The Halliwick Concept

Holistic approach

The Halliwick concept is an holistic approach and each of the following points must be considered.

* Water and its properties with special emphasis on rotational forces.


* The human body and balance in water and how appropriate supports encourage the swimmer to achieve this.


* Disability equality issues: an awareness of the changing attitudes towards disability and the promotion of inclusion and participation.


* Increasing motivation by use of games and other activities that promote enjoyment, while increasing independence


* Challenge: presenting challenging situations to the swimmer, encourages an expansion of aquatic skills.


* Teaching and Learning: understanding different aspects of how people learn and how appropriate teaching can enhance learning.


* Working in Groups: to promote social interaction, stimulates communication and gives the opportunity for competition.



* Swimming Strokes: A knowledge of the different swimming strokes is necessary to allow the swimmer to select and adapt the most mechanically efficient means of pulling themselves through the water. It is important that the swimmer masters the basics working on swimming strokes.



The Ten Point Programme
1 Mental adjustment
As creatures with land habits based on adjusting to gravity, the swimmer learns to adapt to the experience of being in water and learning to deal with upthrust. There are specific aspects of mental adjustment, relaxation and breathing control.


Breathing Control. Every time the swimmer’s face comes near to the water or submerges, it must become automatic for the swimmer to blow or hum. This is necessary for safety and to establish the rhythm and timing that will later lead to good breathing techniques whilst executing the swimming stroke.


Relaxation. The swimmer must release all unnecessary tension to allow maximum use of upthrust, i.e. floating, in a balanced and stable position. Relaxation and breathing control are inseparable.
An important aspect of relaxation is mental relaxation. Letting go of all the negative thoughts the swimmer may have about their inability to learn to swim and concentrating on their ability.


2 Disengagement. This is the process of the swimmer becoming independent in the water. It involves disengaging from the support of the instructor and Both mental adjustment and disengagement are processors that continue throughout the learning process.


As new skills are introduced, so the swimmer has to come to terms with mental adjustment and disengagement for that skill, so both are an ongoing process.


Points 3-6 Control of Rotations

Rotations occur in water due to outside forces such as the pressure of water, and the shape of the body. It is important that the swimmer learns first to control of all unwanted rotations and then initiate a desired rotation. To be competent in water the swimmer must master control of all the rotations.


3 Transversal Rotation (formally called vertical rotation)
Rotation around a fronto-transversal axis. This rotation enables the swimmer to go into a back float, regain the vertical and all activities around that axis including a somersault.


4 Sagittal Rotation (not included in the original 10 points)
Around anterior, posterior axis. A side to side movement.


5 Longitudinal Rotation (formally called lateral rotation)
Around the axis of the spine. A sagitto – frontal axis. This rotation may be done in the vertical, e.g. to change direction, or in the horizontal, turning between a face up and a face down position.


6 Combined Rotation
The ability to control any combination of other rotations.


7 Upthrust
Learning to trust the support of the water. This was originally called mental inversion because it is the opposite of what happens on land.


8 Balance in Stillness
Using both mental and physical aspects of balance control to allow a floating position in the water. When the swimmer achieves balance control, they are in a position to perform other activities with greater ease.


9. Turbulent Gliding
While the swimmer is in a balanced floating position, the instructor creates turbulence. The swimmer then floats into this area of turbulent water and so moves through the water without physical contact with the instructor. Although the swimmer does not make propulsive movements, they have to control any tendency to rotate.



10. Simple progression and a basic swimming stroke
These two introduce the swimmer to propulsion. Simple progression may be sculling movements made with the hands, a leg kick or any body movement that creates movement through the water.
The basic swimming stroke. Mac originally taught swimmers a form of old English backstroke. From a back float position, the arms are brought low over the water, to enter the water and then pull the hands towards the legs.



Halliwick Concept

The Halliwick concept was devised by James McMillan in 1949 for pupils of the Halliwick School for Girls in London. Mac, has he was usually referred to, was a swimming teacher. When he first decided to teach the girls to swim, he realised that traditional teaching was largely inappropriate and with his wife Phyl, devised this method based on known scientific principles of hydrostatics, hydrodynamics and kinesiology. Although originally called a method, the term concept was later used to encompass all aspects of the swimmer’s development, physical, psychological and social. As Mac said “the mind, the body and the spirit”.




Swimmers are taught on a one-to-one ratio until complete independence is achieved but each pair is a unit within a group activity so that the swimmer gains advantage of group work but also gaining from the constant attention of an individual instructor.




Mac devised a ten point programme as the basis of the concept. Minor changes have been made in recent years in keeping with current thinking.