Work With Your Partner, Instead of Against

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In my years of training, I have worked with a lot of different partners while practicing just about everything. While working with partners, I have observed a few things that consistently result in getting the most value out of working with a partner.

The one thing that seems to be lost on too many people is that you get more out of working with your partner than you get out of working against them. What I mean by this is that it is your responsibility as a good partner to scale the amount of resistance, speed, and contact based on who you are working with. Partner training is for mutual benefit, it is not a competition, so don’t treat it as such.

Being a Bad Partner

If you want to be the worst partner you can be, you will do everything you can to shut down your partner. You will make it difficult for them to succeed by using any superiority you can muster to prevent them from practicing the prescribed technique. If possible you will injure your partner so they can’t continue training, or make them fearful to continue practicing with you.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that by preventing your partner from practicing what they intend to practice, they aren’t going to improve. By making things difficult right from the get-go, they have no way to make gradual improvement. And by hurting them, you can frustrate their ability or desire to continue training, especially with you.

Being a Good Partner

To be a good partner it comes down to avoiding the above traits. A good partner scales the difficulty for their partner. Especially if you are technically or physically superior to your partner, it is your responsibility to gradually increase the pressure. You want to challenge your partner, but never overwhelm them. Your partner will only improve if they can overcome the resistance. Similarly, if you intend to get stronger by lifting weights, you won’t accomplish this by stacking them so heavy on your chest that you can’t move them.

A good partner tries not to hurt their partner for two reasons. Firstly, an injured partner who can’t train means that you cannot train. Bummer. Secondly, if you take advantage of your partner and constantly hurt them, they may become too timid to train with you. Especially when working with a beginner, pain can lead to fear. Fear results in poor technique or avoidance in general. Even worse, the fearful partner will avoid training with you, which is often more to your detriment than theirs.

In my youth when I was training to fight in competition, I spent roughly 30 minutes a week free sparring nonstop. I learned a lot during this training, but only because I was working with a good partner. We worked on speed, technique, and strategy, but left the majority of the contact out. This allowed me to work on incorporating new skills as I was learning them without fear of injury. Sure it would take a few tries to take a new skill and make it work against a live opponent, but I could work on it knowing that my opponent wouldn’t capitalize and try to hurt me. Working with a partner is a great way to improve your abilities, but only if you make every effort to work together.

Have you had to work with bad partners? What made them such bad partners? Post a comment and share your experiences with us!

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