June 10, 2016 Vincent Vis

Conscious competency unconscious competency. 

 

Competence_Hierarchy_adapted_from_Noel_Burch_by_Igor_KokcharovIf you have ever been to one of my classes or workshops, chances are you heard me ranting about the distinction to make between knowing how to perform a movement and being able to flow – improvise – with that movement. Ido Portal, whose concept sits at the root of the GATES model, talks about differentiating the isolation-integration-improvisation stages, although he more recently opened the door for different mental patterns for a specific demographic.
I usually refer to usable vs fundamental movement terminology,  the former being related to the level of tacit knowledge.
But what exactly is this tacit knowledge?
A well used psychology model, used amongst many others by Dr Serge Marquis in his work with the mind, offers four stages in the process of learning:
– unconscious incompetence
– conscious incompetence
–  conscious  competence
– unconscious competence
Straightforward at first sight,  this model carries in my opinion a huge potential of analysis, especially in the realm of movement learning. Today we will examine the linear interpretation of it.
1. Unconscious incompetency: the awareness stage.
First and foremost,  this first stage deals with awareness,  preceding even the notion of isolation. That’s what happens with many people walking through AM Fitness’s doors for the first time. You realize that in order to achieve your goal(s), whether strength or skill related, you lack essential foundations,  which existence you did not even suspect before.
Sometimes it takes the form of a good reality check,(ROM in shoulder flexion for instance). At that very moment,  one goes from unconscious incompetency to conscious competency. They realise  they did not know they could not do.
2. Conscious incompetence: the programming stage.
Once  you realise you actually don’t know, you can pinpoint the missing parts of the puzzle and start working on it. Here begins a long journey where programing and proper guidance becomes key catalysts. The better they are, the quicker you will get to stage 3.
3. Conscious competency.
We reach now the realm of fundamental movement terminology. After having worked on a movement and, hopefully,  the different foundations drills that sustain it, you get to the point where you can actually perform it, although form probably has to be refined. You hard work finally feels rewarding. Depending on your end goals, you can stay at that stage and hone the aesthetics and mechanics,  or work your way towards the last stage (yes, doing both at the same time aren’t always possible!), improvisation, belonging to second nature, tacit based knowledge.
4. Unconscious competency
The pinnacle of learning with improvisation as an end goal is unconscious competency. At that stage,  you don’t even have to think about it to be able to perform a movement. It has become a reflex,  a habit. As you may guess,  few movements from the 3rd stage make it to the fourth one. And again, they don’t have to, and you would be wise to carefully assess your end goal  before jumping on the time-consuming 4th stage.

You would be wise to carefully assess your end goal  before jumping on the time-consuming 4th stage.


It is my belief that solid programming and solid awareness are requiered to get from 3 to 4. You are at these heights looking at things from a microscope, and the process of ingraining information to that depth and building new neuropatterns is very individual dependent. Depending on the person commitment and constraints, I usually play with variables such as time in the day,  rest, motivation management, exercice order, visual/auditive stimuli, among others.

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