Blog Archive

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Assessments, Part One

Years ago, I took an introductory education course. It inspired me to move on and earn a Master's of Arts in Teaching, after which I realized that some of the best material I learned was from that intro class.

One of the things I learned there was a three-part formula for devising a lesson plan (or plans) that went like this.

1. Goals: What should the students know/learn/be able to do by the end of the lesson.
2. Activity: What will the students do so that they can learn how to do these things?
3. Assessment: How do you know if the students actually learned what you wanted them to?

It's point three that I want to talk about here and in some upcoming posts.  Mostly because I think it's something martial artists don't always do very well. Part of that is because, unlike strength and fitness training, martial arts training doesn't always lend itself clear, quantifiable markers of success. It's very tempting to throw up your hands and say "well, we can't really measure this" or (worse, IMO), "I know that this works!"

The truth is, there are a lot of tools available to martial artists to assess their training. Some of them work very well, some of them are…less effective. As with all things, some of this will depend on what your goals are. If you don't have goals, assessing progress is pretty much impossible.

Here's a few tools that you might use to assess your training. I'm not going to evaluate them here. I just want to get a list going.

1. Pen-and-Paper

  • Thought Experiments: these are the "what would happen if"? kinds of games.
  • Systematic Evaluations: this is essentially going through an entire system and looking at what's present, what's absent, and how that relates to your own training.
  • Journaling: Writing down your own training sessions and experiences, with an eye to revisiting those journals for further evaluation.

2. Video

  • Comparative analysis: watching videos of other practitioners of your system to see how they fare in particular situations or environments
  • Personal analysis: the video version of journaling. Watching video of yourself and evaluating the performance.
  • CCTV Analysis: evaluating footage of real world events, and comparing your training to those events.

3. Physical training

Training itself can include assessments.

  • Rank Testing
  • Dynamic Drilling
  • - Sparring
  • - Randori
  • - Ballistic Micro Fights
  • - Scenario Training

4. Competition
  • Anything from forms competitions to full-contact stick fighting. You pick.

5. Physical Metrics

  • If you're training for health and fitness, you can track most of the same markers that other health and fitness professionals use (scale weight, bodyfat percentage, blood pressure, etc.)

6. Real Fights
  • By which I mean unscripted fights in the "real world". Pretty difficult to come by, unless you work in a profession where physical violence happens regularly.

Depending on your goals, some of these metrics will be more valuable than others. Your performance in MMA competition is hugely important if you're trying to become a UFC fighter. Ifyou're trying to lose a few pounds and bring your blood pressure down, your performance in competition is a secondary concern.

How do you judge your training? How do you decide if it's working? If you're a coach, how do you evaluate your students, and your coaching? What's worked well? What hasn't?


Maija said...

Video is awesome, at least it is for me.
My training and chosen field of study means that assessment was and is incredibly straightforward.
It is taught one on one in a purely trouble shooting fashion, and in a sword system that does not need to really change it's power and speed between 'practice' and 'fight'.

Progression is basically me being able to hit you less and less, and you being able to hit me WITHOUT GETTING HIT, more and more.

Also if you can pull off the same ideas on others, and definitely when you can make me fall for the stratagems I showed you .. or ones I had not thought about.

It's kinda specific to swordplay, but perhaps this is one of the things that makes swordplay so valuable ....?

Jake said...

Video is pretty damn useful.

And I had actually forgotten about things like strike tallies. Boxers use them a lot, and they show up in some form of most striking sports.

The fact that swordplay doesn't need to change speed and power in a fight is huge. There's a lot about swordplay that's awesome...I really need to find a way to get back to it.