Nested Distinctions: Distinctions within Distinctions

When I first dove into snowboarding, as a way to test out the RSTP, I started making coarse distinctions (see “Distinguishing Distinctions – A Definition”). Each one of those critical differences that I discovered, made it easier and easier for me to learn-in each of the various building blocks of the skill set.  With each new discovery, I felt more confident that they would all ultimately add up to my ability to actually carve like a strangely-middle-aged-looking hipster-chick, down the slopes of a Sierra Nevada mountain (at least this is how I picture it in my head!!  Lolol).

And as I became more adept, I started to notice how what I, at first, thought of as being only one task or building block, was actually comprised of MANNNNY smaller subskills that had to be recognized, addressed, and then practiced in a logic sequence until they were systematically mastered.  I discovered that, frequently, there’s a nesting of micro-skills that all come together to make up a larger sub-skill.

Nested distinctions are those distinctions within distinctions that make up a larger whole.

I alluded to this in one of my earlier posts, (see “Testing, Testing RSTP Theory – Snowboarding, PART 2a – Using the carpet lift on the bunny slope”).  One would think, and virtually every instructor would lead you to believe, that riding the absurdly non-threatening bunny slope carpet lift is not even worth mentioning to the student.  “Just ride the lift to the top!!” (see “‘Just’ is anything but ‘Just’”)

Bunny slope_carpet lift

Yet, here’s where the RSTP shines… a light…  in all the tiny dark corners of instruction, and illuminates the myriad ways in which it goes wrong.  It’s especially good at clarifying all the points along the way of the instruction in which the student unknowingly misses key distinction steps in the process they are attempting to learn and possess.

So, the directive to “Just ride the lift to the top!!” is actually quite complex: 

There’s a couple of subtle little distinctions needed to successfully mount the lift

  • It’s necessary to place the snowboard facing straight up the lift, both sides of the board parallel to the sides of the lift, not sideways or at an angle.
  • It’s important to position the front tip of the board approximately 8” out over the moving treadmill without allowing the board to touch down onto the moving surface.
  • You must then press the tip of the board down onto the moving treadmill and at the same time that the board catches, place your back foot on the stomp pad while also maintaining an upright position and balance, facing perpendicular to the direction of the moving lift.

There are distinctions that must be made to successfully ride the lift

  • For the duration of the ride, the rider DOESN’T MOVE – this is instructive because even NOT doing something IS doing something intentionally (see “Not doing IS doing”). 
  • Once the individual is balanced, they must maintain a loose stance with knees slightly bent in the riding position, and looking straight ahead (perpendicular to the movement of the lift).

There are separate distinctions necessary for successfully exiting the carpet lift

  • One must keep their board pointed straight forward (just don’t move), both sides of the board parallel to the sides of the lift, not sideways or at an angle, keeping weight balanced in the center, foot on the stomp pad. 
  • As the board comes to the end of the lift, it will be pushed off the end.  DON’T MOVE – again, intentionally remaining still, centered and balanced over the board.
  • Then one must straight gliding until they come to a natural stop.

In a future post, I’ll look at the vast difference there is between traditional instruction and RSTP instruction.  (see “Snowboarding_Comparing Traditional to RSTP Skill Transfer“)

2 thoughts on “Nested Distinctions: Distinctions within Distinctions

  1. David says:

    You have so articulately explained this process with words! How might this be expressed in a visual way (i.e. signs, pictograms, video) for those who are more visual learners, or as a way to overcome language barriers?

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