Whisper the Counter ...

Quite often after I have finished teaching a technique or concept, I'm asked by someone in the class, how to counter or stop that new move. I need to point out that should I teach the counter in the same class as the technique, that I would be making a very fundammental coaching error - one that I see made in many a martial arts school.
My reasoning is this: the single most important thing that needs to happen after students learn or are exposed to a new technique - is that they have opportunity to try it without paying too high a price for doing so. It doesn't even really matter whether they succeed with it - just that they try it.
The first step in 'taking ownership' of a move is to make the association between the 'situation' and the 'new move'. It is not absolutely necessary that we are successful with the move, just that we start to make those associations. (EG: the opponent in our guard has one arm in and one arm out - and we think 'triangle' - that's an 'association'.)
So as an instructor, I encourage my students to always try new techniques as soon as they can after having been exposed to them. In the same class would be the ideal. If we wait a few nights - life and other stuff gets in the way - and the technique has by that time, been pushed further down into our mind's clutterpile 9my own word) - and the chance of retrieving it is lessened.

Now, by teaching the 'counter' to the move in the same night, what we are really saying to the class is "hey, now everyone knows how to stop the move you just learned, so your chance of pulling it off is even lower." What do you think the chances are that they will now try the move? Answer: only those who thrive on challenge will give it a go. Probably less than 5% of the class.
I call that approach - 'killing the move'.

What I usually do is wait until some of the students are 'invested' in the technique (ie: they have pulled it off enough times so that they will not 'give it up' when they start to meet resistance to it) before I start to 'whisper the counter' to a few students at a time.
If they are 'invested' enough in the move, then when people start to counter it, they will work a 'counter to the counter' and what we now have, is 'evolution' on the mat.
I call this 'evolving the move'.
So in short - I teach the general class a technique, and I let the counter (ie: the resistance) to it, creep in organically. The only time I don't do this, is when we are specifically working counters or escapes as out training theme.
I beleieve this idea is fundamental to logical and progressive coaching. I hope it helps.
Good training all.


Anonymous said…
Hi John,

that's a great explanation.

I find myself telling people the same 2 things when asked this question. 1. That they should be concentrating on the intricacies of the technique being taught & 2. That for every counter there is a counter & that for every counter to a counter there is also counter and so on until infinity. So if we were going to go over every counter we'd need an infinite amount of time. At which point they tend to get it.

I really like the way you have articulated this as being directly counter productive to skill development.

I'll be adding this to my arsenal.


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