Monday, October 30, 2017

The Coaching Chisel

Kasey likes to say that when you apply the chisel of reality to chip away the inefficiencies, what you end up with will look pretty similar. Or words to that effect. He says it better.

Here's the deal. Coaching is the process of making people better. Doesn't matter what you're coaching. But we (most people, including me) have this subconscious default that better=more. So in this stupid subconscious conspiracy, the student wants to learn more-- cool techniques and nifty strategies, and we want to give them more-- power generation systems that stack so that the effects compound, for instance.

And sometimes, especially for beginners, that's okay.

But if fighting is an art, it's stone sculpture. You have to chip off everything that is not what you want. That probably made no sense. Let's try again.

Coaching the one-step (lots of one-step at VioDy, so it's fresh in my mind) there are four (at least) levels of coaching. (It was six by the time I got to the end of the article.)

The first level is no coaching at all. Fact is, fighting and surviving are natural and only extremely brainwashed people need to be taught how to hurt a human body. So we deliberately set up the first few rounds so that the students have fun and play with a part of their nature they've been told they don't have. We still have to coach for safety stuff, but playing without implanting skills first demystifies the process a lot. Students aren't here (wherever hear is) to learn to fight. They're here to learn to fight (and see and apply judgement and articulate decisions and...) better.

Second level is asking questions. Giving the students a leg up on self-coaching. You are the only person inhabiting your body (I hope) and you are the only person at the center of your own action. No outside coach can possibly see or feel as much as you do. You must become your own best coach. Asking questions, especially about training artifacts that come up, gives students permission to use their own input and to step into a place that's scary for most beginners: "Damn, some of the things I've been taught are wrong. Worse, I knew they were wrong and went along because an authority figure told me to do it that way? What else do I have to test for myself? Everything?" Yeah, pretty much everything.

Third level are the "skill builds." Take the student out of the game, work on a specific skill, like leverage and leverage points, and put them back in the game with the new knowledge. Let them experiment with the new* tool or perspective in coordination with the skills they already have and their natural movements.
*And some of these skills can seem new, but very few are truly new. We use leverage all the time, every day-- how you hold a steak knife, a hammer or even a pencil are all expressions of leverage.

Fourth level, and where most of us as coaches spend most of our effort late in a seminar: Blindspots.
If you can honestly see what is in front of you, most of the time the most efficient solution becomes obvious. But all training sets up templates for how one sees, and things outside the template become invisible. Boxers and kick boxers don't see knee pops. They can physically see the same thing a silat player sees-- "My knee is very close to the threat's knee." But it's not on their mental list of tools so they don't see the affordances in what they observe.

Aside-- This is a huge weakness with technique-based training. When you get stuck (say in a pin or a lock) technique-based training requires you to have a specific escape for that specific hold. If the hold is new to you, you're screwed. First time I encountered knee-on-belly, I froze trying to run through all the escapes I knew. I didn't notice that his base was a narrow line that I could pop him off balance. I didn't notice that there was a big gap I could just slide out of. I was trying to remember instead of see, and memory is not an optimal brain function for fighting.

So the essence of fourth-level coaching, at least for this drill is simply, "Stop. Go back one move. Did you see...?"

Fifth level is the chisel. It's weeding out any unnecessary movements. A lot of it can be summed up in "closest weapon to closest target" but there is more there. Why does almost everyone instinctively pull back before a strike? What little power you gain is far offset by the time lost and the warning given. When going for an o-soto-gari outside leg sweep, how often would it be more efficient just to drive your knee through his rather than go all the way around for the sweep?

Efficiency, in every physical endeavor, is about getting to the end result with the least (effort, time, motion) possible. The best runner moves less than the second best to get to the same distance. The best fighters finish thing quicker because they waste less motion.

Oh, and there's a sixth level of coaching. Monitoring the student's emotional state while they one-step or spar. With a little practice you can see a lot. Memories. Hesitations. Internal monologue. Successes they have been punished for. This sixth level can be valuable for integrating physicality, thought and emotion.


pax said...

Might add one more, call it level three & a half. Hinted at in your aside on level three, assumed in level four.

Many (most?) people have trouble importing long-known, basic ideas into new domains. Reminding them of stuff they already know, have probably always known, and then pointing out that it applies here -- that's powerful stuff.

Lot of coaches don't realize that type of reminding needs to be done, while others do it so naturally they don't realize they're doing it.

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