Take Away What Doesn’t Flow
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on June 6th, 2010

Once there was a man who carved a duck from a block of wood. Asked how he did it, the man said, “I just got rid of everything that didn’t look like a duck.”

There are few better examples of simple wisdom that can apply to  nearly anything. Like swimming improvement.

Between unremarkable wood block and preternaturally lifelike duck lie three distinct stages, each requiring specific tools.

A band saw to cut a piece of lumber into the general shape and size of the duck. It cuts away large chunks of  not-duck quickly, but not finely.

Carving knives to create a recognizable, yet still rough, head, body, wings and tail. These cut away smaller pieces of not-duck but what lands on the floor are still chunks.

And finally,  rasps and sandpaper to detail beak, eyes,  wings and tail.  The not-duck falling to the floor at this stage goes from chips to splinters to powder.

Improving your stroke follows a remarkably similar process of carving away whatever doesn’t display the fluency, relaxation, and general harmony shown by an efficient stroke. Start with big chunks and progress steadily to ever-finer skills. This also means working from large body parts and “gross-motor” skills, to smaller body parts and “fine-motor” skills.

Balance and weightlessness drills like Superman Glide, Laser-Lead Flutter, or Core Balance, take away big chunks – discomfort, breathing distress, tension, sinking legs, unstable body.

Alignment and streamlining drills, like Skating , SpearSwitch, SwingSwitch, shape a human – or terrestrial mammal – body to have the “slippery” qualities of aquatic mammals.

Propulsion-oriented drills, like OverSwitch and Stroke Thoughts to “tune” the Catch and 2-Beat Kick, create a smooth and effective arm-and-leg action.

Using this clip of Perpetual Motion Freestyle as a model, what can you carve away from your stroke that looks different?

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One Response to “Take Away What Doesn’t Flow”

  1. Morten says:

    You give me many good tips Terry! Thank you… :)

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