Total Immersion Forums

Total Immersion Forums (http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/index.php)
-   Favorite Practices and Sets (http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=9)
-   -   Poll: Focal Points or Stroke Thoughts (http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/showthread.php?t=1849)

terry 11-21-2010 11:20 AM

Poll: Focal Points or Stroke Thoughts
 
This is mainly a semantical question. Those who've followed the evolution of the names of various TI drills from one generation of videos to the next may have noticed my fondness for giving things new names. These changes carry the potential of introducing potential confusion, but my motivation is the opposite, to pursue greater clarity, and in some cases greater emotional power.

Calling a thing by one name may give it a utilitarian label.

Calling it by another can make it more colorful-and-thus-memorable, and even more inspirational/impactful.

UnderSwitch was a label that accurately described that switches happen beneath the water.

SpearSwitch conveys that the drill is designed to transform a human body into a barracuda-like, water-piercing instrument of efficiency and speed . . . Or so I hoped.

ZipperSwitch was an accurate, if utilitarian, label when I introduced it. At the time we instructed swimmers to initiate it by "drawing your hand along your lower torso as if pulling a zipper up your side." In time we discovered that while the action had a certain elegance, it introduced tension in the recovery and instability from excess rotation.

When we modified the drill to a wider recovery, I knew we needed to change the name to reduce the likelihood of swimmers being influenced to keep "pulling a zipper."

I chose ZenSwitch because (1) we could still use Z-Switch as shorthand and (2) to emphasize that "Total Immersion" also means "Mindfulness."

But I was never fully satisfied with that name because it failed to describe the action.

So with the 10-Lesson Perpetual Motion Freestyle Series (PMF another recent label) I christened it SwingSwitch.

This drill name was intended to more accurately describe the movement. When teaching this we tell students "Swing, don't lift," the elbow." But also to connect it to an admittedly obscure reference from rowing. In his 1985 book about Olympic rowing, "The Amateurs," David Halberstam describes the magical feeling rowers experience when perfect synchronization among eight individuals makes rowing seem almost effortless: “When oarsmen talked about their perfect moments in a boat, they referred not so much to winning a race but to the feel of the boat when it seemed to lift right out of the water. Oarsmen called that swing.”
SwingSwitch has a similar effect to swing in rowing. When you get it right, the effortless propulsive power it provides seems almost magical.

I'm about to start work on a new book to replace the original "blue-and-yellow" TI book. As I hope this book will introduce and explain TI to a far larger group of people who are not yet familiar with it, I want to choose terms for essential aspects of our practice. I'm enlisting the help of the most motivated, informed, thoughtful and eloquent swimmers on the planet - those on this Forum - to help me make the right choices. I'll do that via a series of polls in which I invite you to not just vote, but give persuasive reasons for your choice. First poll is whether we should call the stroke refinements we think about -- or focus on -- Focal Points or Stroke Thoughts.

Focal Points came first. I didn't give it much 'thought' when I chose it. I didn't even think of it, at the time, as an enduring label. It was a convenient, and somewhat utilitarian, descriptor.

More recently, if unofficially, I've begun describing them as Stroke Thoughts. I made the switch because "focal point" seemed a bit general and "stroke thought" more specific. Also because the term "stroke thoughts" is already in common use in golf, another activity that is clearly about skill, not conditioning.

Your vote?

vconroy 11-21-2010 04:38 PM

Hi Terry,

I'm relatively new to TI, but have heard all of these terms used in various books, videos and the workshop I attended. The terms that worked for me were the following:

1. "Focal Point" - I'm not sure why "stroke thought" doesn't do it for me. Maybe because I think of "stroking" with my arms. Many of my recent focal points have involved streamlining my legs, getting proper hip rotation and breathing without losing tempo. For cases like this, "focal point" seems more appropriate to me.

2. "SpearSwitch" - Captures the idea of spearing forward. When I do this drill correctly I feel my body spearing toward my target.

3. "ZenSwitch" - I understood from the workshop that one of the main purposes of this drill was to reduce tension in the recovering arm and enter the water at the correct time. I had a very hard time getting used to doing this drill because my hand was not relaxed and therefore created a lot of drag. In order to get the drill right, I had to let my hands be in more of a "Zen state", yielding to the water rather than trying to force my arm into it.

CoachPamR 11-21-2010 05:24 PM

Hi Terry,

Having just read this, my initial reaction is that I prefer "Focal Points" merely because sometimes the focal point may actually not be part of the stroke eg relax, stay calm, exhale etc etc.

westyswoods 11-21-2010 06:52 PM

Terry,

This is an interesting and also necessary thread. I for one prefer the concept of focal point over stroke thought. Coach Pam explained it well. Focal point is to me more encompassing while stroke thought seems to be more attuned to the physical movement of a stroke.

Your asking for input from forum participants only reinforces my belief that TI is unique in creating a positive sharing and learning environment, which is user friendly.

One of my frustrations through the past four years of TI has been the evolution of terminology. Teaching techniques surely evolve with time, case in point being the switch from a very drill oriented weekend workshop to one which brings an integration of whole stroke more into the time spent. This I believe to be a very positive move.

The other side of the coin is what seems to be a constant changing of terminology. I attended a weekend workshop and assisted Coach Mike from Chicago in two others. I also spent a week in Lake Placid with Coach Shane and a weekend with Coach Dave in Minn. I discussed with all three coaches that I do not see the benefits of changing terminology. Coach Dave made some valid points as to why zen was switched to swing and I buy it.

Is and has the concept and technique changed or is it just the semantics of it. If the later I believe there needs to be a higher threshold of reason.

How about a glossary of old vs new when changes are made. My main point is we all have to be on the same wave to be successful.

In closing kudos for seeking input. Hope to see you in VI and discuss in more depth.

Be Well and Swim Silent
Westy

drmike 11-21-2010 07:53 PM

Terry,

IMO the original “Focal points” is more to the point, therefore more effective.

mm

atreides 11-21-2010 09:24 PM

I guess I'm going to disagree with everyone but I think "stroke thought" focuses you on what you are trying to accomplish which is propel yourself through the water. Since 90% of the propulsion comes from the activity involving the stroke, it seems that somehow everything comes back to that. Whether it is 2bk or balance or spearing, they all can be put in the context of when or what you are doing before, during, or after a catch and pull. I think that sometimes the things we are supposed to work on are needlessly compartmentalized from what the primary function should be. 'Stroke thought' makes the point that swimming is an interrelated activity in which its components can be organized around an important if not the most important function.

aerogramma 11-21-2010 09:39 PM

Hello Terry,
personally I don't mind too much if you use stroke thoughts or focal points.

To me te real point is that those bullet point one liners have to be sustained by a thorough explanation of what they actually stand for.
It was very interesting to hear about the genesis of zen switch, zipper switch, swing switch.

What I'm saying is that while a single line catch phrase maybe be easier to memorize I much rather rely and recall the thoruoghly explained reasons behind it.

That way you'd never have to go through the motion times and times again like westywood so well pointed out.

I'd say extended explanations first and only then focal points/stroke thoughts

best

val

jsmith2113 11-22-2010 12:18 AM

Learning
 
It's more important to learn the meaning of the word than it is to learn the word. I think the text of the book does a superb job explaining what "it" is and changing the word won't make much of a difference for me.

PASA 11-22-2010 12:46 AM

A vote for stroke thought
 
I picked up TI less than a year ago when I bought the Easy Freestyle DVD, so I've heard the term "Stroke Thought" more than focal point, so that may have biased me a bit in favor of Stroke Thought. But here's my reasons for the preference:

1. Ties to whole stroke swimming, even when beginning to learn to swim via TI lessons from scratch. The term suggests that what I'm doing when learning a drill is a "thought" I can have when swimming the whole stroke later.

2. Reminds me that when swimming whole stroke, at any speed, I should have a stroke thought for each stroke, whether for the whole practice, one length, or just the stroke I'm taking at the moment. Since it's a stroke thought, I can change the thought after a stroke or two, or hold it for more strokes.

3. The word "thought" emphasizes using your mind while swimming to improve.

4. Stroke thought seems to be a relatively unique term, if not unique to TI then at least to swimming (though perhaps also golf). Focal point seems more generic and could apply to any sport or other activity.

suds 11-22-2010 01:59 AM

Hello all,
I've been visiting the TI website on a daily basis for several months now. I just now registered in order to respond to this poll question. I apologize that my first post is somewhat whiny, but the "naming" question allows me to vent a bit about something that's been problematic for me since I started to try and make a committed attempt to pursue TI techniques. I've been swimming regularly (but without any coaching) for over 25 years. I bought a copy of the first edition of the yellow and blue book many years ago. I read bits and pieces of it, but never sat down and read it cover to cover. Having reached the "plateau" that it seems many TI swimmers encountered I decided to really get serious (but not grim) and try to improve (and enjoy) my swimming. My gripe is that as Terry notes ..."These changes carry the potential of introducing potential confusion". I'll say. In a few instances I've spent a good deal of time practicing a technique from the book or from a video only to discover in the forums that "we no longer teach that technique". I guess I'm not the first one to make this complaint, but it really has been frustrating and it also introduces a strange kind of uncertainty. I sometimes wonder now if I'm spending time on a drill or technique that I will later learn has been dropped or replaced. I've seen in the forums where advice has been given in terms of what video to look at first etc. It still seems that there is a lot of overlap in the materials and for the newcomer it's daunting. I've been considering purchasing more videos. I'm still not sure if "Easy Freestyle" and "Freestyle Made Easy" are the same thing. It would help a lot if there was some kind of a resource that listed all of the materials, when they were first introduced and perhaps put in an order or grouping that would help organize them. Perhaps it could be indicated which pages or chapters in the book(s) coincide (specifically) with specific lessons or sections of the videos. Perhaps some kind of glossary could clarify the names given to techniques. When they were introduced, how the names were chosen, if they've been altered or dropped over time. I bought the 2nd edition of the yellow and blue book in an effort to try and get a handle on things. I spent part of yesterday afternoon working on the zipper switch technique (which doesn't exist in the first edition). Now, after reading Terry's original post for this thread I discover that I'm still two name changes (zipper switch/zen switch/swing switch) behind...help. Even with the frustration I'm enjoying re-shaping my techniques and attitude and I will stick with it–and hopefully write some more positive posts.
As for the original question; stroke thoughts or focal points–I would opt for stroke thoughts simply in terms of clarity. The phrase "focal points" comes up often in a variety of contexts. In the TI book it is often advised to "focus on" this or that when practicing techniques. I think it would be best to chose names that are distinctive and less likely to be misunderstood. Frankly, I even think using "zen" as a term or adjective is not the best choice. I understand what it's meant to evoke (and again, I hope I'm not coming off as too much of a nit-picker) but "zen" is actually a specific thing. I would opt for chosing names that are as simple and clear as possible. It might be less poetic, but part of the beauty of poetry is that it can be open for interpretation–not the best idea (imho) for choosing short, clear, descriptive phrases.

PASA 11-22-2010 04:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by suds (Post 14923)
In a few instances I've spent a good deal of time practicing a technique from the book or from a video only to discover in the forums that "we no longer teach that technique". I guess I'm not the first one to make this complaint, but it really has been frustrating and it also introduces a strange kind of uncertainty. I sometimes wonder now if I'm spending time on a drill or technique that I will later learn has been dropped or replaced. I've seen in the forums where advice has been given in terms of what video to look at first etc. It still seems that there is a lot of overlap in the materials and for the newcomer it's daunting. I've been considering purchasing more videos. I'm still not sure if "Easy Freestyle" and "Freestyle Made Easy" are the same thing. It would help a lot if there was some kind of a resource that listed all of the materials, when they were first introduced and perhaps put in an order or grouping that would help organize them. Perhaps it could be indicated which pages or chapters in the book(s) coincide (specifically) with specific lessons or sections of the videos. Perhaps some kind of glossary could clarify the names given to techniques. When they were introduced, how the names were chosen, if they've been altered or dropped over time.

suds, my first thought upon reading your post was that TI is itself following the principle of Kaizen - continuous improvement - as it has evolved over the years in seeking the best ways to help people of all levels of skill learn to swim better, or lean to swim period. But I agree that in reading some old posts has confused me at times when they refer to drills by names I don't know because my entry point into TI was the Easy Freestyle DVD. I suppose the key to learning to swim using TI principles is to use what ever starting point you happen to find first, embrace it, learn as much as possible, then look at more recent works, including this forum, as you go to help you continually improve. I found the Easy Freestyle DVD to be a wonderful teaching tool for myself, and since I feel that I've gotten pretty far using the lessons in that publication I don't have much interest in the newer self-coaching DVD. But if I were starting out today on my first steps of a self-coaching journey, I'd probably get that instead of Easy Freestyle.

I do like your idea of a TI glossary with historical terms. Perhaps the TI folks can include one in the back of the replacement for the blue and yellow book and separately publish it online.

cynthiam 11-22-2010 04:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by drmike (Post 14908)
Terry,

This is a personal quirk, but for some reason “Stroke Thoughts” always reminds me of Jack Handey, which engages the abs but defocuses my mind. IMO the original “Focal points” is more to the point, therefore more effective.

mm

Thanks a lot! Now I will no longer be able to read "stroke thought" while keeping a straight face. (I guess that also betrays my age...)

As to the question -- I agree with several posters here. I prefer and use Focal Point. Stroke Thought always seemed a bit vague and more like an overall feeling rather than a particular aspect (even if the Focal Point I'm using is an overall feeling).

I've gotten confused and a little frustrated more than once trying to figure out the name game. I understand why they change sometimes; I just feel like I need a scorecard to keep track. IMO, "swing switch" is very evocative and makes the most sense of all the names for it.

CoachSuzanne 11-22-2010 04:51 AM

Change vs. Reinforcement
 
I find myself using both. Focal points works for me when I'm teaching or learning singular specific technique aspects, it's more concentrated and focused. A stroke thought for me integrates several feelings or clumps of focal points that have gelled together.

or not.

I use focal points when teaching drills or 1 x 25s of a specific technique. Stroke thought is more fluid and flowing for when swimming longer distances.

Just random thoughts. I think they refer to the same thign and the proper choice of word can be used depending on context (do you want to change a behavior or reinforce a behavior?) Hmmm

Lawrence 11-22-2010 09:19 AM

I prefer 'focal points' to 'stroke thoughts', since the first phrase:

1. captures the idea of concentrating on a single aspect of the stroke;

2. is more immediately intelligible, perhaps because it is already widely used to isolate an aspect of something under investigation; and

3. doesn't carry the possible implication that one is thinking about the stroke as such rather than a component of it.

On the other hand, it may be useful to distinguish the stroke aspect in question from the thought itself. 'Stroke thoughts' is better on this count.

More generally, Terry, I'm assuming the new edition of your book will deal separately with the general principles of TI freestyle (e.g. wide tracks) and the stroke thoughts that people have found helpful in implementing such principles when they swim (e.g. reaching over a barrel - not one I use, but for the sake of example). At least that's how I approach TI freestyle. Step 1: what should I be doing (general principles)? Step 2: how should I think while swimming in order that I achieve Step 1 (stroke thoughts)?

If you took this approach (I accept you may well have other ideas) then perhaps a helpful terminological distinction would be that between 'Principles' and 'Stroke Thoughts'. The first are (I think we agree) universal while the second is an open-ended category from which individuals can pick and choose as suits.

bsaaditya 11-22-2010 09:30 AM

Definitely "Stroke Thoughts"
 
Here's my reasons why:
  • 'Focal Points' sounds restrictive, because it seems to place emphasis on points of improvement as opposed to organic development of the stroke. While this might be useful only for drilling, 'Stroke Thoughts' can be applied to both drills and whole stroke. It's a more positive approach that emphasizes mindfulness and continuous improvement.

  • 'Focal Points' signify a theoretical approach that might need some work on the part of the swimmer, before adapting it in pool practice. That gap is bridged with 'Stroke Thoughts,' which better signify a theory-in-practice model of improvement.

  • 'Focal Points' might project the idea that imporvement of a particular aspect of technique can be arrived at by restricting one's awareness to that aspect and concentrating more upon it, whereas 'Stroke Thoughts' encourage expanding one's awareness, the thought acting like a springboard that might lead to unforseen improvement in other areas.

So this poll's really a no-brainer for me. The potency of 'Stroke Thoughts' is tremendous and in my experience, they have helped me improve way more than concentrating on 'Focal Points.'

galax 11-22-2010 10:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lawrence (Post 14935)
I prefer 'focal points' to 'stroke thoughts', since the first phrase:

1. captures the idea of concentrating on a single aspect of the stroke;

I'm agree, in my opinion "focal points" is better than "stroke thoughts"
moreover I'm fond of that terms

FrankJ 11-22-2010 10:43 AM

To me, focal points and stroke thought convey slightly different approaches to improvement while swimming.

- Focal points conveys an idea of active focus and deep concentration, and therefore a more active and intense mental effort on the part of the swimmer.

- Stroke thoughts to me, suggests a softer approach: a frequent, but not continuous, drifting of attention towards different aspects of the stroke-arm entry, wide tracks, body rotation, etc.

In my case, trying to hard to focus has led to tension, while a softer focus has had better results. The times I truly relaxed, and the (rare) times I had a feeling of flow, it was when I was not actively trying.

Instead, I like to calmly think of my stroke, with whatever imperfections there are, and sometimes, think more on feeling how the water is moving around me, rather than how I am moving in the water.

So, I prefer the ‘stroke thoughts’ terminology….

terry 11-22-2010 12:25 PM

Suds
No worries on being thought "whiny." Quite the contrary, what comes across quite clearly is that you've made a serious personal investment/commitment to swimming the TI way. As someone else noted, we strive to make this Forum a safe place to express yourself, but with a few reasonable ground rules that are mainly about avoiding things that make it harder for people to scroll through threads and find the best thoughts.
[These are: (1) Quote only the pertinent part of a message, not the entire thing. (2) Physically remove, rather than delete, posts when you change your mind about them.]

A couple of these posts made me more receptive to the idea of retaining Focal Points. For me the compelling argument in that direction is that the most important result is that they facilitate Focus, which is essential to Flow States.

A couple reinforced the idea that Stroke Thoughts is preferable because it's a more direct description.

While in Asia, I gave 8 or more slide/video presentation. Doing so many gave me a chance to hone a unifying message or theme about TI, which was:

What distinguishes TI from all other swimming methods is that we've transformed what has always been viewed as (1) a lifesaving skill, (2) exercise, or (3) sport into a movement art designed to (1) increase your sense of empowerment, higher purpose, and mastery; (2) create flow experiences, and (3) help you remain youthful in body, mind and spirit.

Yoga - a 5000 year old religious tradition, from an exotic culture, employing a nearly dead language - is a $7.5 billion industry because it has done this successfully. How much might swimming gain in popularity with the same approach.

So I want to carefully, thoughfully employ language the advances that theme.

hagargolf 11-22-2010 05:36 PM

I'll direct my comments towards the naming convention. My vote would be to use terminology for the new book that matches the new PMF in 10 Lessons DVD.

I started doing TI by watching the Easy Freestyle DVD and at the same time got the old blue and yellow book to read as well. There was definitely confusion and a bit of frustration in the naming convention when trying to match up reading about a drill and watching it on the DVD.

I feel that as new people are introduced to TI, they will purchase the newest release of the DVD and/or book (after the new one that you are working on is written). The terminology should be the same in these two items so it is clear to new person that what they are reading about and watching is the same thing.

I also liked the idea of adding something in the Appendices that correlates the different names for the same drills through the history of the TI book/DVD releases. This will be helpful for old or current TI swimmers and coaches to maintain consistency through the practice of TI moving forward. Thanks and can't wait for the new book!

danielguadagnoli 11-22-2010 05:55 PM

Terry, I vote Focal Points; another user said it well in that not all focal points are related to stroke elements.

Also, Stroke Thought (like Stuttgart.....) is a harsher sounding set of words to pair together than Focal Point.....maybe Stroke Focus?

Dan

Grant 11-22-2010 08:34 PM

My experience has been as follows. Focal Points was what in play when I was first learning TI. This worked well for me. As someone just before mentioned Stroke Thoughts seem to allow a wider range of issues now that most of the basics have been practiced by us old timeers.
I liked your 5000 yr old Yoga comment.
May we swim with ease at the speeds we choose.

terry 11-22-2010 08:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hagargolf (Post 14945)
Thanks and can't wait for the new book!

And you won't have to wait - at least as long as those not on this Forum. As I have with some other writing projects I'll post excerpts here for review, comment, input, suggestions while the book is a work in progress. Look for initial excerpts before the end of the year.

daveblt 11-23-2010 02:17 AM

Terry,
I thought about this for quite a while and I came up with a vote for focal points by a slim margin. Stroke thoughts sounds just a bit vague and focal points mean just what it means ,thinking or concentrating on different aspects of your stroke , and to me it sounds a little better. However is there any way you could actually work with to use both terms for different meaning's and ideas or as to importance ?


Dave

madvet 11-23-2010 07:21 PM

I originally liked the idea of zen switch. To me, it was sort of like, "you have to DO this in order to make everything come together right, not just mechanically go through the motions."

But, I think many people don't get it, and a few people get hung up on the "new-agey" terminology.

Since swing switch focuses on what you are DOING, I think it is a great terminology.

In the same vein, I like "focal points" better than "stroke thoughts" because I think focusing is more important in swimming than thinking. An alternative would be "stroke focuses" but that is hard to say and confusing. Focal points does come off sounding pretty generic, but I think it works.

Something that could be considered is if there are important focal points, to give those actual names as well. That would raise their importance and not just be "another focal point."

CoachBobM 11-24-2010 11:21 AM

My vote is for focal points.

First, it's hard to imagine having "stroke thoughts" when you're streamlining off the wall or doing a dolphin dive, but you can have "focal points".

Second, "focal points" seems to me a more accurate description. As I type this, I can see many things: the keyboard on which I am typing, the furniture in the room, a calendar hanging on the wall, a glimpse of the outdoors through my window. But I am focusing on the terminal screen. And that is what I do when I swim mindfully: I am aware of many things, but focus on one.

I also like the idea of having a glossary of abandoned Total Immersion terms. This would help readers to relate old TI material to new material, and would also provide a quick reference on how TI training methods have changed over the years and why.


Bob

AWP 11-24-2010 12:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CoachBobM (Post 15001)
My vote is for focal points.
I am aware of many things, but focus on one.
Bob




I gotta say T I'm with Mac on this one. However, as Dave relates, perhaps there is still a place for "stroke thought(s)", after all I can focus on a stroke thought(s).


Alan

bnichols4 11-24-2010 03:05 PM

I like the term focal points its clear and direct as to what I nweed to do which is focus! When I see the term "Stroke thoughts", at first I couldn't really understand what it meant so I had to reread the post and it still isn't clear. So my vote is for focal point. Also I like the term swing better then zen as well, it describes what I should be doing.

I will also add that there are some terms in the TI Intermeidate six week program that I like as well. For example in the Spear Switch Lesson 4 the Trip Wire and The Race are easy and descriptive terms to use as focal points.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Brent

borate 11-24-2010 09:25 PM

Quote:

This is mainly a semantical question...my motivation is ...to pursue greater clarity, and in some cases greater emotional power.
Echoing thoughts of some other members, I favor clear, descriptive verbiage, as contrasted with metaphysical concepts - as valid as those may be.

One term that I found confusing is "wide tracks." Self-coaching exclusively with Net resources, I realized only belatedly what the phrase meant.
It initially conjured up an image of a wide Y entry.

More apt might be "straight track." Draw an imaginary straight line between hip and shoulder. From recovery to pierce, have the hand follow that line.
This almost ensures a bent and "high" elbow.

As for ST vs. FP, focal point seems more precise in zeroing in on a particular aspect of the stroke.

terry 11-24-2010 10:35 PM

Focal Points wins the day. Thanks to all for caring and for making cogent arguments for both.
I've just completed work on a new defining document on how to maximize improvement with the current drill sequence (which I'll post here in serial fashion). This afternoon, I did a search-and-replace, putting "Focal Point" in place of "Stroke Thought" in every instance in which the latter appeared.


All times are GMT. The time now is 09:45 AM.

Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.