Inspired in part by Rodney King's work, I've experimented with coaching in a more client-driven manner lately. Rather than setting the sessions agenda myself, I let my clients drive the agenda as much as possible. On occasion, I've taken this approach to working with more advanced groups of students at Sityodtong, a process that has yielded some...interesting...results.
Several weeks ago, I asked a class of seven intermediate students what they needed to work on. This is a group of people who have been studying Muay Thai for at least a year, most of them closer to two or three years (I think...my sense of time relative to the gym gets very distorted). Of those seven people, only one person spoke up.
Now, in fairness to my students; it may be that other members of the class had ideas, but were simply unwilling to bring them up in a public forum. Which is a separate issue that might have to do with them as students, me as a coach, or the culture of the gym as a whole. I make an effort to encourage my students to ask questions, but it's possible that they don't feel comfortable doing so.
It's also possible that some, or all of them, simply had never thought about the question. And that idea I find more troublesome.
If you are a serious student of a martial art, combat sport, or even self-defense, there should come a time when you begin to guide your own study. This won't necessarily happen on the first day; in fact, it probably shouldn't (students who self-guide too early is something I'll save for another post). But if you've been seriously training for over a year (and plan to continue), you should have enough experience to begin to recognize where you need to develop.
This isn't to say that you will have a fully formed plan of how your studies will go for the rest of your life. Your plans will change and develop as you do. Your plans will be altered and derailed. I've recently shifted the focus of both my skill training and my strength and conditioning to compensate for a serious hip/leg injury I sustained back in April. If that injury hadn't happened, my current training regime would look MUCH different. But I have plans. I know that there are certain things that I need to develop. Some of them are broader, skill-based issues (like improving my head movement for boxing and Muay Thai). Some of them are more subtle technical issues (like developing a stronger Tactical SPEAR for the PDR program).I know where my weaknesses are, and I try to shore them up.
In short, I take a large measure of responsibility for my own training. I don't simply show up to training expecting my fellow trainers, or Kru Mark, to magically make me a better practitioner. I will seek out advice or opinions on how to improve, or on what needs improvement, but at the end of the day, it's on me to make those changes.
I know at least one person is reading this thinking "yeah, but you're the teacher. You don't have others to teach you, and you know how to coach. I don't know how to do that."
To which I say "Bullshit."
1. The fact that I am a teacher means nothing in terms of developing my own personal skill. Coaching and performing are separate skills.
2. As I mentioned, I do have resources that I can seek out for advice or instruction. And I use them. I just don't rely on them to spoon-feed me information.
3. If you have spent twelve months or more training, you should have received enough feedback and have enough experience to recognize where you need work. If every time you hit pads with a trainer, they tell that your jab sucks, your jab probably sucks. If every time you spar, you get kicked in the legs until you can't walk right, you probably are doing something that makes it hard for you to defend leg kicks. And so on.
In short, if you're not aware of your weakness, it's because you're not thinking hard enough.
If you aren't thinking, those weaknesses will probably never go away; your coach may be able to point them out, and your sparring partners may exploit them, but at the end of the day, the only person who can fix them is you. That may mean a ton of repetitions on the bag, or in the air, or with a partner. It may require a ton of really boring work. But if you don't do it, no one else will.
I've written this before, but it applies here again. We live in an information age. There is no reason for anyone to remain ignorant of ways in which to train...if anything, most people should be overburdened with training methods, if they are taking the time to seek them out.
"Your style is not responsible for your life. You are." -- Tony Blauer
Tony was speaking of self-defense when he said that, but it applies equally to sport. Frankly, it applies to life. Other people can help you, guide you, coach your, and encourage you, but ultimately, it is you who must put in the work. Sometimes that work is physical. Sometimes it's mental.
I'm not encouraging people to blow off their trainers and just do their own thing. What I am encouraging is that you go take some responsibility for your own development. Find what you need to work on, and find out how to work on it. If you don't know what you need to work on, figure it out. It will only make you better.
The alternative is to expect people to spoon-feed you every little bit of information, in which case, you are doomed to a life of mediocrity. Don't settle for that.