Training is an aspect of all sports and martial arts. It is something that we all need to do. It is important that the teacher in the lesson is able to construct a training session that has all the elements necessary for the students to learn what they need to learn in their lesson. This blog will focus on the conduct of training, from the planning to the execution and dealing with some of the problems that will arise in training. Hopefully this will be of interest to students and teachers alike so that you can examine your own training sessions and see how they compare to what is written here.
For the teacher the training session needs to start before they turn up for training. Planning needs to be the first stage of any training session. This is a necessary process especially in order to remain in control of the training session and to ensure that you are able to teach all of what the students need to learn. The first thing you need to look at in the planning stage is the overall plan for training. You need to look at how the students will progress from the beginning stages to the end where they are able to fence with a level of competence and then further to include more advanced techniques. You don't need to plan out the entirety of the student's career at this point in time, more you need to give them the skills in order to progress in that direction. This is the first stage of the planning process.
Once you have an overall plan for the training sessions on the whole you need to have a look at the individual lessons. The lessons should build upon one another like building blocks. This means that the first lessons establish the foundation for the student's fencing and then the others build on top of this. What this means is that the first lessons are some of the most important as if the basic skills are not established to begin with it will be difficult to build upon these in order to get to more advanced techniques. Each one of the lessons should be connected to the others in some way. Obviously they are all connected due to what is being learnt, but the connections need to be on a more specific level as well. Basic techniques should lead to more advanced ones as the basics are the foundation of the more advanced techniques. This needs to be established in the planning process for the training program. The next part of the process is to look at the individual lesson or lessons that will be taught on a particular night.
The decision of how much to teach in a single training session is an important one and needs to be considered. There is a sliding scale from teaching not enough in the session all the way up to teaching too much. In general it is best to focus on one particular area in a lesson, though in some instances this can be branched out into more. This is highly dependent on the lessons being taught. For example, lessons on footwork all link together and may be taught as a single block as they are all related to how the feet move, but trying to link a lesson on footwork to some aspect of the use of the hands is probably not a good idea to start with. In general you should teach a maximum of three lessons per training session otherwise you will give the students problems in remembering all of the information that you have presented. This is, of course, highly dependent on the lessons themselves and also the students being taught. It is important to look at how the lesson relates to others as has been noted before. This will allow you to decide whether the lesson is best taught alone or in conjunction with another lesson. Some lessons will tend to lead to other ones and this should be noted as it will give some directions as to how the lessons should be taught. Remember though, that each lesson should have a particular area of focus and this should be what is being aimed at for the lesson. If this is not clear then the students will get confused as to what they are supposed to be learning and this is not good.
The next part of the process is examining the content of the lesson and what will be taught in the training session. This can be approached in one of two ways really. You can have a lesson planned out as to what will be taught or you can see what the students want to learn and then focus on that for the session. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. The second gives the students what they want, but if the entire program is based in this method then the program tends to be very disjointed and aspects can be missed in the process. This is a very spontaneous form of lessons and should really only be used for more advanced students and the more experienced teachers as it does not allow much time for planning. The first is good as there is a structure which is followed lesson by lesson, this method does, however lack spontaneity. This means if a particular problem comes up it is somewhat difficult to deal with that problem instantly without deviating from the program. It does, however have the advantage of being able to plan what will be taught in a particular training session. The most important part is regardless of what method you use, you should focus on one aspect of the training per lesson and ensure the students understand which aspect is the focus of the lesson in order that some structure is maintained.
The lessons need to have content which is interesting to the students. This means that in most cases the lessons will be dominantly practical in nature. Lessons with a great deal of theory and very little practical aspect to them tend to be seen to be rather boring by students. You should try to include some aspect of a practical nature in the lesson in order to keep the students interested in what is going on. The only way to keep the students' attention is to make the lesson interesting to them. The lesson may be very important to their progress, but if it is not interesting to them their attention will waver and they may miss important parts of the lesson. The theory lessons should be directly related to practical aspects. In this way the theory is demonstrated to be something that has great benefit in what is going on in actual fencing. Keeping the students interested in what is going on is important and should be considered carefully when planning a lesson and also teaching it.
The organisation of the training session is important. You need to structure it in such a way that each element leads on to another one. This structure is important so that the students can see what is going on and then be able to follow this. You need to consider what should be the start of the session and how you will engage the students and keep their attention. Warming up is an important part of the training session. Not only does it prepare the body for the practical aspects in the lesson it also increases blood flow and thus improves the thinking capacity and attention span of the students. Training sessions are usually held at night or on weekends. In both these instances people will have just relaxed after working and will need some motivation in order to get them moving in order that they can fully participate in the lesson. The warm-up is a good way to get people enthusiastic and get them moving again. The next part of the training session should be the theory, the information about what is being taught in the lesson. Some believe that this should be before the warm-up as the body will cool while doing the theory. The warm-up gets the student excited and willing to learn, thus it will improve the retention of the theory that is taught. As long as the theory aspect does not go too long the students should not cool down too much. Once the theory is done you should move on to the practical aspects.
The practical aspects of the lesson will keep the students interested in what is going on but this needs to be done in a way that the information is retained by the student. An action being learnt should be demonstrated at full-speed by the teacher, and then again at slower speed so that the students can see what is going on. The students should be then shown how the action is done in parts. This is how the action should be taught, in parts. Once they can do the parts slowly you should then speed things up. Once the students are able to do the action at speed, you should move on to drills which use the particular skill which has been learnt. The construction of the drills was discussed in the previous blog. These drills should reflect a situation in fencing in a controlled manner. Once the drills have been done and the students can perform the technique, you should move them on to controlled or coached bouting. This bouting focuses on the use of the new technique. In a bouting situation the technique the student learns when the appropriate time for the use of the skill is. In some ways this bouting should be controlled so that the skill is used, but also let go so that it reflects normal fencing better. Free bouting should always come at the end of the lesson as it is a way for the students to practice their skills and also have some fun. This should be included in the training sessions as many times as possible in order to keep their enthusiasm up. Free bouting is a great way to release tension, but this should come at the end of the training session.
In everything that is attempted there will be problems and training sessions are no different. Some of the problems will be easy to deal with and some will not be so easy. Some of these problems are generated by the students and some by the teacher. Both need to take responsibility for their impact upon the training session. Trouble-makers are abound and they should be dealt with promptly in order that they do not disrupt the entire session. The method use depends on what the person is doing and what the teacher is permitted to do within their structure. Some will be easily dealt with and others won't. A lack of interest in the lesson can be dealt with in one of two ways. You either abandon the lesson and move on to something else, or you continue on with the lesson and attempt to generate interest in the lesson through demonstrating its importance to the process. The choice of which depends on the particular lesson. The other end of this is the student attempting to move on to fast. The initiative of the student should be praised, but it should also be explained as to what the lesson is trying to achieve and that what they are doing comes later and they should wait for this. This leads to problems in the session.
If it seems that you are giving the students too much to learn at once, you should stop and evaluate the situation. It would be better to stop the lesson and try again at a different session than to continue and have the lesson not properly learnt. On the other end of the scale is not giving the students enough to learn. This usually results in them getting more bouting at the end of the session which is not necessarily a bad thing, but for the next session more should be included. The content of the lesson may be too advanced for some students so they will not understand what is going on. Attempt to describe the technique a different way to the student so that they may be able to understand what is going on. If this does not work a physical demonstration of the skill can be helpful. Correction of technique is part and parcel of the process, this needs to be done with encouragement, but not too much. If the technique is too difficult for the student to master at that point in time, you should come back to it later on.
Training sessions are important as is their conduct. The best conducted sessions are those in which the teacher has the most control over what is going on. This means that the teacher needs to plan what is going to happen before-hand in most instances. Experienced teachers will be able to teach lessons from their experience, but until this skill is attained it is better to plan the session out, and in some detail. Training sessions give a chance for the students to learn what they need to learn and for the teacher to also learn, in a lot of instances. This is important in the process of learning fencing for both students and teachers. Only through the learning process will both become better at what they are doing and expand their knowledge. Yous should consider your impact on the training session and see whether this is a positive or negative influence. Consider your training session carefully and see what you can do to improve it.