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Meeting the Flow of Success

The start of a lesson is an enabler. It gains deeper focus and purpose once you decide what learning will follow, such as recall, continuity, purpose, or generalisation, Making and seeing connections moves you towards building continuity and flow. Leaders use where they want to be as a guide for what they need to do.

The martial arts student recognises that blocking an attack can also serve to destabilise the opponent and allow multiple counters. Retreating can be an invitation for the opponent to over-extend to then take advantage of moments of weakness. To the attuned eye, the strategy is clear from the first technique.

Anybody studying their craft, be it teacher, athlete, artist or engineer knows that commitment in your effort and the skill of your strategy are central. Watch the timing of the martial artist’s technique as they read the opponent. This can be applied just before the attack, during the attack or after the opponent is at the edge of their movement and needs to recover. Watch a skilled teacher intervene according to how they read pupils’ needs. Interventions can be provided just before pupils’ start, if we notice initial expressions or body language. While they are working you can act on any hesitancy, distraction or skill gap. When pupils think they have ‘finished’ the task, teachers can raise expectations by helping pupils look back at their commitment and grasp of concepts. Skillful timing and skillful interventions are necessary; both to control and overcome an opponent, as well as to sustain continuity and depth of pupil’s learning.

With experience, teachers soften lesson structures and move more freely around ideas and activities. Understanding is stronger when ideas are studied at different levels of detail and connected to other learning. Teachers becoming leaders vary, for example, the depth of the question, pauses in their speech, when to move between activities and the challenge within feedback. Skillful adjustments give momentum to learning. In this way the martial arts student blurs the boundaries between different techniques because each one prepares the opponent for what follows. A drop of the shoulder, a deeper push, or a changing of the angle or height of the technique all affect the opponent differently.

When to act and what action to take? It depends upon the individual. To understand this is to realise that the ‘whole individual’ will affect how well they continue learning. We succeed and falter through character and personality. To teach and learn is to look in the mirror. To paraphrase Benjamin Zander, what are you being that your pupils’ eyes are not shining? In martial arts, the opponent is a mirror. You can overcome the opponent, but still feel no sense of gain because, truthfully, you know that on this occasion your technique was superior, but your opponent actually displays an overall deeper level of skill.

You have already committed to the horizon of excellence you want to touch. Having studied your pupils and opponents you, the teacher-warrior, return to face yourself, honestly, and recommit to your own excellence. Understanding timing and strategy. Reading signals earlier. Developing a repertoire of ideas and skills that serve your commitment to excellence. This is the leader keeping their promise to themselves about the difference they want to make to others’ lives. The journey to Third Dan awaits.

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