This last weekend TI Coach Ricardo (Tenerife, Spain) and I were examining a post in the TI Forum from a swimmer who had just completed an advanced workshop with TI President and Master Coach Shinji. Shinji is known for being a master of intricate detail and refinement, as his 9-stroke 25m freestyle video demonstrates.
As I read the post I was intrigued by the way this swimmer described how to re-create the 2-beat kick (or ‘toe-flick’ as we call it in the TI freestyle sequence) that is so distinct in the famous Shinji model-TI video clip.
It is obviously hard to examine my own kick without someone taking a video shot of it. But I (and you) do form an impression of how our own kick feels and what it must look like- and often our impression varies a lot from reality! In my imagination I have a solid, compact 2-beat kick that feels effective, but I can see from my 2010 video that it is not precisely the same, and I have suspected that it is not what Shinji’s must feel like. His leg pattern has a different look to it. I have been curious how and why. Now I know! When this swimmer shared how Shinji described the construction of his kick I was deeply intrigued.
The next day I was eager to take this idea into the pool and run some experiments. The instructions in the post were simple and I was able to construct the ‘Shinji Kick’ immediately, and immediately I felt in my legs what I think I saw in Shinji’s legs. It was mysterious in how different it was from mine, yet provide what felt like a similar degree of thrust through the body- so I am only intrigued more to gather more measurements from my comparisons. Two different mechanical arrangments must have some difference in effectiveness- the flow of force through my body was modified too much. I must find out!
I could not conclude from only one or two practice sets which was ‘better’- though Shinji’s capabilities in the pool logically give a great deal of credibility to his technique. It was a totally different way of projecting the toe-flick from what I have been doing- a different sequence of firing muscles, a different leverage point, a different positioning. I hope you will try it too, as it just may be a much more effective way to learn the 2-beat kick and a much more effective kick for you.
Yesterday, I was in the sea (19 C without wetsuit) for an hour and was trying this new style off-on to see how it affected me over longer, uninterrupted strokes. It certainly worked a different combination of leg muscles and required me to be more conscious of the precise timing in the stroke cycle. Although it made my legs work a bit differently, I realized that the slight fatigue I felt was not necessarily a sign of less effective kick, nor a more effective one- just a different one for now. I must keep experimenting to see what I can learn and incorporate into my improvement.
What I have learned and need to constantly remind myself of, especially as a TI Coach who professes and practices Kaizen, is that what feels normal in my already highly refined TI style can easily deceive me into believing it is good, or worse, good enough. And I must always be ready to learn from anyone around me- master, colleague, rival, or student. Coach Ricardo was the one who gave me the last improvement point in my kick that I have been working on for 5 months now.
So when a coach or a swimmer brings a new perspective, a new description, a new approach to one of our fundamental skills it is to my advantage to get in the water and try it out- reconstruct the problem and reconstruct the path to the solution. Continual Improvement means continual research. It means permitting my technique and thinking to be regularly challenged.
Get in the pool and try it out yourself. Then send me a note on what you discover.