A lot of martial art training is done with very little class-to-class structure. The instructor has a plan for the day, and maybe an idea about tomorrow, but not a clue about next week. There is nothing wrong with this Free Flow approach. It leaves the classes open to random, “at the moment” situations. The class may evolve from a question about something in a form, or something a student observed.
In some cases, martial art training grows out of patterns – a series of kickboxing drills or something of that nature. This is often a path of least resistance. It requires little preparation by the instructor, with no real long-range goals other than to see the participants get exposure to some conditions, and a good workout.
For some arts, Kata dictate the class structure. This can be similar to a pattern drill approach, but is also very much a step-by-step Structured approach.
The first two of these cases leave the long-term acquisition of the art, style, or science up to chance. If exposed long enough, it is assumed the student will acquire at least the fundamentals. It is left up to the student to gain greater depth, to dig and expose themselves to lessons outside of that particular school system, or at least to ask deep questions of their instructor. Again, I cannot say this is a bad approach. However, these are not the only approaches available.
Most arts have an interesting problem. There is such a large volume of information to be learned, covering it in a step by step approach is difficult and clumsy. If the steps are structured, what do you do if a student misses a class? How do you handle the new student when the others are at step 382? How do you handle a student question, where the answer has to jump a host of steps? The Free Flow approach is an attempt to resolve these issues.
However, this complete lack of structure can give the student a feeling of limbo. They have no idea what they will do during any given class. Perhaps they know there are some common beginning and closing moments, but the meat of the class is completely unknown. Moreover, it might be months before they ever see a particular approach again. Practice and repetition are key elements of teaching.
I have been studying this problem for some time, and have decided to try an approach that utilizes aspects of both a Structured and Free Flow teaching method. Examining the wide range of variables of Wing Chun, I have broken it down into a series of Topics. The plan is to assign a topic for each week. All of the classes for that week will relate directly to the Topic. The individual classes will follow the Free Flow approach. This allows the lessons to respond to questions, new students, and other random considerations, while forcing the lessons to cover a specific area. These Topics will be cyclical. Once the list is complete, it will start over. The lessons will be different, though they will continue to be restricted to the Topic.
Additionally, each class will begin with the last technique / consideration of the previous class, flowing further into the Topic for the week. Where possible, this Class End to Class Start crossover may even be used when changing Topics – where possible. I feel this may help the repetition requirement.
This may also lead to revelations for students. During a second or third round through a specific Topic, a student may recognize some techniques in relation to another Topic, allowing them to see general similarities, rather than differences.
All this having been said, there will be some commonalities in my classes.
1. Classes will generally begin with a Form – usually Siu Lim Tau.
2. Classes will end with some form of Conditioning.
3. Sparring and related Sparring Drills / Lessons will be delegated to a specific day.
Here is the list of Topics:
Sensitivity (whole body) / Chi Sau Drills
Striking Drills (hands, elbows) / Lin Sil Da / Defenses
Footwork / Stances / Angles
Kicks / Defenses / Knees / Defenses
Takedown / Throw Drills / Defenses
Originally, I had some of the sub-groups as their own Topic, however the list of Topics became so long I felt the cyclical quality became too vague. Even as it is, it will take almost 2 months to get through the Topic List. As such, I grouped related items, which could be Topics all on their own, allowing for a quicker Topic List turnaround. Depth will be provided by focusing on a sub-section during a week.
If you have any thoughts on this approach – or concerns about it – please comment here, or somewhere.
It’s Wing Chun – Relax.