Posts Tagged ‘training partners’

Realistic attacks prevent your partner from developing a false sense of their abilities.
Audio by Jonathan Fader

As I mentioned few times in this series, and in my original “Are You a Good Training Partner” post, providing a realistic attack is very important for martial arts training. Being able to provide that for your partner is an important component in learning proper techniques and of being a good partner in general. This post will focus on how to go about providing such attacks.

Safety, as always, is extremely important, as is communication, so coming out of the gates swinging and throwing your first attack of the drill like a raging bull, is probably a bad idea. However, once you have those first couple of attacks out of the way and each person is comfortable with the movements involved in the defence, it’s time to up the intensity and speed (ie. realism) of your attacks. Always let your partner know you are going to be notching it up, and understand how to do so in a safe manner, which can mean different things for different attacks.

Let’s start with striking:

Upping the intensity doesn’t mean trying to knock your partner out, but should definitely involve increasing the speed of your attacks. It’s important to learn these adjustments while still keeping the power low; you can punch or kick quickly without throwing your whole power into the strike. Some people refer to this as “pulling your punches,” I prefer to think of it as pretending to hit a brick wall; you know you don’t want to hit it with all your might (as you will likely break your hand), but you can still hit it quickly and solidly.

Keeping on target is also important. I learned early on in my Krav career that if you do nothing, or fail at the defence, you should get hit. So the strikes need to be directed at their intended targets (chin, nose, knee, groin, etc) or the movements needed to defend against the strike will be different from how they would be in reality, and this isn’t effective training. People sometimes get into the habit of knowing how the defence is supposed to work, and as a result start throwing punches to where they end up after they have been deflected rather than where they should be landing. If I’m supposed to be parrying a punch to the head, but you punch to the side of my head, how do I know if my parry will really work?

Grabs and holds:

With grabs and holds I have found that once you have put the defender in the hold with enough force that they must struggle, I simply lock my arms or legs into place and resist movement rather than applying more pressure. This allows you to really make the person fight to get out, without risking hurting them, or choking them out in the case of headlocks and chokes. Of course, the nuance of this depends on the sizes of the two partners or size difference between them.

Speed can also be important here, as in Krav we practice both avoiding getting put into the hold, as well as how to get out if we fail at the first task. So, when attempting to put someone into a hold, like with striking, do it quickly, in order to imitate a real life situation. The jarring force this can produce is also important, as it’s a stimulus that can disrupt and off-balance someone, which is an important factor both in the training your defence technique and preparing you for the stress of real life attacks (an important aspect of effective training).

Lastly, once you have quickly, and with enough force, put your partner into the desired hold or lock, try to keep it on. Really make your partner struggle and work the problem. If you just remove all force once they start to escape you aren’t really helping them build technique and prepare for a real life encounters.

Finaly get verbal:

This is something that I find is very lacking in a lot of partners. Just think back to the last time you were in class and things were either calm and quiet or people were laughing and having fun… did you really feel like you were defending yourself? Hey, I get it, it is great to have fun at training and everyone should feel safe and comfortable there, but just as we like to imitate a real life scenario with the attacks and force used, physical attacks almost always come with a verbal component. People don’t often walk up to you silently and throw a punch at you.

This also offers you a chance to practice your stage 2 self-defence, de-escalation. Again, this can be a very uncomfortable stimulus, so it is essential that you be aware of how it feels. I have startled training partners simply by yelling HEY or ARGHHH at them; this verbal action was enough to disrupt there defence. Similarly, imitating the behavior of drunk, high, or deranged people can also be a beneficial training component.

Again, making people feel safe and comfortable is very important, so communication is very much key here, but it is a part of training that should not be ignored. I have found that people I have trained with for a while, and am very comfortable with, understand the importance and we were able to get quite aggressive with each other, really simulating some distressing street situations.

Putting all this together can make for some really great training, but, most importantly, you need to communicate with your partner so that everyone feels safe, comfortable, and knows the benefit of the added realism.

Written by Evan J (UTKM Yellow Belt)

Audio by Jonathan Fader

As I have mentioned earlier in my series on being a good training partner, it is important that people feel comfortable while training, but also that they are challenged. If you have trained with Jon (UTKM Co-founder/Lead Instructor) for any period of time, you have probably heard him say “you can’t cheat physics.” This is true, and it becomes especially important to remember for the bigger, more athletic, members of the class, though can be just as important for the new, inexperienced students, so I will tackle this topic with these two groups in mind.

If you are a bigger person, let’s say 82kg (180lb) and above, you should be aware that, even without putting in a lot of effort your, body can generate a lot of power. I mean, have you ever had someone much bigger than you bump into you by accident? Even if they really didn’t mean it, you feel it. So it is important that if you are in this size range you remain hyper-aware of your body dynamics (force of movement, speed of movement, range of motion, etc.) while striking, obviously, but also during grappling techniques, placing people in holds or control, and any time your body mass comes into contact with another person. The concerns are amplified exponentially as the size difference between training partners increases; ie. a larger than average person with a smaller than average person. So how do we work around this issue?

  1. Think Critically – Be aware that it can be a problem, and why! If you’re training with a 80lb‘er, simply saying “It’s not my fault! I barley touched them!” as they go flying across the room, doesn’t cut it. YES, IT IS YOUR FAULT!! (And, NO, the problem isn’t that they “just aren’t tough enough.”) Don’t take it personally (we’re not calling you fat), you simply failed to consider that physics matters. So, stop and consider who you’re training with and realize that this may be an issue, then adjust accordingly.
  2. Communicate – “Hey, let me know if I’m going too hard” or “how hard do you want to go?” are great ways to open the conversation. As you train with people more regularly you will get a feel for what each person can handle, as well as what they are comfortable with. Again, with communication comes the understanding that you will likely have to be the one to do the adjusting; if there is a size difference the bigger person has to accommodate the smaller. It’s not personal in either direction, it’s just physics.
    • Communicate More! – Information flows both ways; smaller people must speak up if their partner is going harder than they are comfortable with. This applies even if there isn’t a size difference, as a disparity in your skill level or the presence of an injury will also necessitate more caution and really diligent power control. If there is any concern that your partner should be aware of, TELL THEM!
    • Communicate Always! Keep that communication going throughout the session, as you will almost always, with out realizing it, slowly ramp up your power. Checking in is a good thing for both parties; it maintains safety and gives your partners the chance to tell you if they are ready for a bit more “heat.”
  3. Ease Into It – Respect the fact that, be it skill, strength, or toughness, your standards are not everyone else’s. Go extra light and then notch it up ’til every one is comfortable. What does going “light” or “extra light” mean? Well, for example, if you’re striking, limit the amount of power you put behind your strikes. This doesn’t have to mean sacrificing speed or form, just dial back the power like you would if you were shaking a small child’s hand vs shaking The Rock‘s; how you go about it doesn’t change, just the power. Similarly, when engaging in grabs and holds let your partner struggle. Start with the just the minimum amount of power to really make them work through the technique. As they improve, your pressure and “realism” should increase. You will figure out pretty quickly what your partner is capable of (and learning to feel for an opponent’s reactions is an important skill for you!) This can also apply to pad holding: We do many drills where you, as the pad holder, are required to activate or engage the your partner by bumping, tapping, or pushing them with the pad, so be gentle ’til you establish the right amount of “bump” required.

All of the above apply to grappling as well. Try not to rely on your size as a weapon! Muscling your way to victory may feel good, but always applying strength to overpower an opponent prevents you from improving your actual skill with the techniques. Some day you will encounter someone stronger than you…

Then there is the other part of the equation.

If you are new to martial arts, even if you’re small or training with a bigger, more experienced person, coming out guns blazing, before you have learnt correct technique, can pose it’s own problems. Whether this behaviour leads to injury to yourself, by putting stress on your joints in positions that they are not able to handle, or results in sacrificing learning of the proper technique because you are moving too fast or just muscling your way through a problem, your training suffers. I have said this new people more times than I can count; “Slow down.” Take it easy until you understand the movement, then slowly up the speed, power, and intensity, as your skill increases. This also reduces the (very likely) chance that you will injure your partner by throwing an uncoordinated attack that goes nowhere near where the drill intended it to.

So what can you do to mitigate inexperience? Well, same as above:

  1. Think Critically – Accept the fact that you are new, and be aware that being overly enthusiastic can be a problem. All of us started out looking like crap throwing our first few punches. No one is judging you (and if they are, find a different school, because these people aren’t into learning or teaching!) You are just new, keep that in mind and adjust your expectations for how classes are going to look for you for a little while. Self-defence, fighting, and violence in general, are a foreign concept for most people, give yourself the time to learn.
  2. Communicate – “Hey, I’m new, bear with me while I get the hang of this” or “ I’ve never done this technique, let me know if I’m doing something wrong”. People aren’t going to run away from you because your new, nor will they judge or make fun of you, so tell them. You will get a lot more out of the session if you are up front with your training partner and keep communication going, ask questions, look at what they do and ask them why they do it like that or how it works.
  3. Relax – Take into consideration everything above; adjust your expectations and allow the process to work. Breathe, slow down, and focus on the technique, there will be a time and place for adding in aggression, power, and intensity, but let that time come naturally don’t force it.

All of this is very important to keep everyone in the gym safe, comfortable, and progressing through the learning process. But don’t fall into the trap of making things too easy and not challenging your partner. I will cover the nuances of this in more detail in my next post; Providing a Realistic Attack.

Written by Evan J (UTKM Yellow Belt)

 

Choosing the wrong training partner could have disastrous consequences (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader w/additions

Recently, we have been doing a series on injury in martial arts, from the emotional aspect to recovery. In this one we are going to discuss one way to help in preventing injuries.

That is learning to pick the right partner.

The reason for this is the right partner can make your training experience even better, whereas the wrong partner can make injuries can happen. In Krav Maga and other martial arts there is phenomenon referred to as the “spastic white belt”. These are individuals who are chaotic in their movements or they are much bigger than others and try to muscle through everything (even if they do not know it the technique). This odd species of new student is common in any gym, and, while it is ultimately the instructor’s job to manage them, you have to watch out for them and know how to protect yourself. You are, after all, an adult; thus you can make adult decisions.

This means, when it comes time to pick a partner, know who you would like to be with to optimize your training.

Of course, if you are new then the Instructor should be assigning you a more experienced student to work with, in order to help guide you in the process. Although sometimes it’s simply the luck of the draw, as the instructor has no control over who shows up to any one class.

Beyond that, when an instructor says “find a partner” that’s when you need to act swiftly to pair with a person (or persons) who you know you can train effectively with. Often what happens when the students are told to get a partner everyone kind of looks around and waits, but this is how you often end up being “picked last,” and getting stuck with someone you, and everyone else, didn’t want to be with.

If you are lucky the instructor will be on point and notice your discomfort, or they don’t like the pairing, due to size or skill, and will change it for you. However, once again, you are an adult and there is only one instructor, so partner picking really becomes about ownership and taking responsibility for this very important task.

What things should you consider:

  1. Have you trained with them before? – This sounds obvious but it isn’t always. If you have trained with someone before and you are comfortable with them, then try to partner with them quickly. Or if you have trained with someone before and you didn’t enjoy it then try to avoid them (as politely as possible). Of course, if there is a big issue or a valid concern, make sure to talk to your instructor. In general, you want to partner with people you are comfortable with, so that you are relaxed and focused while learning, and therefore can train properly.
  2. Have you seen them training before? – If you have not trained with a person, then have you seen them train with others? If not, then ask yourself “were you practicing proper situational awareness?” If you were, then you should have some idea if they are a good option for you based on their actions, and the reactions of their past partners.
  3. Is their size and skill appropriate to the drill? – Unless the instructor has specifically asked you to train with someone much larger than you, then, especially as a beginner, it might be better to partner with someone who isn’t too big or too small. For some activities, like holding pads, size and skill won’t matter as much (unless they are a heavy weight, in which case it might not matter who holds the pads, it still hurts). Other techniques, like bear hugs or grabs, will be difficult at first if the person is to big and strong compared to you. When you are starting out you need to get the technical aspects down first before you can “go ham” with full aggression.
  4. Do they have a “reputation” at the school? – Have you heard people complain about this person’s power control? Have you been warned to watch out for them in certain context, eg. sparring? Are they known for going to hard or not following drills correctly? Forewarned is forearmed! Some people may be great to drill with, but in sparring they can’t control their power, some just don’t get the basics of holding pads. In any case, bring it to the attention of the instructor if the situation doesn’t improve or is dangerous.

Of course, at the end of the day, some people just need a bit of work and help to be good partners. Most people don’t want to do things wrong, and they certainly don’t want to earn the title “spastic white belt” and become pariahs in their gym. It could be that a few minutes before or after class is all it takes to clue someone in about how to hold pads, why a drill flows a certain way, or how to figure out pulling punches/kicks. Helping someone improve, or informing them of something they didn’t realize they were doing incorrectly will benefit them, you, and the rest of the students. While this is largely up to the instructor, again, if you are an adult, working on your communication skills with your training partners is important. It is, after all, a very important aspect of stage 1 and 2 self-defence.

Either way, mastering the art of picking a partner and/or building your partners up is more important than you think. After all, without good training partners you will not develop at the rate you want. Or worse, injury might be in your future if you pick the wrong partner. So, think hard, communicate effectively, learn to spot those who work for you as a partner, and get to them quickly for training.

Written by: Jonathan Fader