hiding the learning can be fun – part 1 – choreographed fighting

IN MY REPORT preparing for bullies, I defined a workshop as…

a training session where I know roughly what I want to achieve, but I want the instructor and the student to discover the path for themselves, by playing with what does and doesn’t work, and examining why

I am not an accomplished fighter, and whilst I know that the sport aspect of taekwondo has a valuable place in our syllabus, for me personally, it is the least interesting aspect of our discipline. for this reason – and others – I have been tardy in my approach to sparring.  I lack authority and authenticity, and whilst I can learn and teach sparring like it is a game of chess, my heart is not in it.  in a bid to offer an alternative to a chess approach – where a specified attack offers a selection of appropriate responses – I decided to introduce less prescriptive teaching, disguised as a fun activity.  behold the student-invented choreographed fight!  think about the value of this exercise as a whole, while you watch the videos.  participants are listed left to right in starting positions.

Mark and Owen managed a good short, repeatable performance, so have met the first of my stated criteria for this exercise.  there are some nice kicks in here, particularly one of Owen’s turning kicks, a good application of a back kick and a controlling arm grab with shove.

Fraser and Gideon bit off more than they could chew.  they were slightly over-ambitious and this was the third attempt to remember the routine.  they were aiming for simultaneous 360 degree turning kicks, which looks superb when they pull it off.  demonstration of punching and blocking, and good use of pushing kicks, good twitching, very entertaining.

Truman and Rachel also achieved a good repeatable performance, both demonstrating some beautiful kicks as well as an attempted application of an evasion followed by an elbow strike to the back, directly taken from our one step sparring routines.  punches with blocks.  commendable.

Tom and Joseph, short, repeatable, good techniques.  lovely turning kicks, back elbow, back kick.  show-stopping breakfall, beautiful.

instructor learning points

you may be tempted to think the learning is just for the students, but of course, as instructor, I also learned.

  • all of these students had great fun
  • the following week, a student that missed the first time round was self conscious
  • tighter instruction to be given before setting out the exercise – duration of routine, repeatable, clean lines, good footwork, ham acting or no ham acting?
  • whilst appearing to be slightly frivolous, students are in fact inventing their own partnered poomsae. stated that way, suddenly this is a serious exercise
  • students may well be enthusiastic enough to practice routines outside of lesson-time
  • use of video to highlight good and poor technique – i have applied this trick to improve a student’s posture during a pattern, and it worked. the student identified their own flaw, or at least could see it
  • good routines can be used in demonstrations for the public
  • students / parents / guardians to give permission to be filmed, and in this case, published

student learning points

  • partnered poomsae invention
  • inventing and using combinations – the students worked stuff out for themselves
  • picking targets to make a good performance, equivalent to picking targets to score points
  • awareness of environment – see the breakfalls and the falling in to chairs
  • notice how all the fights were in a straight line?
  • reflective practice – watch yourself train!
  • interest in film and stunt performance
  • compare with bullying lesson to see the difference between a choreographed fight and something that approaches a real fight – they are very different, and that in itself is a useful lesson
  • combinations of hosinsul and sport sparring

where next?

  • repeat the exercise frequently, to cement routines and measure progress
  • introduction of body armour
  • crash mats?
  • bullying content leading to choreographed sparring style fighting leading to final scenes featuring take downs
  • public demonstration
  • personal poomsae invention – this is something I wanted to workshop at summer camp, but was too injured and overawed by the other camp content to bother with this year


once again, the nature of the workshop and the lessons learned will inform me for the next time I attempt this, specifically reiterating to the students the learning points above.  on reflection, the quality of the routines shown above are higher that I remember them.  as the students progress, or as their routines progress, I will write another article showing that development.  overall, I feel this was a very useful workshop; I have learned how to get more from the lesson, the students have learned a bit more about sport sparring without realising, and our senior grades will be evaluating the training worth, thus developing themselves.  of great importance though, especially for club longevity and student interest, is that everyone had a huge amount of fun, and this has added another dimension to our serious training which has helped break down interpersonal barriers and shyness, encourage cooperation and developed trust between club members.  I cannot wait to see how far this goes, and what comes of it.

and finally

  • why do you think I was slow to introduce sport sparring, what caused me to delay this subject?
  • what value does sport sparring bring to our training?
  • can you contribute anything to this lesson?

I would love to hear from you.

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