Friday, June 1, 2012

The Right Words Can Make All The Difference


When teaching Pose technique, I have work with people who have very different styles of learning, and I can broadly place my students into two general categories, those who can visualize the technique very quickly and those who can’t.  In my experience, the challenge of teaching Pose to the second group is in finding a way to help them with the visualization process. Often the break-through comes with just a simple change of phrasing, or finding an alternate way to explain some element of the technique. Once I accomplish this, then everything else usually falls into place very quickly.

I’ve been told that the English language lends itself to ambiguity, and while I don’t know how it compares to most other languages, I find this statement easy to believe.  In Pose, one of the key concepts is the “Pull”, but the word “pull’ is confusing to many students and often causes them to visualize the technique in some very interesting ways.  I was working with one woman recently, and regardless of my detailed explanation and demonstration of the pull, she just wasn’t getting it.  I finely decided that I had to through away the formal terminology, and started telling her to “fold her leg under the hip”, as opposed to “swinging her leg like a pendulum”.  Long story short, with this simple change of phrasing, she immediately started to perform the Pull correctly. In other words, suddenly she could picture the technique well enough start applying it.

I’ve mentioned before that I believe a lot of the bickering over running technique is largely based on semantics. Specifically people using the same words, but not always using them in exactly the same way. I have also come to believe, that one of the biggest impediments to learning a physical skill like running, is also semantic in nature. The same word can mean different things to different people, and simply redefining the word is not always enough, at least not for immediate results. As a coach, I’ve had to learn to be flexible with my language, and to come to terms with the fact that what I’m telling people isn’t always what they are hearing.

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