Training for Failure

Cultivate Greatness?Dave over at Iron-Body and I have been having an exchange of ideas. I was really hoping for a seriously heated disagreement but those southerners are so polite, he’s practically ready to open up a branch of my school in Kentucky. (I'm joking.)

Feeling a little desperate, I was reading over his excellent website and I came across this:
Why shouldn't I train to failure?

Training to failure on a consistent basis is training to fail. We want our students to succeed, to push hard and occasionally exceed their limits, but mostly staying just below the threshold of failure.

Training to failure for most people creates a negative mindset and causes undesirable breakdown in the musculo-skeletal and Central Nervous systems.You should leave feeling better than when you came in and you should be able to finish your day feeling great and with lots of energy.

Our focus is on quality of movement. When you are training to failure your form will degrade to such an extent that you dramatically increase the risk of injury.

I have to admit two things: One that he explains the problem well, and two, that I basically agree with him.

This reminds me of a student I had that would make a face and either grunt or purse her lips and make farting sound every time I gave her a correction (which was several times each class). She was training hard and wanted to get it right, but the demonstration of self-punishment meant that she added a negative emotion and physicality to my correction. It was too much for me.

I give corrections all the time, if a student doesn’t enjoy getting corrections, they shouldn’t be studying with me. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that she had been taught that people would be nicer to her if she showed a willingness to punish herself. She may even have been rewarded for demonstrating frustration.

So actually I don’t really agree with Dave. He is right, but he is not going far enough.

Unhappy students are going to blame me, the teacher, eventually anyway, I might as well take responsibility for everything that goes wrong from the beginning. So I tell my students, "If you don't understand something, if you get something wrong, if you fail, blame me, it's my fault!"

Rather than teaching people to avoid experiences of failure, I teach people to enjoy failing! The more good-natured people are about failing the more willing they are to take risks. The more fun they have failing, the more likely they will be to try something new and challenging. Contests and drama would be cold gruel without both failure and success.

If you can fail and enjoy it, people will love being your partner and the teacher will love using you for demonstrations.

Without failure, loss, death and decay around to prop it up, beauty would be much diminished.