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Old 04-07-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default What is the 'black belt' of TI Swimming

As I've noted previously, we will redesign the web site later this year. Part of the task is to come up with a coherent way to view the various levels or categories of TI Swimmers, partly in terms of their needs, but just as much in terms of their vision, motivation or goals.

I've taken a stab at it but am looking for feedback or input on the higher level ambitions. Here are my levels, and a capsule description for each.

Phobic/Beginner Swimmers
TI doesn’t presently offer a formal program or workshop for teaching non-swimmers (we will) but many TI coaches – using people skills, and Balance/Breathing/Manual Assistance skills -- have taught them with great success.
Who are they: Their impediments range from crippling fear to pronounced discomfort. The most extreme have high anxiety about entering the pool or immersing the face. At the other end of the spectrum, they may almost be ready to learn TI drills -- if they get enough 1-on-1, hands-on, help to feel secure.
Their Needs: Essentially they fear two things: Choking and Sinking.
You can recognize these fears by:
o They can swim only a few strokes -- up to barely surviving a pool length;
o They swim with the head out, or lift/swing it wildly to breathe.
• They dream of: experiencing simple comfort, feeling at home, able to move freely, venturing into deep water.

“Human” Swimmers
Historically these have been TI’s bread-and-butter. The spectrum ranges from those who can barely complete 50 yards to accomplished, experienced -- sometimes even fast --swimmers with traditional technique. Triathletes make up the majority. Among fitness swimmers, we draw people who are intellectually curious or look for a higher purpose or more excellence in things that interest them.

Their Needs
Understanding: What they ‘know’ about swimming is wrong: They think technique is about pulling and kicking. They think improvement comes from more and harder.
Skill: Most lack balance, create excess drag and turbulence, and use arm-driven propulsion. They kick wastefully. Breathing hurts balance, streamline and propulsion even more.

Kaizen Swimmers
I suspect that this group accounts for a large percentage of avid Forum participants. They've mastered the basics of Balance and Streamline but are not content to stop there. They may have been inspired by watching Shinji's video, or accounts from other TI swimmers of the great satisfaction of Continuing Improvement or had their passion ignited by Flow experiences provided by Mindful Practice. They fully recognize that many aspects of technique - the catch, kick and breathing -- are emerging skills that can be improved over many years, and indeed expect -- even hope -- to never feel these are complete. I.E. They see Mastery as a Path, not a Destination.

It's in this area that my sense of how fine a picture we should seek to paint becomes hazy. I feel there are a number of ways to describe or identify whatever is the Black Belt of TI Swimming. I could think of a number of possible 'labels' to put on this level, but none quite satisfy me. Two that have come to mind include:
Master Swimmers - I love what the term Master conveys but am concerned about possible confusion with Masters - which simply conveys 'older than 19.'
Achievement-orientedSwimmers - It gets at it but seems cumbersome.

As I see it the next level doesn't infer a higher level of distinction than Kaizen, but does go beyond in pursuit of more tangible and measurable goals or improvement. These could involve
  • Competing
  • Marathon swimming
  • A highly organized approach to training.
A brief few examples
Richard Skerrett, though his speed may be modest, shares something essential with Grant who has set National records - a serious approach to competing and training for it.
Alan Perez hasn't reported on meet performance, but his approach to training is far more examined and purposeful than most people who do compete regularly.
Naji may not have competed but has pursued and achieved impressive accomplishments in open-water, cold-water and long-distance swimming and has created a multi-year plan to attempt one of the iconic swims, Cook Strait.
Suzanne has been noteworthy - even among TI coaches - in not only pursuing an utterly empirical approach to her self-improvement, but in documenting it in ways that create insight for others.

I'm struggling here a bit with whether to create a category for those who - besides pursuing Continuous Improvement and Flow States - strive for something relatively rare.
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My TI Story
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  #2  
Old 04-07-2011
naj naj is offline
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Terry,

First off let me say how deeply honored I am to be included in the same notes as Coach Suzanne, Alan Perez and Richard Skerret, there insights and helpful information when I asked questions on this forum have been invaluable.

Secondly, I like the way you have broken down the three different and distinct categories of TI, in particular the beginning one. I have met other Ti enthusiasts that had a deep fear of the water but through the patient teaching of the TI coaches they were able to overcome this fear and go on to feel a true sense of freedom in the water.

Likewise, the second level, which encompasses the "bread and butter" of TI (the hetofore Human Swimmers)have been the voices in the wilderness crying out in joy about the revelations of TI swimming and how it has improved their times in sprint, Olympic, half, and Iornman triathlons. When I did my TI workshop back in '08 the majority of those present were there because they were triathletes and had heard that their old way of knowing how to swim (i.e kick harder pull faster) was not working or efficient. Human swimmers are where so many of us have fallen into but through TI its not where we have to stay. Explaining it the way you do so succinctly will help other identify where they are in their own swimming life.

Finally, with respect to the third category of Kaizan swimming, I say leave it as is. Everyone knows what this means and needs no further explanation and those that do not, will if they pursue TI with constant improvement in mind. No need for "Black Belt" or "Masters Swimmer." I never did care for either term. It seems to me that the overwhelming majority that have gone to this level constantly challenge themselves to be better and do more while swimming in the TI sea. Keep Kaizan as the third option if you ask me. It works.

Keep Swimming!
Naji
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Old 04-07-2011
efdoucette efdoucette is offline
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Hi Terry, I have worked (now retired) in an Industrial Engineering role for many years with Canada Post. That corporation adopted the Toyota style production methods based on Continuous Improvement & Kaizan. What's interesting is they use a "Belt" system for training and skill levels, in general:
Green Belt - an understanding and user of Continuous Improvement, Black Belt - high degree of understanding leader of CT, and
Master Black Belt - instructor and mentor.

I am new with TI (Jan this year) but the Continuous Improvement aspect of TI reminds me so much of the Toyota model.
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Old 04-08-2011
terry terry is offline
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EF
I gather Canada Post is the mail service. Is that a private corp or govt agency. If the latter, it would seem to be run like a private corp, and not bureaucratically. Adopting the W.E. Deming Kaizen philosophy from Toyota is very forward-looking.
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Old 04-08-2011
efdoucette efdoucette is offline
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Yes Terry, Canada Post is the Canadian mail system and is considered a Crown Corporation meaning it is managed independently but reports to the Gov't of Canada. It has adopted "Lean Manufacturing" in the processing plants probably 15 years now and has really been instrumental in eliminating muda (waste, which is kinda like drag I guess in the TI world, haha).
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Old 04-08-2011
CoachRyan CoachRyan is offline
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Default Synergistic Swimmers

Hi Terry,

I like all of your defenitions but I thought I would jump in and help with the fourth category. I actually agree with Naji that it could be left out and just let Kaizen be the third and final category...however, there may be some warrant for it if the right name is found.

May I suggest: Synergistic Swimmers

Synergy, in general, may be defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result not obtainable by any of the agents independently.

Seems to me that many of the swimmers you mention as examples of this fourth category are combining TI focuses and skills with forward-thinking training routines, extreme races, etc. Sounds synergistic to me.

Just a thought. By the way, Dave Cameron certainly falls into this category...his methods are masterful and synergistic.
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Old 04-08-2011
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
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I always tell my high school scientists that any attempt at categorizing will always be wrong. There will always be enough individuals that don't fit any category that it becomes difficult. So we have to, somehow, avoid the pigeon-holing effect of categorization if we try to add a 4th. I don't know how.

Being one who trains martial arts and holds two black belts, I like the analogy. Both of my instructors said one important thing when I achieved that rank.
"You have studied for 8 years. You have attained the rank of black belt. Now you are ready to BEGIN training." (OUCH! It hurts to hear that.)

By that, they meant that earning a black belt means that you understand the basics enough to know when and how to apply them. And, in my experience, it means that you now know enough to take your training in any direction that you choose.

We used to use the phrase "Be your own best coach" a lot here. I think that is the definition of the Kaizen swimmer. It is one who knows how to use TI philosophies and basics to guide themselves to improvement in any arena.

I agree with Naj and Ryan, there is no need to add a 4th level/category. I believe that anyone who is kaizen in their approach is using a very focused system to meet their goals.
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Old 04-08-2011
terry terry is offline
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Eric's post suggests a way of providing a 4th category that inspires and empowers without pigeon-holing.

And I think the heading to put on that category is The TI 'Black Belt.'

That Black Belt heading on our home page - or wherever it's found - would take the visitor to a landing page on which the key message is exactly what Eric's instructor told him "When you have attained the rank of Black Belt, you are ready to BEGIN training." And what you are training for is Unlimited Excellence in some specific area of swimming skill.

There will be many ways to pursue this training. E.G. Distance Butterfly, Open Water Navigation, Mastery of Pacing. You may pursue that mastery for your own satisfaction. Or you may do so because it provides a tool to 'win' races. What's more important is that you've identified a particular form of excellence and committed to a concentrated effort to achieve it.

This has value first as an Organizing tool. On the web site it will point the way to an area of the site, or a set of self-help tools, that delve into a particular area in far greater depth and detail than would interest the average person.

It may have even greater value as an Inspirational tool. Showing people who are seeking a sense of new inspiration and direction a wide range of possible choices and paths.
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Terry Laughlin
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My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 04-08-2011 at 11:41 AM.
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  #9  
Old 04-08-2011
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachEricD View Post
We used to use the phrase "Be your own best coach" a lot here. I think that is the definition of the Kaizen swimmer. It is one who knows how to use TI philosophies and basics to guide themselves to improvement in any arena.
Thanks Eric. This is is also a very helpful idea. And to EF for mentioning the example of Canada Post's adoption of Belts to signify progress in understanding and using the tools that make their business run better.

Ever since the first TI Workshop or Camp attendee mentioned to me the similarity they noticed between TI and Aikido - possibly as early as 1993 but repeated many times since -- I've had a strong affinity for the philosophies of martial arts.

The real goal of our web site reorganization project is to create an even clearer distinction for people who are becoming exposed to TI for the first time: How does TI differ from the swimming programs you may already be familiar with?

I cannot think of a simpler, clearer or more compelling -- even inspiring -- way to do that than to compare sequential levels of enlightenment and commitment to the universally-recognized Belts of martial arts, which would also more firmly link TI to that tradition, which is diametrically different from the prevailing paradigms in swimming. For instance:

White Belt Swimmer: Anyone who decides to adopt TI as their Method.

Green Belt Swimmer:
1) You understand the distinction between Terrestrial and Aquatic technique.
2) You've mastered Balance, Streamline, and Whole-Body Propulsion.
3) You no longer Work Out. You Practice Mindfully.
4) Consequently you can swim nearly any distance with ease and enjoyment.

Blue Belt (Kaizen) Swimmer
You're committed to pursuing Continuous Improvement in two broad areas:
1) Technical - 'advanced' skill in Propulsion, 2BK, Breathing
2) Training - how to self-coach effectively with Focal Points, Stroke Counts, Tempo, Timed Swims to improve endurance and speed.

Black Belt Swimmer: Devoted to pursuing Unlimited Excellence in any of a wide range of areas such as those I listed and many, many more.
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Terry Laughlin
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 04-08-2011 at 12:15 PM.
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  #10  
Old 04-10-2011
LBRoberts LBRoberts is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
Thanks Eric. This is is also a very helpful idea. And to EF for mentioning the example of Canada Post's adoption of Belts to signify progress in understanding and using the tools that make their business run better.

Ever since the first TI Workshop or Camp attendee mentioned to me the similarity they noticed between TI and Aikido - possibly as early as 1993 but repeated many times since -- I've had a strong affinity for the philosophies of martial arts.

The real goal of our web site reorganization project is to create an even clearer distinction for people who are becoming exposed to TI for the first time: How does TI differ from the swimming programs you may already be familiar with?

I cannot think of a simpler, clearer or more compelling -- even inspiring -- way to do that than to compare sequential levels of enlightenment and commitment to the universally-recognized Belts of martial arts, which would also more firmly link TI to that tradition, which is diametrically different from the prevailing paradigms in swimming. For instance:

White Belt Swimmer: Anyone who decides to adopt TI as their Method.

Green Belt Swimmer:
1) You understand the distinction between Terrestrial and Aquatic technique.
2) You've mastered Balance, Streamline, and Whole-Body Propulsion.
3) You no longer Work Out. You Practice Mindfully.
4) Consequently you can swim nearly any distance with ease and enjoyment.

Blue Belt (Kaizen) Swimmer
You're committed to pursuing Continuous Improvement in two broad areas:
1) Technical - 'advanced' skill in Propulsion, 2BK, Breathing
2) Training - how to self-coach effectively with Focal Points, Stroke Counts, Tempo, Timed Swims to improve endurance and speed.

Black Belt Swimmer: Devoted to pursuing Unlimited Excellence in any of a wide range of areas such as those I listed and many, many more.
The green belt in your definition includes some absolute levels of proficiency whereas the others are more about commitment to a certain path. I'm not clear whether the black belt in your definition, is a measure of proficiency or an attitude/approach to practice. I think you mean the latter, but the former makes more sense to me

I think belts in martial arts have to be hard earned and, to gain one, you need to be able to show a certain level of proficiency and have the attitude to carry on a pursuit of excellence. Of course this will mean that some people will not reach the black belt but will continue to pursue excellence to the best of their abilities. But that is what makes the black belt so respected and coveted. If you were to take this definition, a black belt TI swimmer would be instantly recognisable (and may include only a couple of 100 swimmers). But they would set the standard. If you were to take the definition that simply involves a devotion to TI, that - in and of itself - wouldn't make the swimmer an instantly recognisable TI Swimmer (although of course one hopes that with commitment and practice, comes excellence)

Last edited by LBRoberts : 04-10-2011 at 07:40 PM.
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