Are you a good training partner?
Are you the guy that as soon as the instructor says pair up everyone looks at hoping you will train with them or are you the guy the people avoid making eye contact with until everyone else has paired up and you get a reluctant partner. So, what makes a good training partner? Here is a list of what I find to be some of the most important points.
In my experience training martial arts as well as working with teams of people in the construction and hospitality industries first and foremost the thing that makes a good partner in any situation is turning up; not just being there, but being mentally focused and physically active. Especially in martial arts, where someone not paying attention can mean injuries, you need to be focused on the task at hand, knowing what both you and your partner are expected to do and executing those duties with enthusiasm and commitment. No one wants to train with the guy who is constantly asking what they are supposed to be doing or just lacks physical commitment to the training; whether that means holding pads or playing an aggressor. (Expanded post here)
Listening to the Instructors
Secondly, once you have turned up pay attention to your instructor and listen to instructions! There is nothing worse than performing a combination or series of techniques and your partner isn’t where they are supposed to be or isn’t reacting appropriately. I experienced this recently, while practicing getting up from the ground as an aggressive attacker approaches you. The drill goes like this: the attacker pushes the defender with a kick shield, the defender falls to the ground and performs a break fall, the attacker then walks towards the defender, the defender stabilizes themselves and kicks at the attackers knees (of course protected by the kick shield), keeping them at distance, and then gets up, facing the attacker in a fighting stance. My situation was that my partner pushed me with the kick shield, but, as I performed my break fall, stood 4 feet away from me and didn’t move in. So it was impossible for me to complete the technique because my partner was a) in the wrong place and b) standing static not moving forward; all because they didn’t listen to the explanation of the drill by the instructor.
There is somewhat of an art to holding pads well, and it does take a little time to learn, but there are some basics that you need to grasp; not just to give the best experience to your partner, but also to avoid injuries (yours or theirs).
The two main types of pads we use are focus mitts and kick shields, so I will
Kick shields, as the name implies, are typically used for striking with legs and feet. The key with this type of pad is to hold it tight and close to your body. People have a tendency to try holding this type of pad off their body, assuming that the shield will absorb all the force, but what really happens is the shield is slammed back against your body. This also allows for a lot of movement in the shield and often results is your partner’s kicking foot sliding off at an unexpected angle; possibly hitting you and/or causing a ankle or knee injury to your partner. (Expanded post here)
Providing a Realistic Attack
Providing a realistic attack is another key to being a good partner. If you are training to block a punch to the head I’m not suggesting you try and knock your partner out, but if they do nothing, or offer a weak block, you should make light contact with their chin, nose, or cheek bone (depending on where you were aiming). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve faced punches that were falling short (by several inches) or landing way out to either side of my head. This is obviously not a realistic attack. As a result I have to perform a different movement to “defend” the attack, and this isn’t the muscle memory I want to train. Similarly, if you are putting chokes or holds onto your partner use enough force that they have to fight to get out of it. If you offer no resistance to the defense they are training they will be stuck wondering why its not working, and probably really shocked at how it feels, if it ever happens in real life. (Expanded post here)
Watch Your Distance
Everyone’s range is different, and all of your natural weapons (legs, elbows, kicks, knees, punches, headbutts, etc.) have different ranges. You need to match your range to the range of your partner and what they need for the weapons they are using. So, if you are working with someone much taller or shorter than you, don’t stand where your range is, stand at, or hold the pads at, their range; so they can correctly train the strikes they are practicing. It is also important to maintain this range when we train in a dynamic mode; if your partner moves in, move back to match, if they move back, move in to match.
Watch Your Power
Power control is one of our most important training concepts, especially when sparring but also when working with pads or holds and grappling. Often, rules set out a 10-15% power limit, but, if you are much larger or stronger than your partner, remember that your 15% is likely more than theirs. So, try to let your partner set the power level if they are smaller or less experienced. Likewise, if you are using pads and unload on a kick shield held by someone 40lb smaller than you, you will probably send them flying across the room. (Expanded post here)
I will elaborate further on each of these points in subsequent blog posts, but the basics are here. If you want to be a good training partner, and always have people happy and wanting to train with you; turn up, listen to your instructors, hold your pads wisely, provide realistic attacks, watch your distance, and watch your power.
And please, for anyone that trains with me, please call me out if I’m not being a good training partner. I promise I won’t take it personally.
Written by: Evan J
UTKM: Yellow Belt