Often I’ll tell my students “Change partners!” during class. Why? Because it’s good for all of us. In this article, I list seven benefits of changing and working with different partners.
I’ve been meaning to post about the importance of working with different partners in class for awhile. Recently, Andrea Harkins did a terrific post on “15 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Martial Art.”
Number 6 on her list of errors is “working with the same partner all the time.” Andrea nailed it in her short exposition on why it’s a not a good idea to train with the same partner over and over. I’m going to expand on this.
Modern Arnis and many martial arts rely heavily on partner based drills. There are several reasons why working with the same partner over and over is not beneficial. Working with the same partner is detrimental in that does not allow you to stretch your horizons and consider the different possibilities. The more partners you work with, the more prepared you will be if that moment ever comes.
The Reasons for Changing Partners:
(1) Broaden your knowledge base: You get familiar with a wider range of movement regarding timing, speed, and rhythm. Different people move differently. Not all have the same speed, strength or timing. The more partners you work with, the deeper your knowledge base becomes.
(2) Antidote to “going through the motions:” Changing partners is a great antidote to “going through the motions” with a familiar partner. I have seen partners who are too familiar with each other, and they socialize instead of practicing. As a result, they are going through the motions. Obviously, this is not beneficial to either partner. To me, that’s worse than doing nothing.
(3) Different sizes: By sticking with the same training partner, they deny themselves the opportunity to train with different sized people. Folks differ in height, weight, reach, and strength. If you’re working with a 5’6″ partner all the time, how are you going to handle a person who is 6’4″? If you don’t avail yourself of the opportunity of working with different partners, then you will not know how to adjust various techniques of the various sized partners.
(4) Puzzles: Some partners who may unintentionally present problems to you that you have to figure out. Training partners who are stiff and muscle their way through techniques is a good example. Often they are not aware that they are not relaxed. While an instructor or a senior partner may point this out to them, it is sometimes beneficial to figure out how to deal with this issue. How do you find the path of least resistance when encountering this type of energy? Training with different people presents opportunities to figure out how to work with this energy, find openings and use it against them. If you train with the same partner, you get used to their compliance or their energy. Needless to say, this is not exactly beneficial.
(5) Different variations of the same technique: Even though they are practicing the same techniques, you may be seeing slightly different versions of the same technique. You may end up saying to yourself “Hmmm, I like this variation; let’s experiment with this.” You may learn different things from different partners. Sometimes, they trigger an inspiration in you. “Oh, I just thought of something!” Don’t deny yourself this opportunity.
(6) Experienced partner: Working with an experienced partner may present different challenges than working with a beginner. The experienced partner may present you with changes in the timing or speed of a technique that might throw you off. Thus, this is an opportunity to learn the deeper nuances of a technique that you thought you knew. Or the experienced player may correct you on one or several aspects of a technique. Take advantage of the other person’s experience.
(7) Beginner student: Working with a beginner presents a different set of opportunities. First and foremost is the opportunity to teach. You begin to acquire teaching skills, either through trial and error or with guidance from an instructor. When you teach the beginner, you are also teaching yourself. I can tell you from experience that I have learned much more from teaching than from being a student. Much more than that, the beginner student will get to know you and like you!
By insisting that the students change and work with different partners also has the benefit of improving relationships in the class as the students get to know each other. It also helps to expand their knowledge base and understanding of the concepts and techniques of the martial art they are studying. Also, by seeing the different attributes that different folks bring to the table, they can also see which of their attributes need to improve.