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SKBC Notes: Train the Trainer, Part III
[05/24/2004] [Michael]

Average to good looking to get serious:

Trainees at this point are by definition getting close to your skill level. As such, it is more important than ever to treat them with respect. You should still be confident, but at this point doing training cooperatively is important. Encourage your trainees to offer lots of feedback on themselves and on you. This helps instill the idea of analyzing fighting. At this time it is also vital to make sure a trainee is talking and thinking about fighting with a wide group. Other local fighters are best because theory can be tried in practice, but online discussion groups and ‘talking shop’ at events are also useful. By this stage in the process, you are learning from your student just as they are learning from you. Let your enthusiasm and theirs build on each other.

Nothing at this stage is more important to final development than the frequency of practice. I know a lot of Amtgard Warlords and all of them went through a phase leading up to their Warlord where they were playing Amtgard more than one day a week. Some play or practice every day. Making sure that you and your student have good practice encouragers is a key. To me, the leading practice encourager in Amtgard is the fighting company. Companies may exacerbate some social issues, but they are amazing for fighting. You take a group of people with shared goals and get them together to work on those goals and it is very powerful. Even if you are not in a fighting company, you should find one that holds fighter practices and see if you can get invited to their practice.

There are some specific practice encouragers to think about including in your regimen to help make practice fun and therefore more common. Competitive activities are great for some people. In my company, we have a traditional game called Work off the Warriors. Each participant starts with a number of points equal to the number of Orders of the Warrior they have. Players with no such orders begin with one point. You take the two players with the most points and line them up against each other. Fight hold-the-field style with the winner of each bout losing a point. The first person to zero is the winner and starts the next round with one more point than they previously had. This method somewhat levels the playing field between fighters of different skill, allowing a competitive game between them. Also, prep sessions for specific tourneys and events are among the best way to get the blood flowing.

Variety in practice and training is also invaluable. In Amtgard, travel is one of the best ways to build up variety. By traveling to another park in your kingdom, you and your trainee (or training partner by now) can see fighters and shots you are unused to. Going to out of kingdom events is even better. You see techniques you have never seen or dealt with before and are enabled to bring back some of this information to your own fighter practices. A fighter who melds the superior elements of different locations will be better than one who only excels in what he can find locally.

[Exercise: I asked for practice encouragers from the class]

Cooperative fighting practice often balances fighting with discussing weaknesses. There are different ways to do this. Doing it after the practice, maybe over dinner, is good for some. This kind of debrief is always useful to some extent. Other fighters prefer more immediate feedback. One immediate feedback method I like is the three bouts method. First my trainee and I choose a specific style, technique or opponent that needs improvement. We fight three bouts concentrating on that specific area. If other fighters are present we encourage them to watch. After three bouts, we stop and talk about it. This offers more meat to talk about than one bout but specifics are still easily recalled. Use whatever method works best for you, your trainee, and your other training partners.

With any luck you will eventually be helping to train students who are better than you. How can you help such a trainee improve? The same analysis techniques work. You should use that info to teach areas where you are still relatively strong and to pick other trainers for the student to work with. (Or at the very least opponents to fight against). Once more, the right mix of confidence versus ego is essential here. Asking the right questions can be as valuable as anything at this stage. Help your student look for the whys of his fighting style. Draw out answers he already knows by getting him to vocalize his fighting instincts.

[Exercise: We asked each other some of this type of question.]

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