This is one of the most important areas of our training and one of the things that sets our training apart from other martial arts. While training in To-Shin Do you are not working on memorizing a series of movements that can be done by yourself. You are learning to understand the cause and effect interplay of two or more people in a conflict. That means that your training partner is as important, if not more so, in your training.
So how do you make sure you are the best training partner you can be? First is the understanding of cooperation versus competition. You are not in an adversarial relationship with your training partner. You are not trying to defeat them. You are working with them to understand the cause and effect of a dangerous situation so that you can both improve your understanding of how to survive.
This doesn’t mean you are making the technique work for them or ‘giving it’ to them as many inexperienced martial artists sometimes think. As the attacker in the training it is your job to give as accurate energy as you can while maintaining safety. This is done with focus.
Too often when training attackers don’t actually focus on their job. Which is to hit or grab their training partner according to the technique being worked on, and then to continue to focus their attack back at the person doing the technique. The easiest way to do this is simply by picking a target and being sure your chin is aiming at that target. After the first attack is defended often all that is needed is for you to turn your chin back to your training partner to focus on them and you will be providing the correct energy.
The hardest part of doing this is that you know how your training partner is going to respond and if you don’t stay focused on your job within the technique you begin to adjust. This is usually when the inexperienced will say things like well I could stop you here or this wouldn’t work here. The problem is that in a real fight they wouldn’t know what you are doing and the what-if scenarios they bring up wouldn’t happen. Stay focused on your job, it is a form of moving meditation.
Now we reach the tricky area of providing feedback as a training partner. I see people, especially when they are working with a lower ranked student, trying to help by telling the person what to do. There are so many problems with this. The first being that it takes time to understand how to teach others and a large portion of that understanding is knowing what not to say and when not to say it.
Often what happens is that the person trying to help doesn’t realize that what they are telling the student was meant for them and not everyone else. When I make corrections or suggestions to a student they are often specifically for that student based on where they are in their training at that moment. So when I hear them sharing those ideas with some new student who shouldn’t be dealing with those concepts so early I cringe and then have to step in and refocus both students on what they should be doing at that moment.
So what should you be sharing with your training partner? The effects of what they just did. The goal of every technique is to create a certain effect on the uke or attacker. What your training partner needs is feedback on what you felt when they attempted the technique, not what you think they should do. And if you are both still confused or not getting the concepts, ask the instructor.
This is all part of communication between you and your training partner. You must communicate with each other to be sure that you are working on the same thing, at the same speed and at the same time. It is absolutely okay to say I want to slow down or just work on this part because I’m having difficulty. The goal is to understand the interaction between you and your training partners and if you aren’t in agreement on what the goal is because you haven’t communicated it makes it very difficult.
Finally remember that your training partners are your greatest assets to understanding our art, so their and your safety is paramount. Train safe so you can keep training.
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