The Master-Apprentice Model of Learning
And the future of Psychophysical
Everyone wants to buy and sell online courses. But the dirty secret among real teachers of real skills is that the only way to really learn and master a skill is one-to-one. Teacher and student, master and apprentice.
I’ve been struggling and stressing about the right balance between (a) offering one-to-one lessons, and (b) creating online courses, for a while now. So this long and somewhat rambling essay is me thinking out loud, and figuring it out for myself – but it might help you too with your own “thing.”
Now I know I teach a weird but no-nonsense Movement Based Mind-Body Technique (or Esoteric Posture Practice to be sexy) but the same principle applies to all genuine methods of self development, physical training, mental discipline, or spiritual practice.
What you need most is a long term relationship where you get personalised instructions and have someone who knows, who is happy to guide you, to push and pull you, and to answer your questions along the way. Often with another question. But this is also a two-way relationship and you both should be getting tested and stretched by it in some way.
When the student is ready the teacher will appear
The two parties exchange money or time or energy, agree on terms and conditions for tuition, then part ways whenever they want. This one-to-one model is the ideal way to learn anything important, and is the most satisfying and fulfilling for both people. The master-apprentice model was the ancient way for a reason.
Yes, you can also learn some things in groups e.g. martial arts but look at how quickly you learn when you add in a few one-to-one lessons on the side. And look at how slowly kids learn in the large modern classroom, even if lucky enough to have a real teacher.
But small dedicated groups can and do work as long as there is at least one real teacher (or master) who gives regular one on one time to each student, and stops people deluding themselves about where they are in the food chain.
But flash forward to 2023 and everyone wants to buy and sell “do it yourself” courses. Or group coaching calls. Or how-to manuals. As if everyone is at the same level of development and learns at the same speed.
I’ve made a course myself so i’m not judging, or rather I’m judging me too, and yes it did make money “while i sleep”, but it isn’t fulfilling and it doesn’t teach the students how to be excellent. It’s just good enough to entertain them and make them feel like they have learned this thing and can no move onto the next thing.
The worse part is dumbing down a craft into a course not only doesn’t attract the best students – it repels them.
These people know they need one to one tuition to really learn and master a genuine skill. They see a one size fits all course and think “if this was as excellent as he says ut is he wouldn’t be able to squeeze it into course” They don’t want brain porn. They want to learn how to do what you do, from you! The living you, in real time, not just dead shadows of your former self flickering on the walls of their video cave.
When the teacher is ready the student will appear
So why did I, like everyone else, start selling a course – instead of staying focussed on finding the right apprentice, passing on the tradition, professing the discipline? Why did we all stop striving for excellence?
Well, in a fight between quality & quantity, quantity usually wins (because there’s more of ‘em.) A rat race to the bottom. Lowest common denominator. Degeneration. Welcome to the Kali Yuga and all that.
To be fair – buyers just want a cheap pre-packaged version of the expert’s skill which they can work on in their own time, and sellers just want regular income from a digital product that is not tied to their time. It seems like a win win. More money for the seller who now has breathing space to make more courses, and less costs for the buyer who now has money to buy more courses! Click and collect.
And this is a good teaching model for technologies, programs, apps etc – assuming the course is kept up to date along with all the latest updates. This sequential nature of technologies allows also for a sequential “step by step” method for teaching you how to use them.
The problem is when we apply this sequential mentality to techniques of self-development, to spiritual practices, or to any system intended to create genuine change in the mind-body relationship of the individual human being.
A human being functions as a whole and can only be changed as a whole
Digital tech is simple and lends itself to the course model. There is no pesky, unpredictable and invisible “mind” to deal with in the mind-body relationship. All you have is the “body” the sum of its replaceable parts, which is mechanical and predictable, so the same problems will have same solution for everyone (other than a few details here and there) which makes it easy to repeat, and scale, and sell.
But when it comes to self-change the person has not reached their current state of development in this sequential fashion, so any step by step method, however refined, doesn’t apply to everyone. You need to change the mind-body relationship of the individual.
Each person is a little bit different so the how will be a little bit different for each person. This makes it difficult to talk about a step by step “how to” which will work for everyone. Or even anyone. Sure, the same general principles will be true for everyone but how you apply them will be different.
You might learn the same things but in a different order, for example. You might be able to skip a few stages. You might need to go so far back into the basics and unlearn what you already know, and it feels like you aren’t even learning the skill for weeks or maybe even months in the beginning. But then you look back on this early struggle as the key to your later success.
Yes, I ignored my own advice (again)
Obviously I ignored my own advice here and tried to squeeze and simplify a technique for a conscious way of living – which i have always taught one-to-one – into a step by step online course specially narrowed down to posture (called “principle of posture.”) and although it sold ok, and there are ideas and techniques in there you won’t find anywhere else in the “posture” world, I’ve not been happy with the format as a way to learn.
Self-directed learning is not ideal when what you are learning is “how to change your self” and your current self doesn’t really want to change that much.
But I felt I had to make an online course to find the right people via buyers going on to one-to-one lessons, and by making some money without trading my time for it because I wanted a more reliable income.
I’ve had good feedback from a few people about the course, and I know there is information in there you won’t find in all the usual posture solutions talk online, but I still was happy from a quality point of view. I know i could rev up the marketing, get affiliate partners in the fitness world and make a lot of money from it in the short term, but that’s not what I want. Or it’s not how i want to make my bunch of money!
The course was an experiment. I teach self-experiments in the course, and in every lesson I encourage you to become a self experimenter. So in this respect at least I took my own advice, and I’m glad I made the course – and if you bought it thank you, I hope you got something out of it.
I realise now (or remember) why I delayed making a course for so long. I didn’t think the right people would learn in the right way in a self directed format, or as a one size fits all template to follow - both central to an online course. But they are popular aren’t they, so let’s ask why?
Because we are deluded about our ability to learn in a self directed manner, and deluded in our expectations of the work we will put into studying the materials in the course. “This time will be different.” I have made this exact mistake an embarrassing amount of times.
The saddest thing is the course “cannibalized” a few of my promising one-to-one students. They bought the course with enthusiasm, when they would have been better having a few more lessons with me instead – but due to money, time, boredom, and all the rest of it they seem to have dropped off the radar. I hope they come back.
The Future of Psychophysical
Ok enough complaining, what’s the way out of this? For me it means focussing on one-to-one students, while also giving enough theory and supplementary materials i.e. “content” in the background to aid learning in between lessons – so you can work on yourself without a teacher.
My central aim with this resurrected Substack is to find the others. So with this in mind, here’s how Psychophysical will operate from now on.
Outer circle (public)
Inner circle (private)
“The Outer Circle”
There will be a new series of essays focussed on taking philosophical ideas and theories and reducing them down to practical procedures. Making it real.
But not by reducing everything to the lowest common denominator so it becomes “product shaped” and applies to everyone (impossible) - a process which alienates the best students anyway – but instead by giving you the tools and examples you need to self-experiment and work on yourself.
The most important tools you learn and develop in the one to one lessons (online via Zoom). Some of these tools are physical. Some are digital. But the most important tools are mental and social. Mental tools, or tools of the mind, include the principles and concepts, techniques and methods, rules and models. Social tools are learning from a teacher one to one.
In between mental and social is the very useful tool of seeing others learn and going through the process before you i.e. real live examples.
What you need is a framework for self experimentation under the guidance of a teacher.
This is especially true for a technique which involves understanding and transforming the mind-body relationship. At any one stage, what looks like the same physical problem e.g. restriction in the movement of the shoulder, in one pupil might be a physical issue, they need to stretch the fascia which has been shortened through years of misuse.
Whereas in another pupil the “same” problem is primarily mental, they have a wrong concept of how the mechanisms works and this is what is restricting the visible physical movements. How can you give a step by step ‘how to’ solution which both students can use? You can’t. And this is just TWO students, what about all the hundreds or thousands who buy your one size fits all course?
Am i saying it’s one-to-one learning or nothing? Not exactly. Leaving aside the rare freak with an obsession who tinkers and experiments in front of a mirror on their own for hours a day months on end, there are things that CAN be taught at the conceptual level in writing and video designed to be consumed passively in conjunction with at least a few lessons.
What you need is a “toolbox” to take and use in your own way, guided by the results of your own self-experiments.
So the structure i’ve decided to focus on here is the “teacher-apprentice” model, with everything designed for the benefit of my one-to-one students. There will be a members site for supplementary materials and all the theory you need to make the most of your practical sessions.
But the one to one lessons will always be the core of this technique and my work. I want to be a beacon for students who are serious about real self-change not brain porn.
You are welcome to come and sniff around inside the members-only area before deciding to take lessons. But remember I am saying up front that the only way to really learn this is on a one-to-one basis (saying this is bad for my bank balance, but good for your mind-body balance!)
The materials inside will be a toolbox for those doing the work, not structured courses for complete beginners. But you might even be the rare obsessive weirdo who makes a go of it on your own with just the bare bones. Go for it! Let me know how you get on.
But – almost everyone will need to have a 1-to-1 lesson at some point to learn this technique. An experienced teacher can get you to a place in a few weeks or months that would take years or decades to reach on your own.
“The Inner circle”
This is for students and apprentices taking one-to-one lessons with me. Serious people do weekly or biweekly lessons. But you are welcome to do one lesson to try it out, and then “pay as you go.”
I will NOT be offering blocks of multiple lessons in advance, or subscriptions for the lessons. You need to make a fresh decision every time you want another lesson. Not just turning up because you already paid, and going through the motions like an automaton – that’s exactly what we are trying to get away from here.
At some point we’ll have a private Telegram group where we can share our videos and help each other – but this will be invite only and only after you’ve had a lesson with me. If you haven’t experienced the weirdness of a lesson in this technique, then nothing will make sense yet.
My primary interest is to find the others. Everything else is a means to filtering and self selecting for the right student who feels I am the right teacher. The defintion of the others? You who want to learn this technique for yourself and make it your daily practice.
You might even want to teach it to your own others later, and I’ll teach you how to do that here as well. My guess is there is maybe 150 of you out there, living in weird places, being a weirdo maybe, but a functioning weirdo.
Not everyone can afford regular 1 to 1 lessons. I like to give cheap lessons to some younger guys, students, those on low income etc when I can. So if you want to contribute to this work you could subscribe as a “founding member” (and choose your own amount.) Your generosity will let me take on promising younger guys. The good thing is most of them are happy to be guinea pigs for case studies and examples, so everyone benefits!
Ok have fun, thanks for reading,
Would you like to try a 1-to-1 lesson?
Kevin, this post was on right on the beat for me-of-today, even though I'm not one of your students. I'm currently dealing with a f*online course these days, with a made up Discord "community", which has a lot of >content< and a lot of newbies asking questions - all from different backgrounds, as you described.
It's hell on earth.
But I promised myself I would be at least one month at it, studying 02 hours a day. After all, it's a monthly subscription.
Anyway, if I make it past week 2 I hope to get things going swiftly, just learning and applying what I learned, then sharing it within the "community".
It will be painful tho.
That's why you're on the right track. Just to share some examples:
1. @thebrometheus (twitter) - Psychotherapist that writes a lot of content, but which are useful! Not because you can DIY but because you can understand basic principles of human nature and his prefered method of counseling. And then he promotes his 1-on-1 counseling.
Paroksh Yogi community, which are composed of anonymous yogis that recorded some free and some paid guided-meditations. Their site explicitly instruct listeners to do at least 21/48 days cicles (Mandals) before applying for guest retreats or paid retreats. "There are no shortcuts here" (<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_aKowRV-EE>) was their answer when someone wants to go directly to their camps before doing the Mandals.
To conclude this long comment, short words of encouragement - I can guarantee these weirdos exists because I'm fucking one of them, and would be happy enough to learn direct from a teacher about your posture principles then lurking around some "community" site and trying to do it my own.
Money is the only barrier here, but lest we make excuses to deathbed, I will keep on sailing my way to financial freedom, through the hells and the heavens, and you keep doing what you (planning to) do, ok? Thanks!
Something I’ve noticed when working with people in reality, it’s far more powerful. There’s simply no way to help to the degree that you can in reality online - it becomes very much up to the student