The Legend Of The Mysterious Stranger

©1997 Milton N. Bradley

Imagine that you are an athletic coach, magically transported 50 years back in time. One day, you are approached by a mysterious stranger who offers you a new training method that he claims will improve the performance of all athletes, male and female, young and old, able bodied or handicapped, and which will also aid in the rehabilitation of injuries. "Of course this is only a training adjunct", he says, "and the athletes will still have to practice and perfect their specific sport skills just as before. But if they add this discipline to their training they will become faster, stronger, and more enduring. Its only drawback is that it's hard work, and unfortunately there's only anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that it works."

Your first reaction would almost certainly be one of complete disbelief, but, restraining your negative impulses you inquire as to the nature of this marvelous new method. The stranger replies "It's called progressive weight training". Now your disbelief turns to derision, because back then everyone "knew" that weight training caused athletes to become "muscle bound" and less, not more competent. So you dismiss him as a slightly deranged fanatic, more suited to residence in a "rubber room" than someone to be taken seriously.

Now quickly fast forward a half century to the present, and we find that everything that the mysterious stranger predicted about the ability of the unusual new training method to improve athletic performance has proven abundantly true. Today all athletes male or female, young or old, and whether engaged in football, swimming, tennis, or any other sport now routinely make progressive weight training an integral part of their regimen, and performances have soared to previously unimagined levels as a result.

A miracle? A lucky coincidence? Hardly, but you must understand the simple underlying principle to appreciate why the method works. The specific requirements of every sport, even such multi-disciplinary events as the decathlon, require that the athletes who participate in it repetitively practice a specific, limited series of movements. This inevitably results in overuse of some muscle groups while underusing others, producing an unbalanced and sub-optimal physical development. Progressive weight training complements each athlete's specific sport training by filling in those gaps to produce a much more balanced development which is not only stronger and more versatile, but also more enduring and less injury prone. In addition, it simultaneously provides a graded method for progressively increasing the resistance applied, thereby increasing the athlete's strength and ability with maximum efficiency.

Now imagine that it's still the present but instead of an athletic coach you're a parent and/or educator, and this time the mysterious stranger approaches you with an even more outrageous proposal. He claims to have discovered a near magical extra-curricular activity that will improve the thinking ability and academic performance of even marginal students. Just as was true of progressive weight training, this new activity won't replace the need to study and master the regular academic subjects, but it will make those who habitually employ it better and more willing students. Best of all, it isn't hard work but pure FUN!

Once again, with great effort you suppress your disbelief and enquire as to the nature of this almost magical paragon of pedagogical tools, and the stranger replies "It's the 4000 year old Oriental strategic board game called Wei Ch'i in China, Baduk in Korea, and GO in Japan and the rest of the world." Your skepticism in response to this information is even greater than before, but you're understandably more cautious about rushing to a possibly erroneous judgement given the overwhelming success of weight training in athletics, so you ask for some proof that the new method works. Once again, the stranger informs you that there are no controlled experiments which conclusively demonstrate GO's efficacy in improving student performance, but there is abundant and highly persuasive anecdotal evidence in Japan.


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