Gilligans – In Training

     In old-school police training, (and probably first in the business world and certainly in psychology) in the 80s and 90s, there was a teaching term called “Gilligans.” The object was to find one word that instantly conjures up as much as possible. Mental force multipliers? (Oh that sounds way tacta-cool). But, smart instructors were encouraged to invent as many Gilligans as possible. This idea took a good hold by some of the original Calibre Press instructors in the 80s and 90s.

     What is a Gilligan? Of course, youth and even many adults today don't know of, or don't remember Gillgan’s Island, the VERY popular TV show of its times. When one said,


      …back then people immediately had a flash of the show, its overall context – “lost on an island” – and picture of the whole cast. The concept. Virtually instantly.


     I remember when I first heard of the idea decades ago, the police instructor stood still in front of the class and said “Gilligan,” with a big smile. Then he asked for a show of hands of how many people flashed to the Gilligan’s Island TV show. We ALL did. ALL. He explained that it was a one-word concept, He suggested that we invent as many Gilligans as possible when teaching. Find the word (or very short phrase) that means a lot of words, long phrases, sentences and maybe even paragraphs. At best, it should have an emotional contact/connection too. The teaching idea was nicknamed “Gilligan” by whom I do not know.

     Another example of a Gilligan? Classic JKD instructor Larry Hartsell said in a seminar once that when you punch, you should "dent." Imagine denting reasonably thin/thick metal. For me that simple word "dent" put me on the overall right structure to punch harder, penetrate and leave a mark. It "lights" up the brain.There are so many examples and uses of this idea.

     When you say Gilligan today, almost no one thinks of that show, or thinks of the teaching concept even. I just referenced this while teaching in Denver last weekend and one guy there, Larry Cline, "comfortably" over 65, knew the old TV show I was talking about. He immediately said out loud, "Mary Ann.”

Mary Ann Gilligans Island 00

     But it’s the idea, the teaching concept that still lingers. Some young people think they have invented it? But, its what Dave Spaulding always says, "there's a difference between new and original. Its just new to you."

     For a period of time in the thrilling days of yesteryear, at least, the idea of Gilligans was sort of a known term in police training and I am sure other business circles and some military too.

     Maybe we need a new TV show? Big Bang Theory? 



(Jiyu Yushi  checks in –  "The above ideas involve the psychological concepts of associative learning that were quite popular in that time frame from the Behavioralists who were impacting learning theory. Associative learning postulates that certain events and things occur together, making recall and subsequent performance more accurate and swifter with the stimuli received. This learning involves both Classical and Operant conditioning to specific stimuli (visual, audio, tactile, etc)."


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For more on subjects like this, read Fightin' Words, click here

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