Forget About It
In classes that I teach, I usually inform students multiple times what the point(s) of the training is/are. In my day-job, I used to often make presentations to clients and prospective clients. In the sales business, there is a saying concerning making presentations: “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them.” I also often explain how a given exercise is related to skills and techniques other than what they are practicing specifically at that moment. But sometimes the point of an exercise may not be what they think it is.
Sometimes what the instructor is trying to get the students to do better is something other than what the students are focusing on. By this, I mean that an instructor may devise a drill that causes the students to focus so much of their energy and/or consciousness on one thing that they end up forgetting about what the instructor is actually trying to make them do better.
I know of many instructors who do not think much at all about how they teach (although they may often do put a lot of thought into what to teach). Some of them still turn out some reasonable students. I know of other instructors who have a definite plan of what they want their students to accomplish, but never attmept to inform the students of any part of their plan. In my opinion, a student who knows his objectives can probably work more effectively toward achieving them. Furthermore, if a student is informed of the relationships between exercises and what related techniques and movements can also benefit from those exercises, this can help the students’ progress significantly in various areas. Perhaps not all simultaneously, but eventually this could have profound impact on a student’s overall development. This being said, there are times an instructor may choose to not explain to students exactly what the point is of a particular training drill, or to explain part of the training that is not necessarily the real intent of the exercise.
The way I most often use this tactic is when practicing fundamental exercises such as stance training. Just sitting in a stance for a minute at a time is quite boring and tiring and seems to accomplish very little in the minds of many students who would rather be practicing their punching and kicking. If the instructor has students perform numerous punches in place, the student may be delighted to be practicing so much punching. Meanwhile, the instructor’s intent may be to strengthen the students’ stance and build up the muscle memory of the lower body related to that stance.
Here is an example instructors may want to try:
• Assume kokutsudachi (back stance)
• Review the stance configuration, to make sure all the students are doing it correctly.
• Explain the exercise- When the count is “one,” perform one repetition of shutouke (knife-hand block); when the count is “two,” perform two, and so on….
• Repeat for the other side.
• Count from one to ten or from ten to one.
That is a total of 55 repetitions on each side. Including the explanation and slight pauses between counts, that should probably take nearly 2 minutes. During that time, everyone should have stayed in the same stance. Since the stance was checked at the outset of the drill, unless something happened during the exercise, they most likely built up some good muscle memory in the lower body. But the students have been concentrating on their arms, which by the end are quite tired from so many repetitions of the techique. And now you can continue on with other back stance exercises or switch to another stance with another technique. The students did not need to know that the point of the exercise was to build up good muscle memory in the lower body. If they had been informed of that goal before the exercise, they might have been less successful in achieving it.
Note that this is not quite the same as the idea of training without thinking, just for the sake of training (see separate article on that subject). While the students may not be consciously thinking about what is being trained, the instructor has a goal toward which the students simply may not be fully aware they are working.
Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published October 2004)