Technique, Drill, Play.

There are countless ways to analyze the learning process that goes on in martial arts and movement. One way is to break things down into three steps: technique, drill, play.

Technique is all about body mechanic. How do you move for maximum efficiency? What limb goes where? In the video, the technique the kids are doing is a soft inward block followed by a punch, so a huge part of the technique is making the correct hand shapes – the block needs to be open handed and the punch needs to be a closed fist.

Drill is the part where you work with a partner to see how your actions and their reactions are supposed to play out and make the technique work. The drill is prescribed, a bit like a choreographed dance so that both participants can see what is ideally supposed to happen in a sparring situation if they apply the technique at the correct time. The students in the video are demonstrating the block and counter attack against a incoming punch.

Play is the chaos in which you discover the difficulty of timing, distance, and the resistance of your partner. Because of the chaos of play (and particularly the unpredictable actions of your partner) things don’t usually go the way they went in the Drill (until you have built up a solid level of skill) but that is the fun of martial arts: adapting, learning, and being a creative problem solver. In the video, the students are playing a game called “tournament sparring”, which is essentially a martial arts tag game.

By breaking things down into these three pieces, my hope as a teacher is to make the process and goals clear. Because this is a general tool, it is applicable to any martial technique or game.

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