A question on the use of Press-ups.

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A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 29 Sep 2015 14:00

I've just been reading the post about simple rules and both knirirr and Keith have mentioned using press-ups as a punishment for a double kill, or other similar infraction. It's my experience that is very common across multiple sports at a vast array of skill levels.

My question is; If you use it in your club, why? Not why do you feel the need to have a punishment exercise but why specifically do you use press-ups?

If we ignore the argument about punishment is an effective way to influence positive behaviour* and just look at the chosen punishment exercise itself is it the best use of that students time? Are they so good at everything else that the only thing they need to work on is the strength of their chest muscles? Especially since 5-10 press-ups is unlikely to have any significant influence on their strength and if they were punished enough to have a noticeable strength gain then either the coaching or the punishment is failing to have the desired result. Obviously whatever you use needs to be quick and simple but is there something you could use instead of press-ups that can also be used to improve your students?

Maybe you have an intense footwork drill that you do as part of your warm up that the student can do? Maybe you could get a massively over weighted sword that needs to be help in a perfect guard for some time/whilst the next fight is happening. Maybe the two fighters who just doubled out need to quickly rep stepping in, striking and stepping out with their blade protecting them. I don't know if anything I've suggested would be viable but I think it's worth considering.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it and press-ups are the best thing to do

*Ok maybe not entirely ignore, I will just say that making the whole class/group do the punishment will have a far more positive impact than just making those that made the mistake. As long as you implement it correctly.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby Glyn » 29 Sep 2015 17:15

I think it's very important to remember that this is an activity that we expect people to participate in willingly and to enjoy. In that respect I find the use of push-ups as a deterrent for bad fencing particularly regrettable. Some people find them extremely difficult and the position is fundamentally a submissive one. That last statement may seem odd, but for someone struggling with physical fitness the combined effect is very unpleasant. On the flip side, to someone who finds push-ups little more than an inconvenience there may be no deterrent effect or it may even be a chance to show off. If we're not careful the lesson being taught becomes "bad fighting is acceptable for the strong" - that may work in the army, but I'm dubious about how true this is for fencing.

I think many people underestimate the psychological impact strength work has on a significant sub-set of less fit people. It may help to imagine the kid at school who was always picked last for a team as being ever-present at your classes, and to think of how they would feel about being told to drop down and give you 20.

If you're doing strength training as part of a fencing practice I'd strongly suggest that this is done in a non-competitive way, such as having the whole group do push-ups for so-many seconds rather than for a total of so-many push-ups.Try to avoid situations where people feel the class is waiting for them, or that they have to meet the standards of fitness shown by other people.

For me, push-ups as punishment are a bad idea due to the prominence they place on an activity that's not related to the problem and the variability of the impact on different people.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby KeithFarrell » 29 Sep 2015 17:41

ChrisBear wrote:I've just been reading the post about simple rules and both knirirr and Keith have mentioned using press-ups as a punishment for a double kill, or other similar infraction. It's my experience that is very common across multiple sports at a vast array of skill levels.

My question is; If you use it in your club, why? Not why do you feel the need to have a punishment exercise but why specifically do you use press-ups?


Good question!

Using pushups for punishment can be a very lazy way to attempt to maintain discipline. I don't think it is a good way to try to maintain discipline - it is much better just to be a better instructor and command discipline that stems from giving the students reason to respect you, your teaching, and your methods. Discipline in my classes comes from the fact that my students want to be there and want to learn from me, so if I need to punish someone, I just ask them to go home and not to return to my lessons. I have no problem with discipline in my classes, since people understand that I expect good behaviour from them, and in return for good behaviour I provide high quality tuition.

However, I *do* use pushups as a not-much-fun deterrent during exercises. For example, if people make too many double hits during sparring, I might ask them to do 10 pushups and then restart the exercise. It's not really a punishment in my eyes, and my students tend not to think of it in that fashion either (at least, I hope they don't!) - it's something that is very concrete where they accept that they need to do something to improve their approach to the exercise.

I find that if you ask people to stop doing double hits, then they will agree with you that double hits in sparring are bad, and then continue to do their own thing as they have always done. However, if you give them something concrete that follows double hits (such as pushups, putting a pound coin in the jar, losing sparring privileges for the rest of the night, relinquishing the sparring floor to another pair of students (similar to the winner-stays-on format, you can always have people sparring until the double-off-the-floor), etc), then they tend to focus on the concrete thing and modify their approach to the exercise so that the tangible follow-up doesn't happen.

To be honest, I don't care if people only do half the number of pushups I give them, or just do one. It's more the tangible-ness of the activity that gets people to focus and pay attention in a way that simply asking them does not. Because people want to spar, and don't want to do pushups instead of sparring (or don't want to sit at the side instead of sparring, or sit and talk about why doubles are bad instead of sparring, etc), they pay more attention if there is a tangible threat attached to certain occurrences.

The moment I observe anything becoming a problem in my lessons (a student's behaviour, people not understanding the exercise the way I have described it, something like pushups causing resentment), I change the exercise and deal with the problem. If someone is getting upset with pushups then there's no point in doing lots more pushups - the solution is clearly different, so I will change things and find the solution. However, if the threat of pushups is enough deterrent to get people to focus on what they are doing, then it is a good thing.

As with most things in life, moderation and responsibility are key.

PS - I sometimes use pushups, I sometimes come up with other deterrents. Depends on the people in my lesson and what I want to achieve. However, for writing on a forum, the concept of pushups as a deterrent is very common, so it is an easy shorthand for "some kind of deterrent against not-the-right behaviour or approach". I'm probably more likely to write about using pushups, for this reason, than actually issuing them during a lesson!
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby tea » 29 Sep 2015 18:12

One way to address differing strength etc can be to say "10 seconds of pushups" instead of "10 pushups".

Someone strong and fast will do more, someone just starting will do less, and that's fine.

As for why pushups (we use it reasonably often in my group, normally suggested by the fighters), don't underestimate the value of something that can be instantly done in full kit. Minimises interruption for the rest of the group, over something more involved.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby KeithFarrell » 29 Sep 2015 18:44

tea wrote:As for why pushups (we use it reasonably often in my group, normally suggested by the fighters), don't underestimate the value of something that can be instantly done in full kit. Minimises interruption for the rest of the group, over something more involved.


This is definitely an important point! People don't need to take off any kit to do pushups, so it can be over in a matter of seconds, and then the activity can recommence. Lesson learned, no harm done, barely any time lost.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby MEversbergII » 29 Sep 2015 19:28

It's an old military discipline thing. You see it in Civvie life by people who are on a power trip, usually. Ignore these people.

I would absolutely not utilize pushups as punishment for bad fencing. Or, in general, would I ever punish someone for fencing poorly. It's a social group, and it's a social pass-time. As section leader, poor fencing likely falls on my responsibility. I need to identify what physical or phychological holdup is preventing them from fencing correctly, and then address this issue. If I don't "get" something, making me do anything other than that thing isn't going to help. If I need an attitude adjustment, that's not going to help, either.

The worst I would do is make them sit out a round or so, then re-evaluate them. If that doesn't work, maybe this isn't the sport for them.

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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 29 Sep 2015 20:42

Glyn wrote:I think many people underestimate the psychological impact strength work has on a significant sub-set of less fit people. It may help to imagine the kid at school who was always picked last for a team as being ever-present at your classes, and to think of how they would feel about being told to drop down and give you 20.
4

This is a very good point, I'm happy doing loads of push-ups but make me do some steady state cardio and I'm very grumpy. Especially since steady state cardio is about as useless for preparing you for sword as push-ups are

If you're doing strength training as part of a fencing practice I'd strongly suggest that this is done in a non-competitive way, such as having the whole group do push-ups for so-many seconds rather than for a total of so-many push-ups.


I think you need both as I would push myself harder for competition but I do accept your point. It needs to be a level playing field for it to mean anything. I could probably lift more than you and you could probably beat me in a sprint, neither matters. Also push-ups would be a bad type of strength training for sword, but that's a different conversation
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 29 Sep 2015 20:49

tea wrote:One way to address differing strength etc can be to say "10 seconds of pushups" instead of "10 pushups".

Someone strong and fast will do more, someone just starting will do less, and that's fine.


But that is still setting someone up to fail if they can't do push-ups, plus also still a very different punishment dependent on strength. I can easily do 10 seconds of push-ups, lots of people have to really struggle to do it, why should they be punished more?

As for why pushups (we use it reasonably often in my group, normally suggested by the fighters), don't underestimate the value of something that can be instantly done in full kit. Minimises interruption for the rest of the group, over something more involved.


This is lazy coaching (and a thing I have done as a coach, not calling names) as it's a learned behaviour in both the coach and the student and just because the students call for it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. I totally get why it's easy to use, especially with people in full kit.

I'm not saying don't do it, I just wanted to have the conversation. Whilst HEMA is in many ways an old martial art (or collection of) it is also a very new thing and that means we don't need to do things just because that's how it's always been done.

Also if your students suggest it then it's probably not the right thing to do :-)
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 29 Sep 2015 21:07

KeithFarrell wrote: However, I *do* use pushups as a not-much-fun deterrent during exercises. For example, if people make too many double hits during sparring, I might ask them to do 10 pushups and then restart the exercise.


So using my behaviour specialist hat this is just splitting hairs about definitions. You are trying to influence behaviour through a stimulus, in this case a negative one. Whatever you call it this is still a punishment.

All of the studies show that the best way to change behaviour is through positive reinforcement, and instead of punishment the removal of reward. Maybe as an idea the whole group has a limit for the number of double kills for the sparring session. Once it's reached the whole class stops sparring and goes back to doing drills. It's still learning and it's still what people signed up for but it's not the most fun part. Ideally you set the limit at a point where they probably won;t hit it until very nearly the end of the sparring time. Over time you can lower the limit. (I accept this could be a terrible idea, I'm just making things up)


It's not really a punishment in my eyes, and my students tend not to think of it in that fashion either (at least, I hope they don't!) - it's something that is very concrete where they accept that they need to do something to improve their approach to the exercise.

sparring privileges for the rest of the night, relinquishing the sparring floor to another pair of students


So maybe if I read the whole post before responding, great minds and all that :)

It's more the tangible-ness of the activity that gets people to focus and pay attention in a way that simply asking them does not.


Whilst I understand the thinking here is there any actual evidence to back this up or is it just "something everyone knows"?

Because people want to spar, and don't want to do pushups instead of sparring (or don't want to sit at the side instead of sparring, or sit and talk about why doubles are bad instead of sparring, etc), they pay more attention if there is a tangible threat attached to certain occurrences.


I would imagine people want to be successful at sparing and a double kill is a failure, maybe it's around the language you use. Make not getting hit the win condition rather than hitting someone, focus on that element in the rest of your language so that your students consider not getting hit as more important. (This would be a massive achievement if you found a way to do it, we all already consider getting a hit as the win condition)

The moment I observe anything becoming a problem in my lessons (a student's behaviour, people not understanding the exercise the way I have described it, something like pushups causing resentment), I change the exercise and deal with the problem. If someone is getting upset with pushups then there's no point in doing lots more pushups - the solution is clearly different, so I will change things and find the solution. However, if the threat of pushups is enough deterrent to get people to focus on what they are doing, then it is a good thing.


I like this :)

PS - I sometimes use pushups, I sometimes come up with other deterrents. Depends on the people in my lesson and what I want to achieve. However, for writing on a forum, the concept of pushups as a deterrent is very common, so it is an easy shorthand for "some kind of deterrent against not-the-right behaviour or approach". I'm probably more likely to write about using pushups, for this reason, than actually issuing them during a lesson!


Yes.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby Cosmoline » 29 Sep 2015 23:46

Dave Teague used to make us do a "two fools" dance for double kills. Either that or he'd hit me with his cane vigorously. After awhile I started enjoying it.

At this point I think that the best way to discourage accepting double hits is to get rid of all that armor. If it hurts to get hit, people will try to avoid getting hit. Within reason, of course. Maybe that's why they never wore the stuff in the manuals unless they were doing harness work.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby knirirr » 30 Sep 2015 11:33

MEversbergII wrote:It's an old military discipline thing. You see it in Civvie life by people who are on a power trip, usually. Ignore these people.


It is indeed a military thing. I recall that within minutes of starting my first day of fun in the CCF I was given 20 for daring to take my beret off in the street for a moment, not having noticed an NCO looking in my direction. Things went on that way for the rest of the day (e.g. 20 for the whole squad for one miscreant breaking wind, and so on).
By the time I reached the same exalted rank the officers had decided that perhaps we ought not to be so keen on inflicting such punishments; after all, we were only cadets and not real soldiers.

In one school of Ju-jitsu I attended they were deployed in very much the power-trip way you mention. I recall the instructor haranguing a student along the lines of "what the hell do you call that? You've got a $COLOUR belt! Someone of your level should have perfected the $TECHNIQUE years ago! You're just not trying - get down and give me 50!"

Cosmoline wrote:Dave Teague used to make us do a "two fools" dance for double kills.


This is more how I use press-ups, along the lines of a forfeit for having perpetrated some pre-defined "offence", such as contretempting or turning up in class after the warm-up has started. They are not used as random punishments along the lines of the Ju-jitsu tale I recount above. I do them myself if I transgress these boundaries.

Indeed, some other sort of forfeit could also be used, such as the dance mentioned by Cosmoline or some other, more useful exercise. Why press-ups, then? I can only blame a stunning lack of imagination.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby Bethan J » 30 Sep 2015 12:14

knirirr wrote: Why press-ups, then? I can only blame a stunning lack of imagination.


Worth noting in passing that we have an incredible small salle, and something like press-ups or sit ups are the only things we could do which might fit in the space and not impinge on the assaulting happening in the middle of the salle. They also require minimal kit removal to accomplish, also useful when time is a constraint. I have not noticed Knirirr say no if someone with an injury says they cannot do push ups, and could they do something else instead.

Possibly it's all being a tiny bit over-thought?
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 30 Sep 2015 13:51

Bethan J wrote:Possibly it's all being a tiny bit over-thought?


Possibly, but I feel that all elements of your coaching should be examined. It is my experience that sports and coaching tends to be really guilty of "but that's how we've always done it". There is so much stuff that everyone "knows" that over the last few decades has been shown to not be true yet we find it hard to change our thinking.

Chest strength exercises hold a special place in our culture whilst not really being that useful when it comes to sports. The bench press is considered an important measure of strength yet is far less meaningful that you Squat, Deadlift or Push press. Push-ups are thought of in much the same way and are far less useful for building chest strength yet appear to be the default exercise that everyone thinks of (in much the same way the sit-ups are even though there are many better core exercises).

When I only have a limited amount of time to coach someone I try to make every part of the coaching something that builds towards the education of the person I'm coaching. Do I manage it? Usually not but I still try to do it. I like every part of the training from the warm up to the drills to the punishments to all add something to my players ability.

I expect all elements of my coaching to be challenged and all of my thinking to be questioned, if I can't justify my thinking when challenged it's time to rethink. that doesn't always mean I have to do something different but I do need to think about why it's done.

I assume all other coaches/teachers/masters also expect to be challenged (in an appropriate time, in an appropriate way) and I felt this was a reasonable question to ask. (Also it's one of the few areas I can talk with any confidence and experience since I've done a lot of coaching but I'm new to sword)

I do totally get the points around space and kit thought :-)
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby MEversbergII » 30 Sep 2015 14:31

In one school of Ju-jitsu I attended they were deployed in very much the power-trip way you mention. I recall the instructor haranguing a student along the lines of "what the hell do you call that? You've got a $COLOUR belt! Someone of your level should have perfected the $TECHNIQUE years ago! You're just not trying - get down and give me 50!"


Cobra Kai! :lol:

There's also a psychological element: a pushup has you, the offender, down there facing the dirt while I get to stand over you.

yet is far less meaningful that you Squat, Deadlift or Push press


Lovely. Things I can't do well.

Calisthenics do strengthen the body, however. Pushups will improve - without weights - how much power you can generate with the muscles involved.

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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby knirirr » 30 Sep 2015 14:46

MEversbergII wrote:Pushups will improve - without weights - how much power you can generate with the muscles involved.

M.


I recall reading that up to about 20 builds strength, but over that builds endurance. Whether that's true I do not know, but I stick to 20 for the warm-up and usually very few (e.g. 5) for contretemping. It doesn't have to be a gruelling forfeit, just something that denotes that one has slipped up.
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 30 Sep 2015 15:12

knirirr wrote:
MEversbergII wrote:Pushups will improve - without weights - how much power you can generate with the muscles involved.

M.


I recall reading that up to about 20 builds strength, but over that builds endurance.


You're on the right lines but really once you can do more than 8 push-ups are very poor for improving strength. They will still make small strength improvements but it is more efficient to get weights at that point. Or you could put some books in a rucksack on your back, or other way to increase the loading.

That said they are still infinitely better than doing no exercise and all exercise is good :-)

but I stick to 20 for the warm-up


warm-ups are an area I've really looked into and is a great example of "because we've always done it that way"
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby knirirr » 30 Sep 2015 15:15

ChrisBear wrote:warm-ups are an area I've really looked into and is a great example of "because we've always done it that way"


Indeed.
I've always done mine the same way, except for the bits I've changed because I've found exercises I believe to be more useful, e.g. dynamic stretching rather than static. ;-)
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Re: A question on the use of Press-ups.

Postby ChrisBear » 30 Sep 2015 15:27

I really like using footwork and movement drills as a graduated warm up, that way even the time spent warming up is also spent learning.

With a graduated warm up you do all the movements you are going to do during your exercise but start at a walking pace and then slowly increase the speed. It's like a really sports specific dynamic warm up, depending on the exercise you're going to do you sometimes have to fit in a couple of other movements as well to target specific areas like the hamstring walk (or shooing chickens as my physio called it) on the way back to the beginning of the drill.
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