Shinji Takeuchi, head coach of TIJapan, has posted a 2:00 video on youtube showing surface and underwater, frontand side, slow-motion and normal speed views of his stroke. Before long it’slikely that Shinji’s freestyle stroke will have received a million or moreviews. There are two reasons for this: (1) It displays what people instantly recognizeas a “fishlike” grace, flow and ease rarely seen among human swimmers; and (2) Theysense instinctively they can improve their own swimming by the simple act ofwatching. And it’s true: There is no simpler or faster way to learn than byimitation. It’s invaluable to watch a skill performed, live or on video, untilyou can imagine yourself doing it and intuit how it will feel when you do.
Observation and imitation is a centralpart of how we teach at TI Workshops and lessons and should be central toteaching yourself with the aid of the Easy Freestyle DVD. A TI Fishlike Freestyle workshop orlesson series covers 7 to 10 hours. During the first half, students typically spendas much or more time watching movements,as doing them. Prior to the workshop, they’re asked to study TI instructional video.In the pool they watch the coach perform the movements correctly – and usuallyincorrectly as well -- to sharpen their sense of contrast. During instructionthey observe their fellow students, once again comparing their movements withthe ideal. And finally, they view video of their own strokes and drills, makinga connection between what they sense themselves doing and are actually doing.
All this watching is essential tolearning because it builds a "mental map" of the skill. Eachobservation begins to develop a habit of comparing effective vs. ineffectivemovements. By the conclusion of the workshop, they may not be able to executeevery movement accurately and consistently but they should have a highlyaccurate mental map of high-skilled movement, which will be an essential guideto practice.
Indeed before the workshop even ends, our students find themselvesirresistibly drawn to watching the non-TI swimmers elsewhere in the pool and“mentally correcting” their strokes. This is the beginning of a habit and process thatwill contribute hugely to their continuing development of skill. Once you startdown the path of swimming improvement, you should find it impossible to watchsomeone swim and not take note of howthey could swim better.