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  • Writer's pictureKate Crawshaw

Mr Miyagi - the O.G. Experiential Trainer

In 1984, two distinct cultural phenomena were introduced to the world, each leaving an indelible mark in their respective domains.


"The Karate Kid," a beloved coming-of-age film, showcased the transformative power of martial arts and introduced audiences to the wise enigma that is Mr. Miyagi.


Coincidentally, the same year marked the publication of the Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle, a groundbreaking model that revolutionised educational and training practices. It emphasises learning through hands-on experiences, reflection, and application, fostering a deeper understanding and integration of knowledge.


I cannot believe that this is a coincidence, and am now convinced that Mr Miyagi is the first, (slightly unorthodox) trainer to embrace Kolb's learning cycle.


Before I delve into the reasons supporting this claim, let's revisit the unforgettable movie moment that solidifies my belief. It's the scene where Daniel-san's skepticism is shattered as he realises the true purpose behind the seemingly unrelated chores Mr. Miyagi made him do. It's a pivotal moment in the film that captures the essence of empowerment through self-discovery.


Mr. Miyagi creates an environment for learning by allowing his student to experience rather than telling him what to know and do. This approach aligns with the very heart of experiential training.


Experiential trainers, like Mr. Miyagi, focus on providing opportunities for participants to acquire tangible skills through practice rather than theory. They encourage active engagement in the learning process to enhance retention and make it memorable. Personalising the learning experience helps participants understand its relevance to their own lives. Reflection is also essential, allowing participants to contemplate what they have learned and how it can be applied in their daily routines. Finally, building confidence in a safe environment before applying new skills in the workplace is a crucial aspect of experiential training.


Fast forward four decades, and Mr. Miyagi's approach remains relevant (and Daniel is still waxing on in Cobra Kai!). Applied improv principles can be used in team building to foster inclusive and collaborative behaviors. Role play and forum theatre provide safe spaces for practicing and observing communication skills with real-time feedback. Additionally, linking play to an entrepreneurial mindset can be explored in organisational values sessions.


Last week I met with a client that I hadn't seen for a couple of years. At the start of the meeting she proceeded to tell me about all the takeaways from the last Serious Woo workshop she participated in and how she is still applying the skills in her workplace today.


I just don't think that this level or engagement, retention and confidence to apply the skills would have happened without the influence of the experiential learning cycle. So I am glad we get to honour Mr Miyagi's legacy as the OG trainer.


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