The Opposing View

      art_opponent1When you’re practicing with a partner you may ask yourself, what am I supposed to be doing? and what’s the best way to do it? Actually, partnering can be anything along a spectrum from completely docile and even flaccid to the other end of the range: uncooperative and rigid.

This will, of course, vary not only with individuals but from school to school. When you think about it, it’s an important skill, being the right kind of opponent for martial training. In fact, in some sports, such as Judo, the wrong kind of opponent can be downright dangerous.

art_opponent4The perfect partner for martial training has a number of attributes. The first of these is not to be too smart. That means that if you are the ”bad guy”, and you have to throw 10 punches at your partner, then you must not learn from these, anticipating the direction of his technique. If you do learn his “pattern” you will, consciously or not, neutralize his practice.  After a few wraps you will strike out to where he is going to be, instead of where he is. This is hardy surprising since you have been standing there listening to the teacher’s instruction, too. Unless the class is training in how to fight a telepath, this is not helpful behavior. So the “opponent” throws the same punch over and over without adaptation.

art_opponent5Tart_opponent3he next problem is to make sure that you don’t cancel your partner’s application by counter-blocking. This “covering” means blocking or checking all the movements of his self-defense technique (which, remember, you have also been taught.) After all, he’s not really trying to strike you, so you shouldn’t stick your hands into his work zone and foul up his application. Don’t practice checking patterns while he’s going through his strikes. If you want to practice checking, do it with him when you spar.

On the other side of the stable, don’t be too limp. An opponent who grabs a wrist then releases it, flinching at the slightest sign of action, is not playing an opponent in the first place; no help at all.

art_opponent7Another member is what we might call the passive-aggressive opponent, a combination of the last too varieties. This is the opponent who grabs you too lightly then springs into a defensive attitude the moment you start working your technique. His switching from the aggressor to the defensive mode kills all the momentum of your technique, and disallows many follow-up possibilities. This bottled up, neither of youart_opponent2 can do a thing. This opponent defends himself on your nickel, when he should be pressing the attack a bit more so you have energy to work with.

Who is a good opponent? First, you need someone willing to carry out the plan and not go off into his own private world of impromptu movement. It’s good to have someone who attacks clearly, without trying to use his repeated knowledge to mess up your practice. When you have both gained confidence in one another your opponent can begin to step up the strength, the resistance and even attempt counters to your movement, helping to call forth better and better skills on both your parts.

One of my teachers used to say that fighting practice should be, at least in the beginning, a circuit between two people. Heedless striking, inducing pain, or just messing things up can break the circuit. Having to re-establish enough trust to continue working between the two players in this situation may waste valuable training time.

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