While martial arts is a journey of self-discovery and self-actualization, it is a path that does not always have to be walked alone.  Much benefit can be gained from one’s cooperative training efforts with fellow martial artists.  Having a good regular training partner  can provide extra motivation and insight into one’s own martial journey.

What makes a good training partner

A good training partner provides constructive challenge without excessive injury.

A good training partner is someone who raises you up without killing you.  That probably sounds a little over the top, so let me explain.  It is my humble belief that one learns best when one challenges one’s self.  Completing easy tasks may be ego gratifying, but one rarely learns much from completing what one can already readily do.  On the other hand, one generally learns much from pushing one’s self hard to complete more difficult tasks that seem almost beyond one’s ability.  The same is true for training partners.

Let’s say one has a sparring partner.  If that partner just stands there and let’s one kick away on him or her, one probably isn’t going to learn much from that partner, but if that partner readily moves with one’s kicks and punches and makes landing blows and grabs difficult, then it’s much more difficult for one to succeed, and one must force one’s self to perform better in order to do well.  The more challenging a partner is, the greater an opportunity there is for one to learn from that partner.

Anything can be overdone.  If one’s sparring partner spars so aggressively so as to badly injure one, that’s not very helpful.  Bad injuries force one off the training floor and to focus on bodily recovery instead of technique development.  So like I said, a good training partner who raises you up without killing you (aka without injuring you too badly).

A Real Life Example

Since Mr. Alessi is superior to me in both rank and technique, it would not be appropriate for me to call him a training partner since that term might imply that I am at or near the same level that he is.  I have trained a fair amount with Mr. Alessi both in and out of class, and I have learned a lot from training with him.

I first met Mr. Alessi shortly after I earned my 1st Dan, and could attend blackbelt class.  Mr. Alessi trained (and still trains) hard.  At that time, he trained so hard in class that hardly anyone wanted to be his partner due to the bruises and crushed ego one would feel afterward.  For some reason, I (the rookie) regularly chose to be his in class partner.

At first it was rough because I usually left class with sore joints and some bodily trauma.  I had never before had such an intense partner in class.  I was miserable at first.

However, after many bruises and some time passed, I found that I was quickly growing to be a more and more focused martial artist.  Because Mr. Alessi was such a tough in-class partner, I was forced to train harder and become stronger than I had been before.  I was motivated to train harder in order to survive being his partner (that statement is intended to be humorous, but it was a real motivation at the time).  While I at first dreaded being Mr. Alessi’s partner because it hurt so much, I eventually came to look forward to training with him because I knew that I would learn a lot from him and be forced to grow as a martial artist.

Mr. Alessi and I still train together regularly after blackbelt class.  We currently focus on forms (a much less painful topic) and I still learn lots from his keen eye for technique and his honest opinion.  That’s another important trait of a training partner: someone who will constructively inform you when something about your technique could use improvement.  Thank you Mr. Alessi for always being such a great person to train with!

Conclusion

There are some things in one’s martial arts training that must be done alone.  At the same time, there are many opportunities for cooperative training with fellow martial artists that can bring new insight and motivation into one’s own training.  Is there anyone who challenges you to become a better martial artist, and how good of a training partner are you towards the people you train with?

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9 comments

  1. I think you made a great point here, I have had similar experiences through years of training and different styles of martial arts. I have gottten to the point were I look forward to the more diffcult times of class since that means I am working harder and pushing myself.

    If you do not mind, what style do you train in?

    1. Hi,
      I’m replying on Walsh’s behalf since it seems he hasn’t replied to you yet! Thanks for your comment! We learned a great catch phrase related to this subject at our Winter Retreat. Sensei Gardner used the phrase…”always fight uphill,” meaning use class time (where it’s safe to experiment and make mistakes) to push yourself and practice things that are really difficult (or use a difficult partner).

      Thanks also for your question, and no…we don’t mind – we love questions! All of us train in Shin Ho Kwan Taekwondo- at least for Hagsaeng Neawbu (some of us practice other arts on our own time).

      Thanks again for you comments and questions!

      1. Thank you, and it seems that the most important battles can only be fought up hill.

        That sounds like an interesting name for the style, is it a traditional style rather than a more recent adaption?

    2. Mindofyan,

      I’m sorry that Master Shaffer beat me to responding to you. For some reason, my email did not notify me of your comment. Please accept my apologies.

      Thank you very much for reading our blog. As Master Shaffer said, we all primarily train in Shin Ho Kwan Taekwondo, and our Instructor, Master Pearson, encourages us to broaden our experience by studying in other arts as well.

      It sounds like you’re an experienced martial artist. What art or arts do you currently study in?

      1. No worries, where does shin ho kwan taekwondo originate?
        I study WTF TaeKwonDo, Pai-Lum Kung Fu, and Kajukenpo. I also think that it is crucial to train in multiple fields of martial arts in order to be a well rounded martial artist.

      2. As Master Pearson said, to get the full scoop on Shin Ho Kwan, follow the link he provided above.

        I think it’s cool you study all those arts. I just started learning about Kajukenbo the other day; it seems like a pretty neat art. An earlier post of mine talked about me coming across it.

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