Monday, 7 November 2011
What's the Point?
The strength of this approach is that we are always working with another person - whatever the particular skill or attribute being developed it is be done with the input of a real body rather than fresh air. It also makes training flexible as drills can easily be adapted on the fly in a variety of ways.
However there is also a danger that training can become to "drill-centric". By this I mean that the point of the exercise becomes to get good at the drill rather than to extract the skills developed through the drill for actual use. The drill is the map, not the destination. A guy may be able to keep a football in the air and flick it onto the back of his neck - it doesn't make him a great football player.
It can also mean that the nature of the drill subtly changes in order to maintain our comfort / skill level in it, sometimes negating the whole point of the exercise. Let's take an extreme example - , a person feels very comfortable with working a jab and hook combo. So in a pad drill or some kinds of sparring they do well, dominate their partner and feel good.
It's actually not such an extreme example. Over the years I've seen similar examples in all the styles I've studied - from the guy who started punching wildly in a push hands drill to people who refused to close their eyes in a restricted sight drill. There may be different reasons for this and an instructor has to deal with each accordingly and appropriately. People may feel nervous or tense and this is how it comes out. People may feel they have a point to prove, or people may wish to challenge the teaching. Sometimes people shy away from any work that puts them in a perceived weaker position - yet this is a very important aspect of training. We don't have the luxury of knowing when and where and how we may have to call upon our skills, in fact it's generally best to assume it will be under the worst circumstances - so it makes sense to devote at least some time to exploring those circumstances. There is also the principle of strengthening each link in the chain and facing up to our shortcomings and fears - if nothing else it keeps the ego in check!
It's important then to understand the boundaries of any drill, the reasons for them and the attributes the drill is designed to develop. For example you could have your partner hold the pads and hit them for three minutes but what are you getting from it? If you understand that the drill is to develop a particular strike then the drill changes. If you understand that by working at speed you can be developing some cardio, it changes again. If the pad holder understands his job is to move around a little and not just stand like a dummy the drill changes again. The more understanding that each person has about what can be gained from the drill, the more useful the experience for both people.
It's a fantasy to imagine that there is such a thing as no-restriction all-out training - at least in our civilian context. There are always limits to any kind of drill, no matter how intense, as safety of participants is a major concern. The point is to understand restrictions, why they are they and how they can be altered in order to enrich the experience for all concerned. Drills should always be adaptable to in order to provide new challenges and to encourage growth.
People become blinded by style or charismatic teacher - especially those who can perform a couple of party tricks under constructed circumstances. Progression in a drill becomes a measure of acheivement in that style - how many classmates can you dominate at your chosen drill? But can you extract that skill into a situation where your partner doesn't understand the rules or in fact give a toss about them? This is one reason there is often a random person in Systema class wandering around with a knife - just as you feel good about yourself you get that prod in the kidneys.... a gentle reminder that we are all strong and we are all vulnerable. How we deal with our own and others vulnerabilities is a measure of what sort of person we really are.