Discussion in 'Coaching Corner' started by Allen Evans, Sep 3, 2017.
...intuition? Asking for a friend.
I don't know if you can teach intuition, and I'm not even sure intuition can be defined in any concrete way, but you can teach perception.
This. 'Intuition' is more often than not perception finely honed and filtered by years of experience, to the point that it is often taking place at a pre-conscious level. As a non-fencing example, I remember an column from Road & Track back in the '80s in which the columnist described the experience of being in a car that Jackie Stewart was driving on a busy motorway. Although Stewart was not driving in a particularly fast or aggressive manner, he was so good at reading the behavior and subtle 'tells' of the drivers around him that he was always able to find and exploit the openings in the traffic practically before they appeared. That came from his decades of racing experience, where the skill of reading your opponents to determine when you will have a passing opportunity is just as important as car control skills.
I've heard of martial arts schools that do try to do something like that... blindfolding a student in the middle of a circle of other students and playing a game of learning to block unseen "attacks". Whether you're learning to listen to the sound of an oncoming assailant, or just feeling the air coming from a particular direction...eventually you would get an "intuition" of where attacks are coming from.
I've also seen mass melee combat practice teach the same thing. With experience, you get a sense of impending peril even though you can't possibly have "seen" it coming. Some people are born with a better sense of it, but for most people, it can be trained up to a point.
"Expertise is learning how to perceive. The knowledge and rules are incidental.” -- Gary Klein, Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions
Allen, if the question "Can you teach intuition?" is related to decision making, literature related to naturalistic decision-making and recognition-primed decision-making might make some interesting reading for your friend.
The question resembles "can be sense of tempo be taught?"
More or less by definition -- if it's really intuition, it can't be taught.
But yes,increasingly subtle perception can be taught (or rather, developed by the teacher). Anticipation can be taught. (or rather, developed by the teacher)
Just what do we mean by intuition?
And does it even exist?
I have my doubts about those martial artists being able to sense blows while blindfolded, too. At least, while properly blindfolded. ( That's an old magicians' trick, using a blindfold of material that you can actually see through. )
Intuition can best be defined as the being aware of events unfolding around you without a clear proof of which "sense" (with "sense" as being one of the 5 physical senses) distinguished the awareness. What most people ascribe as a good "intuition" for danger is actually no more than a hyper realization of threat.
Many years ago, there was a documentary where some engineers were testing some high level martial artists for reflex and speed. They showed that the martial artists were able to see a random stimulus (blinking lights next to various pads) and strike the corresponding pad within 0.18 seconds of the light blinking, whereas the average person usually doesn't begin reacting to the light before 0.2 seconds. Since the martial artist is punching the pad before most of us even acknowledge the light, to an observer, that would look like they must have had an "intuition" of which light was going to blink.
I think high level fencers are quite similar. They notice such small cues so much faster and can react in such a quickness of time, they are able to counter or strike before a lower level fencer maybe even realizes what they themselves are doing. And in that way, most would say that the high level fencer must have an "intuition" for what was going to happen.
Very likely some people have faster reaction times, and this helps them become superior fencers or martial artists. But (IMO) intuition is anticipation rather than reaction. So a superior tennis player can start reacting to the direction of her opponent's ball before it's it. And even a good fencer can be taught to anctipate when his opponent is going to stop retreating and start parrying.
There has been quite a lot of research on expertise in recent decades, including how some sportspeople do the things they do. Apparently, Roger Federer (and most of the other top tennis players) don't need to wait for their opponent to hit the ball in a serve, they can tell from the position of hips as their opponent starts swinging their racket where the ball will go so they start moving earlier. They also move better.and faster than amateurs.
Towards the end of Lazlo Szabo's book, he describes an exercise where the student shows the first action of an attack and the coach shows what his response will be. Then the student makes the attack, knowing what the coach will do first and having already decided how they will do in response. Most of my students love the feeling of being in control this gives them and I encourage them to actively try to get that sense of control in their bouting with one another..
I have found it an excellent method for helping students learn to watch their opponent's blade and the distance while they deceive my parry. Very quickly, they start to develop a feel for knowing where their opponent's blade is, where it is going, what is happening with distance and what they are going to do to keep control.
In a lesson, you can start giving them a feel for this and then they can start to practice it themselves. They stop charging forward at random times and start looking for opportunities and then they start trying to create opportunities.
It sounds simple and I didn't really notice it until my sixth reading of Szabo's book but it is an astonishingly useful teaching tool.
More focused practice than intuition. Also it does wonders for their enjoyment of fencing. They quickly realise the mind games involved in taking and keeping control as another layer of the combat behind bladework and footwork.
Separate names with a comma.