What is a training support structure? Your training support structure is the combination of your peers and mentors that help you to progress in your training, maximizing benefits while hopefully minimizing costs. Your support structure might consist of instructors who you train with regularly or periodically, peers you discuss the ups and downs of your training with, and your training partners who help you push yourself past your limits and provide active resistance and pressure to your training.
Why You Need a Training Support Structure
Some disciplines directly require support. Jiu-jitsu or wrestling for example are very dependent on training partners. Sure you could learn something in a book or on a DVD, but without a breathing opponent to help learn and test your new skills, you are unlikely to progress very far.
Other disciplines such as shooting don’t necessarily require a training partner. You can head to the range and shoot without someone else, right? Sure you could shoot alone all the time, but friendly competition and another set of eyes can do wonders to help you get past a plateau in your training.
A further part of your support structure should be your mentors. Just about anyone can be your mentor, even your shooting buddy or peers in the dojo. That said, seeking out someone who has been or is at where you want to be can help you find your way faster than you might on your own.
What Makes A Strong Support Structure?
The best support structure is going to always consist of 3 things. One, your training partners need to be accessible. If you don’t ever train with your training partners, then they really aren’t your training partners. The same goes for your mentors.
Two, your training partners need to care at least as much as you do. Dragging a new shooter to the range with you is a great thing for the community, for you, and the new shooter;however, your new shooter probably isn’t as interested as you (yet!), and likely doesn’t have enough experience to be of much help as a mentor. You still often can learn as much teaching as you can doing, but keep in mind balance is required. You need time to work on your own skills.
A training partner who can also serve as a mentor is a great thing. Find someone who you know performs better than you in an area you want to improve. The opportunity to watch and ask questions can be invaluable, but if you are lucky they might even give you some pointers.
Finally, there needs to be trust and respect. A partner or mentor who puts you down instead of picking you up isn’t helpful. A mentor you can’t trust to give you good advice is unhelpful. And training partners who hurt you instead of help you in the dojo are a hindrance not a help. A good partner knows how to work with you, not against you.
How To Build or Find a Support Structure
If you want a support structure to help you maximize your training, you need to go look for or build one. Generally speaking they don’t come to you.
If you are learning a martial art, like BJJ for example, your school essentially provides a support structure for you, in the form of both mentoring and peer support. If you shoot on the other hand, you might have to work harder to find support. Local training groups can be a great place to start as are the competitive shooting sports. These groups can provide you with plenty of peers and mentors.
Sometimes you don’t have access to ready-made groups. In those cases you need to make an effort and build your own. Attending classes and seminars can provide you the mentoring part of your support system. Some instructors on the traveling road show make recurring trips to an area. Being consistent with one instructor every year can help because they can see as you progress.
A great example of an instructor like this is Craig Douglas. Many people take his ECQC every year as a way to brush up on and test their skills, and as a result Craig can provide continuing feedback year after year.
These classes can be a great starting point for finding your training partners as well. Network with your fellow participants. Often times they will be local and like minded, making them great training partners. Starting your own group can be a great way to build your own support structure and help others along the way.
Do you have a training support structure? What does it look like, and how did you find or build it?