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IFAC Reflections Part 2
January 22, 2019
A review of Jerome Simian’s workshops on physical preparation for sport. I had to choose between different “strands” of coaching topics at the IFAC conference in Loughborough. A difficult choice, not wanting to miss out on some excellent speakers. I chose to attend Simian’s because of a quote I heard on the HMMR podcast: “I […]

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Bruce Lee on agility

Traditional Martial Arts Training = Organised Despair

bruce lee agilityAccording to Bruce Lee in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, where he talks about traditional martial arts training and refers to it as organised despair. 

“Instead of facing combat in its suchness, then, most systems of martial art accumulate a fancy mess that distorts and cramps their practitioners and distracts them from the actual reality of combat, which is simple and direct.

Instead of going immediately to the heart of things, flower forms (organised despair) and artificial techniques are ritualistically practiced to simulate actual combat. Thus, instead of being in combat these practitioners are doing something about combat.”

Now, if you substitute the word combat for agility, you may then see what is going on in your own sport. What happens in coaching environments is that a fancy mess of equipment is laid out and the athletes are told to perform artificial techniques that have no bearing to the sporting contest.

(Remember John Madden’s thoughts on footwork?)

ickey shuffleA prime example is the Ickey shuffle through a ladder. This footwork pattern was Ickey Wood’s touchdown dance for Pete’s sake, he didn’t do it in the game!

I saw this drill being used by someone training a tennis player this morning – when is he ever going to do that in a match? Unless he celebrates winning a set by doing the shuffle.

Testing doesn’t help

One problem is with agility testing. An athlete told me this morning that he was agile because he came 2nd in an agility test. Agility testing tests your ability to move between fixed points with some change of direction.

It does not test your response to realistic stimuli, or your ability to change direction in an unplanned sequence.

There is a place for using equipment and training specific, pre programmed, foot patterns. It is useful in training lower limb strength at specific speeds and angles. Don’t mistake this for true agility though.

The body has an amazing ability to move and adapt. We have evolved that way in order to hunt, or avoid being hunted. Our ancestors did not practice organised despair instead they would have had more realistic hunting, chasing games.

Think about using these type of games in your agility work, don’t try and constrain your athletes into artificial foot and movement patterns.

Agility is the focus over the next few weeks of our Sports Training System


  1. […] training should be more than Organised Despair. It requires coaching, progression, variety and […]

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