Given that Chang’s Hapkido Academy (UK) moved premises earlier this year, this is an interesting question.   Two months after an unexpected loss of our venue, we are pleased to have a full timetable back in action and proudly hang our dobok (uniform) in three very different homes.

Though the transition and timing has been stressful, the change has proven once again that CHA is about the people and not a place.  But what of our new homes; and can the physical environment impact our learning?

In researching this article, I found all sorts of papers on how light, space or noise, for example, can influence attention, memory or other cognitive processes associated with learning.  But this time, I want to put the research to one side and talk from personal experience.

In an ideal world, Hapkido classes are best taught somewhere quiet and spacious – unfortunately this isn’t always practical. Our three new locations couldn’t be more dissimilar.  The rooms are different sizes, the flags hang in different locations, one is noisy the other quiet – one is sociable while another is more reserved.

Environment does have significant impact on who we are, what we think and how we develop.  But I also believe that we can sometimes too readily blame the external clatter for not allowing ourselves to concentrate, or to pay attention.  The calmer and quieter we are on the inside, the easier it is to cope with external distractions.

Before teaching Hapkido I tend to do the same warm-up routine.  This is as much about warming up my body, as it is about getting mentally ready for the class.  There is something about the familiarity of the routine that I find settling.  Similarly, I tend to adopt the same position when I meditate.  As my body rests in the familiar pose it triggers my mind to relax and I find the state of meditation easier to access.

Through Hapkido training we learn to be in harmony with our environment, wherever that might be.  The third Hapkido principle (Yew) reminds us to adopt a mind like water.   Water is adaptable, persistent and confident.  Water is soft, powerful and constantly moving.  Water remains true to its fundamental nature and persists towards its goal, but it also adapts to its circumstance.

Our lifestyle (how we exercise, how we eat, what stresses we put ourselves under and what type of environment we create around us) can have a profound effect on our state of Ki and our ability to learn, but through Hapkido training we develop resilience.  This means we develop the ability to cope with challenges and setbacks, and whatever else our external environment might choose to throw at us.  As Master Chang once said, “the tree with heavy roots will remain calm and still”.  Hapkido training reminds us that we lose our perspective when we become overly influenced by our circumstances, our environment, or when we hold on to unnecessary emotions and beliefs.

We may not always be able to control our physical environment, but learning to control our mental environment means we are always able to get the most from every lesson and also from life.

Does the environment have an impact on our learning?

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