Monday, August 27, 2012

How to be a good training partner

How to be a good training partner?

This is an important topic, since it is one people hardly think about, but which everyone secretly wishes they had.  We all want someone who will push us to do our best, make us look our best, inspire us, challenge us, support us.  However, we often spend very little time thinking about how WE OURSELVES could be that perfect training partner for the other students.

As you Give, So you Get
Being a good training partner involves real conscious effort.  It involves paying attention to your partner throughout the drills.  It is very important during boxing pad work, but just as important in sticks/blades/kadena de mano, and even stretching.  As you give, so you get.  The better partner you become, the better partners you will get.  This is one of the most important ways the Law of Attraction can work for you.

In Boxing
Our boxing/Panatukan segments are about technique, but also heavy cardio conditioning.  A good boxing partner knows how to hold the pads in position for the punching/kicking combinations, and applies some stress/pressure to their partner during the drills.  They stay a bit unpredictable, and make their partner work hard for the whole time.  A good partner watches his partner's form and checks to see that guard is maintained, balls of the feet drive the punches, there is coiling/compression into the techniques, and the arms and legs extend when hitting.  Good partners check for the right timing/pacing/rhythm of hits and combinations.  Proper boxing involves setting, hitting, and moving and a good partner watches and coaches, while at the same time not stopping the action.  The very best partner should make you work just to the edge of your comfort zone, making you earn every hit.  In my case, I like the padholder to be able to give me contact back (hitting my guard or head/body with the pads or gloves) since this helps me get used to being hit and still be able to keep my concentration while I attack.  Good boxing partners give compliments when they are deserved, corrections when required, and total focus in every moment of every drill.

Kadena De Mano
When we train in KDM using empty hands, sticks, or blades, we want a training experience that will help us understand how the human body will react to impacts.  While it is important not to become like overcooked spaghetti and go limp in our partner's arms (this is not an Argentine football match after all), at the same time if the partner resists and counters every single move, there is not real understanding, no muscle memory develops, and there is no chance for either partner to develop flow.  As we progress our training, we want a bit more resistance from our partner so we know how well our techniques work (especially locks/submissions/disarms), but in the beginner curriculum it is better to allow your partner to move you and feel the flow of the technique.

Billiards is a great analogy here.  In billiards, a skilled player is always playing several shots ahead of where the cue ball is at any moment.  Each shot lines up the next shot, and in such a way the player clears the table. Good players play one rack at a time, not one ball at a time.  In KDM, every move should set up the next move, keeping the opponent off balance and destroying the structure from the first step to the last.  This can only be understood if the partner gives a bit into the technique so we can see how the body is likely to react and set up the next move accordingly.

Of course, the danger here is that we over-cooperate, and the student never learns if it really works or not (a common criticism of modern aikido).  It is important to find the balance of movement for each student to he/she can grow and learn.

The Right Attitude
At the end of it all, being a good partner is about having the right attitude.  It's about looking and feeling like a martial artist and sharing that intensity with your partner to create the best possible training experience in every class.  We are all here to learn and grow, and having a partner committed to that makes the dojo a far better place.

What kind of training partner can you be?  The answer to this question will determine the quality of training you get back, so think carefully...


ArneB said...

A very nice piece of writing. It is severly underrated to be a good training partner. Too many I have met don´t train during pad holding. They just "stand there" with the mitts on their hands. I think you cover it good, but there is one more thing I would like to add:

Train, don´t speak!

I have meet so many people who are more interrested in telling other what they mean they do wrong, than actually train the technique or testing out the principels in question. This is boring, counter productive and at times insulting. When we train I prefer my partner to train with me, not talking to me.
Your friend in training, Arne.

Keith said...

Good article! A topic very close to my heart.

My pet peeve in sticks is people who give me the "Harry Potter" attacks, waving their stick at me like it's a wand to swoop in with a looping tap at a totally impossible angle, with no possible body mechanic applied, then they look at me with "triumph," in that: "Ha! Got you!" look... *sigh*. Proper angles, with proper body mechanic, I need to train the signal recognition to key the right response... Harry Potter training is worse than useless. The other one is when you're doing a sequence and the guy is resisting everything... in every direction statically. How do you explain to a person: "look man, if you really need me to ring your ballsack and cross-elbow your temple so you understand the concept of 'distract with pain' then I'm all for it, are we good to go?" Realism is key. Resist when it seems like you've had too much time to recover, to signal that the person should distract/destruct/unbalance, not just because you want to be a douche.
Being good Uke is really key. In working with people, by me being a good Uke, I can train a person much faster than anyone sitting there monolog'ing a litany of errors. Especially in boxing, once a person gets to ~Orange belt, they can't get any better without detailed refinement of the small technical errors, and they only crop up under realistic training stress to get fixed.

Oh, separately, I'm on my way to Tokyo on Wed, hopefully we can train when I'm there for 2 weeks!!

Max said...

Great post thanks for sharing such informative post.
Martial Arts Weapons

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