Thoughts on Teaching: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, Part 4

After [establishing the need for proper class preparation] from both the [instructor’s] and [student’s] point of view, today I’ll give you an overview over how I actually plan a class. This time, I won’t dive too deep into theoretical considerations, though, but rather give an actual example – namely, tonight’s class. If you happen to attend, you’ll already know what’s coming…

The first step in any planning is – of course – to set a goal. To keep things stringent, this goal should be related to  what has been done lately. Everything should work towards that goal and blend nicely into a clear concept. Now in my case, I’m currently working on improving my student’s defensive skills. The last couple of classes dealt with the following topics (to name but a few):

  • 2013-11-11: Understanding the Shinergy defense concept (i.e., blocks and evasions)
  • 2013-11-18: Ways to counter a roundhouse kick by means of kicks
  • 2013-11-25: I was in Linz and didn’t teach the class
  • 2013-12 -02: Fine-tune striking technique
  • 2013-12-05: Counter-grappling (i.e., takedown defense, striking against grapplers)

So, now that everybody understood our defense system (it’s really not that complicated once you catch the gist of it), knows some fundamental striking and appreciates the importance of a stable stance, it’s time to take things to the next level. So, today we’ll tackle counter-striking, incorporating kicks into the framework of punches, steps and blocks we’ve recently established.

On a sidenote, I might as well limit things to counter-boxing here, but then planning is a multi-variant issue. You see, one of the factors you have to consider when laying out a class is your actual group. That’s a no-brainer. Don’t get me wrong here, though – I won’t sacrifice techniques, strategies or exercise just because no one likes them. Not selling my style out here. Everyone needs to practice some sticking hands, some basic tumbling and the occasional takedown. Once you start taking the unpopular stuff away, soon you’re left with a light edu-tainment program that won’t inspire anyone over the long run. However, it makes sense to shortly evaluate the framework inside of which you can move during a given class. I can estimate (with a rather low degree of confidence, but still better than just a random guess) who’s going to attend today’s class. Since I’m not running a McDojo, I know my students and have a pretty good idea who attends which classes. Hence, I assume that today, I’ll have a student with lower pain back (which we’re currently working on atm) and another one with knee issues, attend class. Intuitively, this’d call for a pure boxing class. However, on the other hand I know that I have people in the class who’re perfectly healthy and can definitely benefit from throwing a couple of kicks. Hence, I won’t build a class around what people can’t do. Instead, I’ll keep any potential limitations in mind an design alternate exercise for those who can’t do a particular drill. Naturally, the idea and concept stays the same for both the original and alternate drill – it’s just that we’re using different tools (techniques) to get the same job done.

So, basic counter-striking it is. Next up is the choice of drills. Note that I’m not starting out with designing the warm-up. We’ve got our general warm-up covered with the [Warrior Warmup Routine], so that’s out of the way. As for the specific warmup, that’s got to be… well, specific (you see, sometimes this job ain’t that complicated after all). To design a specific warmup, I first need the main part. Makes sense, huh?

When tackling the task of exercise/drill selection, it’s always a good idea to scan one’s toolbox for stuff that has already worked in the past. For students, it’s good to have a couple of drills that they know, where they can just focus on improving a certain aspect of their game without having to actually learn the drill (keep in mind that stuff like proper pad holding, learning the sequence of a compination, etc. can distract from the task at hand). Also, while any drill is probably good, some are just better. This is where teaching experience kicks in.

It just so happens to be that I’ve taught a boxing class at the [Shinergy[zone vienna]] last friday, where I covered… you guessed it, counter-boxing. So here we go, some of the stuff I designed for that class worked like a charm, so I’ll just re-use it. As a matter of fact, I already did, during my saturday night advanced class. Coming back to the matter of knowing my students, though, I don’t expect big overlaps when it comes to who trained saturday and who I’ll see today. For the one person I expect to attend again, it’ll be a nice refresher. Remember that (perfect) practice makes perfect…

So, to set things up, I’ll schedule a block of pad-work, consisting of 5 rounds. Initially, I planned on doing each drill for two minutes, but I won’t have time for that, so I’ll cut them to one minute each. Without changing pads, one student will do the following:

  1. Throw a jab. The pad holder tries to pull away the pad when he sees the strike coming. This one’s all about feedback. Since the goal here is to throw a non-telegraphic punch, the pad-holder must be observant about any clues that might give away the striking student’s intent to attack. Once the strike is good enough so that it hits around 8 out of 10 times, both partners start moving. As a last progression for very advanced students, the jab is traded for the cross. Students are told not to rely on a break of rhythm (i.e., feints), but rather work their speed and remove any unnecessary movement that might betray them.
  2. The pad holder either throws a jab or a cross. The other student slips to the side and counters with an indirect straight punch counter of his own (jab against cross, cross against jab).
  3. The pad holder throws a hook (left or right). The other student rolls under the punch and throws an indirect hook counter of his own (left hook against right hook and vice versa).
  4. The pad holder throws either a jab, cross, lead hook or rear hook. The other student reacts as learned in drills 2 and 3, respectively. This is going to cause most students problems due to poor distance control. Don’t correct too much here, wait for drill 5.
  5. Same as 4, only this time the striking student (i.e., not the pad holder) sets everything up by throwing a jab/cross combination. This establishes a proper striking range where a counter is actually feasible.

All the drills are done back-to back without switching pads, so the same student is busy for around 5 minutes. This aids in concentration and since all the drills build upon each other (you’ll see why in a moment), it’s a good thing to keep the flow up. Up until now, attentive students had the chance to learn 6 lessons, three in the first drill and three in the other four. For the non-telegraphic jab lesson, that is

  • Learn to punch in a non-telegraphic way. Yeah, that’s the obvious one, I know.
  • Maybe less obvious, it teaches the pad holder to read the opponent, to see the slightest movement and anticipate punches.
  • Finally, it teaches both the pad holder and the other student that if the distance is chosen inappropriately, even an attack that is known well in advance will hit home more often than not.

 All important lessons. Again, for the other four drills, there’s another three lessons to be learned (at least, that is):

  • Obviously, it teaches how to evade a punch.
  • By incorporating the indirect counter, the drills teach students that every defensive move can be used to set up an offense (or counter attack… kind of convenient if the class‘ topic is counter striking, huh?)
  • The last drill, where the striker throws a 1,2 and then has to perform a focus switch from attacking to evading is a self-limiting exercise in that it automatically adjust striking distance to a point where attacks can actually be countered.

So much for that. Once the foundation has been laid out, it’s time to integrate some kicks and combinations. Since training time is limited and we’re looking at a basic class, I’ll just present exemplary counters to the most common attacks in sparring: the jab, cross, lead hook, rear hook, lead roundhouse kick and rear roundhouse kick. Here we go:

  1. Slip against the jab, throw an indirect 2,3,2 combination while moving backwards, finish with a rear front kick
  2. Slip against a cross, throw a direct 5 (lead uppercut) underneath the striking arm, reset position, throw a 3,2,3 combination while moving backwards, [create an angle], finish with a rear roundhouse kick
  3. To mix things up, move to defenses against kicks. Against an incoming roundhouse kick, block with an outside-out (obviously while moving with the force), counter indirectly with a straight (depending on whether it’s a left or right kick), finish with a counter-lateral roundhouse kick
  4. Go to direct counters against kicks, pull of a lead stop side kick against the rear roundhouse or a spinning sidekick/back-kick against the lead roundhouse
  5. Come back to boxing distance, roll under a hook, counter indirectly with a hook, straight combination (while moving backwards), finish with a knee strike

Now, I already know what I want to do for warmup, which is shadow sparring, structures like so:

  • 1′ movement only
  • 1′ jab only
  • 1′ jab, cross
  • 1′ jab, cross, lead hook
  • 1′ jab, cross, lead hook, lead uppercut
  • 1′ freestyle shadow boxing
  • 1′ 2-hit combinations
  • 1′ 3-hit combinations
  • 1′ 4-hit combinations
  • 1′ free combinations, each preceded by an evasion or a block
  • 1′ free combinations while moving backwards,  each preceded by an evasion or a block

After padwork, it’s time to integrate all that stuff with some partner drills. At this point, my time calculation looks something like this:

  • Shadow sparring, 10′
  • Warrior Warmup, 15′
  • Pads, block 1, 2x5x1′ = 15′
  • Pads, block 2, 2x5x2′ = 30′

That makes a total of 01:10:00 already. Before you ask, I’m well capable of basic arithmetics. However, it’s important to consider the time I need to explain the drills, assign everyone a partner, etc… always round up when planning for time. I never had the problem that I ran out of ideas before the class was over… always running out of time, though.

Now I already mentioned we need to integrate stuff. Easy. I just have the class perform a three-step-sparring, where they evade or block two incoming strikes and then counter the third, either directly or indirectly. We have a good method for  this stuff, which I won’t bother to explain here (the post is long enough already).

For a good finish – because it’s so darn important -, I’ll have everyone assume a pushup-position, hold it for 20“, go to a side-pushup-position for another 20“, then the other side for 20“ and finally a reverse pushup position – you guessed it, for 20“. After that, I’ll immediately go into a plank and do it all again, for another 80“. This makes a total [TUT] of 160“, which is just a bit over 2.5 minutes.

The planning (not including this post, of course), took me around 30′, although I re-used some stuff. After class, I’ll record what went well and what didn’t – in due time, I might just improve the plan and repeat the class.

Well, maybe you’ll be there to attend tonight’s class, otherwise I recommend you just try this and see if it makes sense to you. Make sure to leave a comment below.

So long,

take care

PS: I’m off for class now, so I’ll insert all the hyperlinks when I return home. Might as well be tomorrow, though, so don’t fret…

PPS: So it’s the next day in the morning now… my remarks regarding that class read like this: ran out of time, had to drop  block 4 / drill 2 (direkt kick counters); didn’t really fit the concept anyways; blokc 2 / drill 2 (direct uppercut underneath cross) is pretty hard to understand for most people; should be given more explanation; apart from that, good class

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