I am often asked, "What is the best way to learn?" Truth be told, there is no substitute for going to class.
One should do their best to be present and focused as to what is being taught when one is in class. The two basic ways to be a better learner is to listen carefully and watch diligently.
Listening carefully seems obvious but how many of us actually drift off. I know I do and it can be a constant struggle to keep my ears from tuning out. Listening carefully enables us to "hear" what is being taught.
Watching diligently shouldn't be that hard but like listening, we also sometimes zone out and miss what the teacher is teaching. Our eyes glaze over and we actually don't see what is being taught. Watching diligent enables us to "see" what is being taught.
Listening and watching are a given as to what is necessary to learn, but just because we understand their importance doesn't mean we can do it.
One of the best ways to listen carefully and watch diligently is to use active positive self-talk. When the teacher demonstrates the technique, follow along in your mind and say the steps to yourself using the same cuing or directions that the teacher is emphasizing. The words or cuing we use should be short one to two words per step. For instance, the teacher says, "Slide in, turn, step back." As you watch the demonstration, you mutter the words silently to yourself. With this type of self-talk, we are imprinting the technique into our minds with the proper steps.
This active talk actually enables us to engage our minds, clarify the right behavior and decrease the amount of negative chatter in our minds (notice I used the word positive before). "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world" is an often miss-attributed to the Buddha but it's still appropriator here. Using active positive self-talk enables us to learn Aikido properly and thus make our own world.
So when you talk to yourself, what do you say? Be mindful to be active but also to be kind and compassionate to yourself as well.