How to Create Drills - blog post

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How to Create Drills - blog post Empty How to Create Drills - blog post

Post  Rob Poyton on Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:16 am

I spoke about the subject of drills in an earlier post. I've also noticed (perhaps it's a New Year thing?) a lot of posts in forums recently about people's favourite drills. So I thought it might be interesting to look at some principles and guidelines for creating your own drills - after all one of the cornerstones of Systema is creativity and adaptability in training.

As discussed in the previous article drills are useful to a point, once they become too comfortable they need to be modified in some way, in order to ensure we don't just get good at doing the drill. But how to adapt them? I go into this subject in more details in Systema Basics Vol 12,
but there are some simple principles to bear in mind. As Systema is largely principle-based it makes sense that the approach to constructing drills should also be principle based too.


If you want to to modify an existing drill you need look no further than the four pillars - breathing, tension / relaxation, movement, posture. To keep things simple let's take an extremely basic drill

DRILL - partner A moves towards partner B, partner B moves out of the way

That's about as basic as it gets - so let's modify things

Breathing - have one or both partner's work with holding breath; have one or both partners inhale while still then exhale on movement ; add in square breathing

Tension / Relaxation - have one or both partners work from extreme relaxation (fall on floor at the approach) to extreme tension (lock the whole body up) and all shades in-between; have one or both partners work selective tension - eg just tense the arms or the legs

Movement - run the drill at different speeds, very slow to as fast as possible

Posture - one or both partners work at three levels - standing, squatting, on the floor

Already, with just the Systema basics, we have a number of variations. Now let's look at more modifiers

Numbers - increase the number of walkers or avoiders

Inhibitors - blindfold, hands-in-pockets, stick down trouser leg

Task - partner B has to add in a take-down while avoiding

Situation - work in a restricted space, around furniture, in a crowd

Time - add in time limits

These are just a few examples, I'm sure you can think of more. I think you can see there are already a large number of variations possible on a very basic drill. You can now apply this principle to any drill or even many of the exercises.

That takes care of existing drills, how do we come up with new ideas? The first thing to consider is the purpose of the drill. This may be very specific - (eg I want people to explore the amount of rotation in their right shoulder) to something more general (eg I want people to get warmed up and out of breath)

Quite often there will be more than one benefit from doing the drill - sometimes it may be something you hadn't even thought of!

Once you have the purpose of the drill look at the factors that will shape it.

Effective - is the drill effective in delivering the result?

Practical - is it practical to run the drill in your training environment; do you have the neccesary space, conditions, equipment, knowledge? Do you have sufficient people to run the drill?

Safety - what are the risks of injury and how can they be minimised whilst keeping the drill realistic?

Understandable - how easy is it for students to understand the purpose and boundaries of the drill? While it is good for students to discover some things for yourself it is also good that they at least some notion of why they are doing a particular drill. The only exception may be those drills that have a surprise element....

Adaptability - can the drill be tweaked as it goes along

Two way learning - is the drill beneficial for everyone involved, not just "attacker vs defender"

Progression - can the drill be expanded upon

Challenge - what is the level of challenge for students involved? Too much can be as bad as not enough. Can pressure be increased / decreased as necessary during the drill?

Supervision - will you be able to adequately supervise the drill, watch for people going outside of the boundaries, tweak on the fly, or stop it immediately if needed


So - let's invent a drill!

Purpose - to increase students awareness of how knives are carried / hidden

Basic structure - group of 12 students. Three are carrying a hidden knife, nine are spotters. The students move normally around the training area, each has to spot / guess who is carrying a knife

Modifications - speed of movement; amount of space; low light levels; inhibitors - spotter is hampered by a partner holding arm / distracting (partner also needs to be protected); increase / decrease the number of knives available

Progression - knife holders draw knife and make a single attack at random which must be avoided or checked

Progression - as above but continuous attack from knife holder until subdued or target stabbed three or four times

Progression - as above but the spotters can work as a team when a knife come out to subdue the attacker

Hopefully this will serve as an example of how you can create a drill or easily modify existing ones. Freedom from a set syllabus gives you freedom to explore tangents and end up at places you might never have thought of. This approach encourages you to be creative and adaptable in your thinking - with the caveat that things must remain practical and realistic. That doesn't mean every drill has to involve a pseudo life-and-death struggle full of drama and tension, but that each drill must effectively deliver results beyond itself. We all have favourite drills, but don't hang on to them like a comfort blanket. Remember they are not the goal of the training, just something to use on the way to wherever you are going.

Rob Poyton

Posts : 4
Join date : 2011-11-23
Location : Bedford UK

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