Thursday, March 29, 2018

Training yardstick

This week I have had to act as a gym coach of sorts for a bunch of kids, and that experience brought up an issue that is rather spread out throughout the martial art world. Now, I like to to implement experiences and methods of other training disciplines and modalities in my combat-related training, including those from weightlifting and other athletic fields, but some of those, in my view, are doing more harm than benefits when  plugged into fighting domain.

Probably the one that rubs me in the wrong way the most is the obsession with reps. Typically, the instructor will show/tell the technical exercise that is supposed to be worked on, and say something along the lines of " it for XYZ repetitions", and very often they will even proceed to count those reps out loud. This is especially widespread in traditional schools, and particularly with beginner classes. The problem with such angle in coaching is that the grand majority of trainees will be focused almost solely on numbers, while neglecting the quality of move/ if cranking those numbers is the magic formula to mastery.

Too much of enough?

Some instructors say that if they do not count the repetitions, some people will do them faster and will then be idle while the rest of the class is completing their work. Well, guess what? There is a very simple solution for that - use the timer/stopwatch! Doing your work for timed rounds instead of mere repetitions is a time honored method in rel-time fighting activities such as boxing and wrestling, and consequently in MMA, too. I have heard attempts to justify the avoidance of that tool as being more suited for individual training than groups, but it just doesn't hold up. I have run most my martial art and fitness classes using this template for years, and the results were excellent. Indeed, some people will squeeze in more repetitions than others that way, but there is much less deterioration in the technical quality of movement with everybody.

That approach is also in accord with the fact that humans live their lives in time and space, and have only become obsessed with counting over the last hundred years or so. speaking of time and space, thee is another model of training I use, but this one is definitely more suited for individual sessions. Namely, sometimes I will go for certain distance, thus completely discarding the need for any counting whatsoever, including the time. For example, instruct the students/athletes to perform a technique or a combo while moving from "here to there" (whatever your reference points are), and then stress the intensity/quality balance as you deem necessary.

...inch by inch, it's a cinch! 

All that said, there are times, of course, when you will need a more strict quantitative layout in your training, and that is absolutely fine. My aim here was simply to point out that it is easy to get lost in the magic of numbers and the quasi-scientific aura it provides for one's training, while other approaches could be more valuable in those situations.

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