A common way to coach a fighter is to try to ensure they can do everything – defences, advances, attacks, fitness, mindset, low, middle and high strikes. Cover every strategy, every possible opponent, every movement. This way, they are ready for anything. Whilst it seems natural as a teacher to offer this kind of comprehensive education, it is not the most effective use of talent. Better to limit what you teach, but for the right reasons.
Set moves fighting.
Teach your fighter a handful – between 3 and 9 – set moves. Choose the ones that they do most naturally, the ones they come to you with, the ones they will do in any stress situation. Then refine those movements. Show them different openings, work out where they are vulnerable midway, get the student to investigate ‘what would happen if’. Add, subtract and substitute.
Each advance in this study makes the collection better adapted. Like a sculptor, you and the student work to chip away what is not useful in their repertoire. The refinement will sculpt them more in their own mold. If they are a natural attacker or counter-attacker, that is accounted for. If they favour high line or low line, that too is accommodated by set moves fighting. You are playing to their strengths.
Use your experience.
What’s more, your experience as an instructor and a fighter become a benefit. Bring your knowledge to bear in the refinement of the set moves. You know what is likely to work. The student will bring their own experience to the same workbench. The collaboration develops a fighter who is prepared, confident, knows why they are training their drills, and has their options close to hand, ready to deploy.
Promote strong choices.
Rather than be saddled with an impossibility of options, a fighter with a strong set moves fighting repertoire will select more quickly. Because of the gains in confidence and a strengthened ability to choose, paradoxically the set move fighter discovers greater adaptability. They understand the process that led them to the moves they now own, and for that reason – that very limitation – they will develop spontaneity.