Learning strokes and canoeing in general

Here is the technique I use to learn most new things including new canoe strokes, most people have different ways of learning things but this is the way I have learnt to canoe.

I have always been taught by my dad that there are 3 stages to learning anything; consciously incompetent, consciously competent and unconsciously competent. Put simply, to start with you are consciously trying but with very little luck, then as you practice you get the technique but you still have to think about it. Then finally, the new skill becomes natural, becomes part of your muscle memory and with hardly any thought your new skill is mastered.
Now to put it into canoeing context. When learning a new stroke I first watch someone do it or read about it so I now the ins and outs of the stroke, find out as much as you can (when to twist, how far to pull and how to sit in the boat etc) but don’t let this get in the way, it’s a guide. If you stay to rigid with the rules the stroke will remain a conscious effort and will never become a natural instinct where you feel when and how act. To begin practising I start slowly, thinking about the guide lines I have in my head, thinking about how I’ve to adjust this to achieve that and how if I push hard here how it affects the stroke. Once I’ve think I have got the stroke I experiment with it increase the speed, turning motions and depths to see the limitations of the stroke. It then becomes a practice makes perfect situation. Continue to use the stroke and experiment with it, but don’t like before concentrating solely on it, use it in tandem with all your other strokes as well as practice between practicing other strokes.
Once you have learnt the stroke you should find that you know when to use it, you know it’s limitation and so it feel natural to mix it and match it with all sorts of strokes to get the desired effects. And by taking aspects from several strokes you can consciously (recently I have found unconsciously) creating strokes that allow me to move in move complex direction at greater speeds than a single stroke would allow.

One thought on “Learning strokes and canoeing in general

  1. I like this 3-part description of the learning process, culminating in your internalising the stroke so that you don’t have to think about it and can use and modify it as the circumstances demand.

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