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  • D. Branchaud

How to be a great training partner!

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

A good training partner can make all the difference when it comes to making practice safe, productive and enjoyable. And, of course, when everyone shows up prepared and participates wholeheartedly everyone experiences a better class.

Basically, it all comes down to respect.

Here we go…

1. Show up.

The best way to keep up is to show up. And the only way you can serve as a training partner is by being on the mats.

2. Be on time.

Be on the mats before class begins. The initial line-up is when I refine my class plan for the specific people in the room. If you want to be part of the plan you need to be in the room when the plan is made.

3. Attend the right classes.

If you have trouble keeping up you might want to switch to a class that moves at a slower pace or spends more time on the material you are having difficulty with.

4. Hygiene.

We are practicing a cultural art and certain formalities are part of our practice. In Japan, the group harmony is of utmost consideration. Cleanliness and presentation are ways that we demonstrate respect, readiness and seriousness. It is also how we keep our practice sanitary.

Come to class with a clean uniform, clean breath, and a clean body. Sweating is okay, body odor is not. If you are attending more than one class in a single evening consider bringing an additional kimono to change into. Keep some breath mints in your gym bag. Of course, wash your hands thoroughly after using the rest room. Comb your hair! I once saw Odo Sensei, my karate teacher, banish a black belt level student (permanently) for stepping onto the Dojo floor when his feet weren't clean. It wasn't pretty!

5. Never, ever, come to class if you are sick, have a cold, think you might be coming down with something, or have any other malady that may be shared. Just don’t.

6. Don’t over-coach. Provide helpful feedback when appropriate, but avoid over-correcting your partner. Give them space to work and think.

7. Develop your ukemi. Don’t fall if you don’t need to. Don’t begin your ukemi prematurely. React, don’t anticipate. Be loose. The better your ukemi, the faster and more realistically your partner can practice nage (throws).

8. Work at a level appropriate for your partner and the class that you are in. Observe your partner carefully. When holding targets or practicing techniques try to improve your sense of speed, distance and timing. Be present. You are trying to learn to read people.

These practices help to preserve order, maintain safety and good health, and set the tone for training. They are some of the things that separate a Dojo from a gym. Formality and discipline set the tone for a good training experience for everyone in the room.

See you on the mats!

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