What is Vocabulary?

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Explaining the vocabulary concept to solo exhibition drillers


When speaking in terms of drill and performance, vocabulary deals with the amount of different movements displayed in a routine. For the body there is vocabulary for your feet, the head, arms and hands, and the torso. When armed, vocabulary adds on the manipulation of the piece of equipment (sword/saber, rifle or guidon).

Vocabulary means each individual movement. A set of movements is called a phrase and a phrase can be long or short. When designing a routine you want a good deal of vocabulary and you want long and short phrases. It’s the same with writing: if you have a small vocabulary and use only short sentences or have no variation, the reader is not going to be entertained or informed as well as he or she could be.

Along with vocabulary and long and short phrases, a Driller must use variation. Performing the same move more than once with slight variations increases the displayed vocabulary and keeps the audience active versus the repetition that can bore the audience.

Don’t Sacrifice Excellence

Vocabulary is the “What” of a performance. Excellence is the “How”. To be as effective as possible, you must have a wide vocabulary and a high level of excellence. That being said, you must build that vocabulary and excellence and that is going to take time. There is no overnight success. Hard work, discipline, and a foundational education are key.

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Let’s look at the presidential honor guard drill teams. In particular, the Silent Drill Platoon (SDP) relies on the least of vocabulary. Their rifle manual is basic movement with slight variations that are specific to the platoon. The entertainment value in this performance is the high level of excellence and also the tricks performed during the company single file front formation where the team’s non-commissioned officer does and “inspection” of two of the team members. The crowd also loves the tradition of the SDP.

The Army and Air Force drill teams have a relatively high vocabulary and the Navy and Coast Guard drill teams have a moderately low vocabulary. Next time when you watch one of these performances see how many different movements or variations of movements you can find.

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