling was your #6 comment, where you enjoy criticizing him for being a sore loser (your opinion) and also using your lack of knowledge to put forward your opinion about ‘push hands’ while admitting that “I may be wrong as I don’t understand enough about push hands”. Josh’s book is unique and valuable for its insights, but it’s obviously not a book for everyone. Try putting your ego on the shelf when you take down the book. Revisit it, and see what you are capable of.

  9. Robin Lane on April 6, 2014 7:08 pm

    Oh dear Victor, were you ungloriously named? Several of your comments made me laugh. Checkers is definitely not chess, refer your #7 comment. Did you expect Josh to give you personally, an indepth look at his finances, to satisfy your jealous curiosity as to this? Refer your comment #3. You seem to want to dismiss him as a fisherman!! Refer your comments #9 and #11. Sorry Victor, this isn’t a book about fishing! Especially telling was your #6 comment, where you enjoy criticizing him for being a sore loser (your opinion) and also using your lack of knowledge to put forward your opinion about ‘push hands’ while admitting that “I may be wrong as I don’t understand enough about push hands”. Josh’s book is unique and valuable for its insights, but it’s obviously not a book for everyone.

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