Monday, May 16, 2011

The Structure of the Individual Lesson, part 4: Lesson Profiles

In this installment, I submit for your consideration, profiles of the three principle lesson types. Keep in mind that there is no "purely" technical, tactical or strategy lesson, but that all three elements exist to varying degrees in every lesson. For example, in the simplest exercise, "On my opening, straight thrust," the student must recognize the cue (distinguish between cue and not-cue) and respond with the correct action for that cue. That's tactics.  Within the the lesson it's quite common to introduce a technique, then place it in a tactical context, and then explore how it may be utilized in various strategic positions.

The Technical Lesson Profile

THE TECHNICAL LESSON is characterized by simple cues requiring simple responses, the cue being stated as a command "On my X, you will X1." For example: "On my opening, thrust in 6te," or "On my pressure, disengage." The cue is specifically defined, and there is only ONE acceptable response.

The SPEED of the lesson is low and the PACE is slow. This is necessary to ensure that the student and the master can both pay careful attention to each rep. The goal of the lesson is to create a neuro-muscular pattern, or "muscle memory" of the action so that it will always be the preferred response to the cue, requiring no cognitive "thinking" to perform.

The student's attentional mode is predominantly narrow internal, flicking briefly to narrow external for the cue.

The master must allow the student ample rest intervals to avoid fatigue until the mechanics have been adequately absorbed and the technique can be performed correctly at least 90% of the time on command. Fatigue will produce gross, imprecise movements when razor sharp acuity is desired, and must be avoided.

BEGINNERS will require 99% technical lessons- and I say that only because of the 1% inherent tactical element. But any time a new technique is introduced, even to an advanced student, employ the Technical Lesson format.

The Tactical Lesson Profile

THE TACTICAL LESSON is characterized by two or more conditional commands, i.e., IF-THEN statements. For example: "If I open the line, thrust in 6te; if I close the line, disengage and thrust in 4te."

The goal of this type of lesson is to teach the student to distinguish between differing cues requiring differing responses. This lesson cultivates both physical and mental agility. There must be AT LEAST two options, with no upper limit for advanced students. However, cues are still specifically defined, and each has its "correct" response.

SPEED and PACE are generally moderate, but may vary considerably depending on the ability of the student. NEVER accelerate either one beyond precision. Neither proceed at a rate the student will not find challenging.

COMPLEXITY can reach appreciable proportions, but as complexity increases, speed and pace generally must decrease.

The attentional mode is predominantly narrow external, shifting to narrow internal on the response.

The tactical lesson is for the intermediate fencer, from 50% technique and 50% tactics to 90% tactics.

The Strategy Lesson Profile

In the strategy or "combat" lesson, the master simulates a hypothetical opponent against whom the student must devise an appropriate PLAN or STRATEGY and then choose tactics and execute techniques in order to carry out that battle plan. The master may present a tactical problem, for example, an opponent who systematically counter-attacks, or closes distance, or opens distance, or uses fine point control, or is left-handed, etc. Or the master may merely assume one of the STRATEGIC POSITIONS (longer/stronger, longer/weaker, shorter/stronger, shorter/weaker) and play it out with tactical variety.

The emphasis of the combat lesson is PROBLEM-SOLVING. The student must immediately apply what he has learned, analyze the situations (from the actions of the opponent), determine the strategy most likely to succeed and then employ appropriate tactics.

The master facilitates this process by asking questions, obliging the student to find the answers with as little assistance as possible from the teacher.

The combat lesson may assume all the speed, pace and complexity of an actual bout, and resemble it in all possible ways. No specific cues or responses are stated (that has been done in preceding technical and tactical lessons).

The combat lesson is for advanced students whose predominant attentional mode is broad external, shifting to narrow external.

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