Trips and Jumps

The joy of grand plans can be when they completely fall apart. I had grand plans for my Valkyrie WMA students when we got the school going. I had previously built up a lovely curriculum to teach, based on challenges for students to overcome. I started with the drills and workouts designed to prepare students for those tests. And things fell apart.

The bad side of having an ephemeral nature is the difficulty in sticking to one thing. You plant a seed, and while it’s waiting to grow you decide to take up pruning. By the time the seed has sprouted you’ve forgotten about it because you’re busing making all the hedges look like a flock of geese. The good side of an ephemeral nature is that it is quite powerful when combined with experience.

So when the students took the rails off of my careful plan, it didn’t take me long to decide to follow them. A few months ago I was all ready to jump in and start examining the students, grading them and showing them my magnificent progression of challenges…but I kept holding off. There was always some excuse. My subconscious was telling me something wasn’t right.

The progression was built up from lots of research, and lots of experience. It was also built up in my mind, and modeled out on a series of spreadsheets. I accounted for everything I could think of, and everything I wanted an ideal student to achieve. I knew that most students wouldn’t be ideal, so I even built in some fudge factor that would allow some strengths to overcome some weaknesses. Two students could have the same rank in the school, but have different skill sets.

When I decided to run exams, it was because I had recognized that most of the students, the ones who attended regularly, had made the leap. They’d achieved something. To my sight, they had leveled up. I wanted to recognize that publicly. I wanted to give them something tangible to help them recognize what they had achieved. The problem for me was that they weren’t done yet. My progression wasn’t good enough. I hadn’t accounted for the effect the drills would have on the students.

It clicked in my mind over the last week. If I really wanted my students to be the best they could be, it was time to stop giving them a path. It was time to stop leading and time for me to start learning from my fellow fighters. It suits me better to be a coach than a teacher. Creating any sort of mold and trying to fit students into it just sits wrong with me. You can convince yourself to fail at just about anything if you start out by limiting yourself. The worst limit you can place on yourself is to try and be successful, or right. It’s better to act from your nature, do what you love to do, and let the results be success or failure regardless.

So, plan in the garbage. I’m not going to re-create the world in my image. Grand scheme torn down. Now what? What is it I really want to do? Throw out the question of what is it I think I should do, and focus instead on what I really want. I want to speak the same language as my students. I want my intent to be clear, and I want them to be able to clearly speak their issues to me. And I want them to have recognizable goals that they choose to work towards. I want to help them achieve those goals. That’s what I want.

First thing is the language. Tossing all the historical stuff. Too imprecise. To prone to be loaded with meaning…too coded. We need a clean language. A language that’s technical in nature and free of excess coding. Should also be simple to pick up and use. We made a start on that Monday, and we’ll keep improving it as we go. The real test is if it allows easy understanding of a drill when the partners are opposite handed. We seem to be a school heavy with left-handers.

Secondly, the goals. I’ve somewhat tossed all the goals I had and instead came up with a concept that should allows students to work towards individual goals. The goals have become skills, graded from easy to difficult. Now all I need to do is create a skill book, and the coaching can begin.

Our school will become less of a martial arts school, with neat lines and uniforms, and more of an ongoing training camp. … So, no change really. It’s still all about the sweat.

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