Training Partners in Martial Arts

The most important piece of ‘equipment’ anyone can have is the training partner. Understanding your needs as a martial artist and the qualities required of a training partner is of great importance. Your needs can vary and if your current partner is not meeting them you have to take steps to change the situation. Awareness of the different types of partner is a good start in understanding them. In this article we will place them in the following categories, external and internal.


This is the guy you train with on a day to day basis. They come in many forms, some good and some not so good. The good guys are the ones you choose to work out with regularly. The bad guys are the ones you end up with when there is no one else left in class. In this context when we say ‘bad’ we are not talking about skill level but attitude. Their attitude is out of sync and therefore not conducive to learning. You know the type, every time your instructor shows you what to do this guy shows you his improved or modified version. As if it’s not enough to remember what task the main man has set for you. The guys that do this, by the way, usually do it because they cannot perform the original technique. I will try to offer a piece of advice for both parties if this situation does arise.

Good guys bite your tongue but not too hard because this partner has probably caused you enough pain already. Don’t get into conversation with him. When it’s your turn use your body language to tell him you are ready for him to feed the required shots. Remain focused on your aim and use the situation as an exercise to strengthen your patience. Also use this guy as an ‘anti-role model’ and visualise not being like him under any circumstance. Finally don’t forget to pick up some painkillers on the way home and give him a wide berth next session.

Bad guys consider this, we call it the three ‘As’ Accept, Apply, Adapt.

Accept is the first stage. If you don’t accept what your instructor is saying find another one. Stick with this process and if the non- acceptance is a character fault of yours, you will ultimately bounce around in this state for the rest of your life. Good luck, lonely man. You have to trust what the instructor is saying because he has more experience than you. You cannot see yet. Follow your guide and have faith.

The second stage is Apply. Work with the information and train it just as it was set down. Apply the skills under varying degrees of pressure over a period of time. Once you have a deep undertsanding of the principles you can then progress to the third stage.

Stage three is Adapt. If you’re a real know it all, you won’t be reading this now but good luck anyway. Adapt and tweak the information to suit your individual needs. How can you adapt skills or information that you really didn’t understand simply because you were too pigheaded and ignorant to listen in the first place. Let’s face it guys, who’s the idiot, the guy who tries to develop what he went to learn or the guy who pays for a class and does his own thing anyway? Just do what you are told and stop clowning around with other people’s time in order to feed your own ego.

You should have various training partners on the physical level. On the skill level quota they may be above or below you which is irrelevant as long as they are reliable, motivated and possess a good work ethic. Don’t endure excuse makers because they will constantly chip away at your energy levels.


The internal partner is the one who is with you all the time. Those little voices and pictures inside your head can, if used correctly, be one of your greatest assets. One of the biggest areas of growth in the field of sports science is applied sports psychology. Techniques such as modelling and visualisation are the accepted norm. These skills have been used in the martial arts for centuries. One example would be the

Filipino shadow boxing drill called Carrenza. Instead of this drill being performed solely for warming up and body mechanics exercise they use a deep form of visualisation. If you were to be practising your sword and dagger skills on a real training partner you would need a new partner for each repetition. Using vivid imagery whilst training day to day helped them prepare for the battlefield. This skill along with modelling, reflective thinking and fear control are a few of the areas where your One final point on the external partner. Have a game plan ready to put into action just in case they do not show. By doing this you will not waste time thinking about what to do next. Kick into your backup plan rather internal training partner could be of service to you.

We will consider some of these issues in future articles but for now have a look around and see what is on offer for yourselves. You cannot be given everything on a plate, do something for yourself.

Don’t let that little voice in your head influence you in a negative way. Develop your resilience by only feeding off the positive. The negative voice is not a training partner but an opponent. Learning to deal with this opponent is the first step towards your growth as a martial artist and as an individual.

If you have got this far with this column do me a favour, pass it back to the guy who stopped reading halfway through because he couldn’t face looking in the mirror.

Good luck with your training and training partners.

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