I'm coming on to this thread late! But as a former ACA Instructor who spent 10 years teaching the game, and is now back into it (always just river-running, though, not playboating) I've noticed a few things with clients, and I've noticed some things that I felt when I took clinics from instructors more skilled than I (of which there are quite a few
When I took a class from Bob Foote back in 99' (he had mellowed a bit by then, or so I was told, still a pretty intense dude; but an awesome paddler) I thought I was pretty good. I was paddling class III and some IV regularly, so I wasn't sure what he would say. Well, he watched me paddle and essentially told me my style was antiquated a bit and I needed to scrap 90% of what I knew and pretty much start over. I have to tell you, it was a pretty crushing blow. When someone watches you and just says 'you suck, dude, you need to start over' its pretty hard to accept it. I learned a lot at that clinic, but my paddling wasn't much better at the end of the 2 days than it had been at the beginning. At the time though, I considered Bob Foote to be 'Lord of the OC-1' so I did what he told me to do. I went back to flat-water, and I paddled on lakes and ponds all winter long working on what he had shown me. By spring, I was a whole different animal, and I owe Mr. Foote a great deal for those 2 days, because I could do things after that winter I wouldn't have been able to do in a decade left on my own.
What really struck me, though, was what Bob said to some of the other people in the class (who were taking it for perhaps the 12th time). He asked 'why don't you listen to me? Why don't you go home and practice this stuff like I tell you to? You will never develop muscle memory if you don't go home and practice!' In essence, I think these folks (who were nice people, don't get me wrong) were just taking the class to say they had taken classes from Bob Foote. They didn't go home and PRACTICE.
When I worked as an instructor, I often saw the same thing. Honestly, it sometimes irritated the crap out of me. Someone would show up to a clinic, and all they wanted to talk about was what they had done in the past. Sometimes they would enjoy the class, but they never actually LEARNED anything. We would show them a new way to do something, and they would do it, but they would never 'take it home' and practice it until it became 'muscle memory'. I know this because they would show up the next year, and the year after that, and maybe the year after that, and they were barley better than when we started 3 years ago. I loved paddling with pretty much all of my clients, and obviously they had a good time with us (as they kept coming back) but after awhile I was left wondering 'why are we doing this? why are we bothering to set up all these drills? what's the point?' I even asked people if they'd rather just skip the drills and mess around all day, but they always said they wanted more drills.
In any case, I understand how it can be pretty devastating to have someone tell you 'look dude, you're doing this wrong, do it like this you knucklehead'. You might think 'hey, I've been doing this for 20 years, and it works fine'...well, that is where you separate the people who WANT TO LEARN from those who really don't. I think its an ego thing, (I'm an expert on egos, mine is approximately the size of the Hindenburg, and just as likely to catch fire) but maybe I'm wrong. I think this is why some people are down on lessons. They don't WANT to be told they're doing it wrong, and they're scared of having to push the 'reset' button on their paddling. If you want to get better, though, there is really only one thing you can do. You MUST paddle with people who are better than YOU. If you're the best paddler on the river: then you're on the wrong river. Sometimes you have to look at a situation with cold logic, and accept the consequences without making excuses. If someone is doing things you've never even contemplated doing before, sometimes your best course is to swallow your pride and ask them.
As I said, I've taken classes from people better than me, and one great thing about my own skill level is that it looks as though I'll have the opportunity to continue to take classes from people better than me for some time
. If you want to get better, there ISN'T a faster way than taking a class from someone who IS amazing. I've see that video of Eli and I have to say, yeah, dude looks pretty dam polished, I'd love to take a class from him. Sorry this is so long, but if you want to get better, go into some lessons with an open mind, take home what you've learned, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and you WILL get better, FASTER. Or don't.
Canoeing isn't a sport...its an art. Unfortunately, I am not exactly Michelangelo.