My favorite posts and threads are those that give us a lot to ponder and chew over. This is one.
I was greatly entertained by your analogy to carving something from a block of marble. I used a highly similar analogy in my blog Take Away What Doesn't Flow
. I suggested a simpler way of thinking about technique by describing the process of a woodcarver, transforming a wood block into a duck-like form by taking away what is not-duck
. When observing a stroke, look for what doesn't flow.
I also noted the similarity between three types of tools a woodcarver uses, progressing from power saw to carving tools, to sandpaper and rasps and three categories of TI drills - for Balance, for Streamlining and for Propulsion.
An advanced student may appear balanced, yet it is virtually always helpful to dip into balance drills briefly. A novice - particularly one who is profoundly uncomfortable, perhaps even fearful - can often benefit from spending quite a few hours on balance drills in one form or another. With this student, we're not just changing body position; we're healing the psyche.
And on nearly all drills, I set highly individual standards for my students on when to say "nicely done" and move on.
Sometimes my choice is driven by their skill level or readiness to absorb new material. Other times it's influenced by my sense of whether they are impatient or outcome oriented vs patient, engaged, curious and in-the-moment.
I will naturally seek to influence the former student toward being more process-oriented, but not push to the point of resistance. In most cases, I can "seduce them into patience."