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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

When it's Time to Train - then Train!

Just this last week we have been putting finishing touches to this year's Summer Camp. One thing I'm always aware of, whether it's a camp, a workshop or even just a basic training session, is keeping things moving at a good pace and providing a balanced amount of information and activity for the students.
What prompted me to write this post was an e-mail I recieved about a Kung Fu training camp being held over seas. It included a day-to-day itinerary, which was along the lines of 9am - 11am training session  11am-5pm free time  5pm-7pm training session for each day

It struck me as odd to travel all that distance and spend less than half the time training. Over the years I've travelled as far afield as Toronto and Moscow for training - and have to say I would have felt a bit disappointed if I was only getting a couple of hours a day in.  Happily that hasn't been the case - in fact sometimes you wish it would stop ha ha!

Closer to home over the years I've driven consderable distances in the UK to attend classes and workshops. Again, most of the time I have not been disappointed,  the sessions have been well-run and enjoyable. There have been a couple of exceptions -  one workshop for example was around 80% talking (mostly instructor  "war" stories - tales of violence and derring-do) and 20% actual training. Other class sessions became a social event with an ever-extending "tea break" halfway through.

I can accept the fact that things need to be explained on occasion (our recent body language workshop for example was half lecture-half drills) and, of course there is a social aspect to training, after all we are not in the military!

But these things shouldn't  impinge on actual training time. We should be able to manage a two hour session with a quick drink break (though we often don't even have that). When it becomes a coffee and sandwich break then something is wrong! I understand it from a teachers point of view - if, that is,  you have a need to drag out information and drip-feed.  Perhaps then you should ask yourself why exactly you are teaching...

We are all a bit lazy and take any opportunity for a break -  another good reason to keep training sessions brisk and lively. That doens't mean mindless beasting  (neccesarily!) but a structured approach will contain all the elements needed for good training - physical and mental

There is another more important aspect to this question and that is how we organise our own training time. I've already written about my own solo training - in many ways it's harder to push ourselves without the "support" of the group -  but there are so many ways to utilise time. If you can't put a regular schedule together, then use what time you can - exercise while waiting for the kettle to boil. Get up half an hour earlier and go for a run. Take the stairs rather than the lift

But this is all on a basic level. When you internalise the principles of Systema you can be "training" virtually constantly. Breathing, posture, tension and movement are constants, they are part of our natural state 24-7. So we can always be mindful of these things in ou daily life.  Being aware of ourselves will extend out to awareness of others and our surroundings. You'll find you can avoid a lot of situations and get into a lot less arguments and confrontation with even basic awareness.  Once you add in the skills of recognising non-verbal signals you willl find your communication skills improve, hopefully making ife much less stressful in general!

This awareness should also extent to "tactical thinking". The most basic method of this is the "what if" game. "What if someone jumps out from behind that wall, what if  etc etc"   However this method should extend beyond mild paranoia into something much more useful (and healthy!). It's often just a case of noticing where things like fire exits are. Or who is the loudmouth in the pub. Or where your kids are at any given time. It's also about developing and listening to your inner voice. Over time it becomes a natural part of you - much as it was when we were hunter-gatherers and were in an "eat-or-be-eaten" environment. Interestingly all the same instincts and responses are still wired into us, even at the deli counter in Tescos (watch what happens if someone pushes in the queue...)

This kind of training will be very self concious at first but if you take it on board you will get some surprising benefits. Training then becomes something else  - to quote Ed Philips "the world is your gym"  - and that applies for both mind and body.  This approach also helps break down the barriers between training and reality. I've known people who couldn't train without their uniform. Or who floundered outside of their usual training environment. Sometimes their training has to be preceded by routines or ritual - in fact the whole training is a  ritual in itself. Fine if that is your thing and you are honest about it, but you have to be aware of just how much of a construct training can become

I'll sign off with a story that I've mentioned before but  illustrates the point beautifully..... a young journalist was sent to interview a venerable jazz guitarist for a music magazine. During the course of the interview the journalist asked "So how many hours a day do you practice?". The musician replied "I never practice!"

The journalist was aghast "but you are one of the top players in the world, how can it be that you never practice!"

The musician replied "I never get time to practice, I'm too busy playing"

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