I've been going over Daniel Coyle's "The Talent Code" recently and have been thinking about how to focus on his four main points of deep practice. To Summarize there are four main points:
- Slow it down to get it right
- Break it into chunks and practice the chunks
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
- Reach to you limits when practicing
We've done this to a large extent, practicing a technique as a partner drill to teach the movement, then adding in variations, and then going on to freeplay, but I noticed that there was a consistent issue.
Students could easily learn the basic movements and apply them in a drill where they knew what to expect, but the jump to countering random attacks, even a small handful would often confuse them. The ability to execute is only the foundational layer, applying it reactively building on top of that, and finally recognition of the opponent's patterns building further on those.
The big hurdle that is currently tripping people up is between doing and reacting, and I'd struggled to figure out a better teaching method for the last few months, and finally I think I have a solution.
Instead of just letting the student struggle to match up reactions to the opponent's attacks, I accidentally stumbled upon some heuristics that greatly simplify the process. In the bind now I just tell them to try a hard Winden (against the opponent's blade, a first Winden), if that fails do a soft Winden (with their blade pressure, a second Winden) and if that fails cut around (Abnehmen).
I then went back to the sources, because that's what I do, and realized I had overlooked the obvious. The plays are designed to these exact heuristics, but they aren't quite as concise.
The other major one I found is when the opponent cuts around, try to keep their blade on one side. So if you've cut from your right, and you make contact on the right of the opponent's blade, try to keep your blade on that side. Of course also try to get your strong on their weak, aim your point at their face (your target), but those are principles necessary at the execution level.
Applying this line of thinking to Ringen I realized that we would practice throws, then go straight to wrestling, missing several steps in between. Last class we practiced throws as usual, then practiced breaking the clinch (moving the arm) and the approach. Then we practiced an approach as the opponent would push or pull, and do the opposite when the student began the setup so we could practice the change.
It sounds pretty simple, but it turns out to be pretty difficult at first.
These mid level concepts are simplifications, and should be used as guidelines in training until the student gains enough experience to assess the situation correctly and react in time.
Hopefully you guys find some value in this idea, and apply it to other things.