Thoughts On Training Partners

In the time I’ve been involved in martial arts, I’ve observed students who stop coming to class without an obvious reason. Others move, get or change jobs, or have health issues that interfere with their ability to attend class. I’ve seen a lot, especially kids, gradually lose the excitement they first had about training and end up quitting. All these things have taken away fine students and great people.

Our adult class is made up of a small, core group of students. Most of us have worked together for at least three years and have spent countless hours drilling and sweating together, beating on each other in sparring, working out issues in forms together, talking about successes and frustrations, working through problems. . . etc, etc. I don’t know what it is about our class, but I literally think of my classmates and instructors as family. It’s difficult to lose a family member to those reasons I mentioned above.

It’s even harder when that person is a training partner who you work with frequently. . .

Rachel and I became friends through class. We started seeking each other to partner up with more often as green belts. Color belts tend to find common ground with others their rank as you’re working together on the same things, and we followed suit. When Rachel and I started looking at testing for our blue belts, we began training together outside of class. By nature, I am a more introverted, quiet person. I think and analyze to the nth degree, but I don’t ask many questions and express myself in class as I should. She was my opposite. Extroverted, talkative, and always asking questions. I admired the ease at which she did this. When I would share pent up frustrations, she would always encourage me to go talk to the black belts about them.

We ended up testing for our blue belts a few weeks apart. Training for brown was much more grueling, as brown belt is an Assistant Instructor in our class and standards are very, very high. In December of 2009, we tested for brown together.

Things came up in her life that kept her out of class right after our brown belt test. The first several months were hard. She was no longer there for me to talk to or work with, but I plodded on, hopeful that she would be back when she could.

She hasn’t been able to come back yet. I understand her situation, but I miss her very much. 

I miss her directness. If she had a question, she would ask it at the first opportunity.

I miss being able to vent and talk about class with her.

I miss meeting up to work on a technique or form and helping each other make corrections.

I miss having someone to meet up with period. 

I miss having someone my rank who was right there with me, experiencing the same things at the same  time. Who was working toward the same goal I was. Learning the same thing I was at the same time. It didn’t matter if we learned at different speeds, we helped each other.

I miss sparring her.

I miss having someone to talk martial arts with on a regular basis.

I miss having another adult woman in class.

I miss having someone in class with similar frustrations in sparring.

I miss having someone who would speak first, dig deeper with questions, and encourage me to do the same.

I miss not being able to train together for our red belts and test together.

I miss not being able to train for our first tournament together.

I glance at the doors of the dojang every so often, hoping that I will see her walk in one class. I’m still waiting for that day.

If you have someone who you train with regularly, in and out of class, you are blessed. Treasure the time that you spend working and collaborating with each other and don't take it for granted.

Sunday Training With Our Sister Class

Early on Sunday morning, Mr. G, Mr. M, and I set out visit our sister school. For me, this trip was long overdue, as we had started talking about it after my red belt test on March 8th. As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited about having the opportunity to train with people I haven't really had the chance to work with before - and not in a mixed class environment for once. Just adults.

The three hour car ride went by quickly. I wrote in my journal about Tuesday's class, but mostly listened to my instructors talk. I chimed in every once in a while, but I was happy enough just sitting there in that environment where martial arts was the central topic. I don't have any friends to talk to who are currently into martial arts, so conversations of this nature have to be had in class usually.

We arrived at Mr. R.S.'s house and got ready for class. I was nervously excited. It was a familiar setting, but at the same time, new. I am used to my Tae Kwon Do class and how it runs, but this was my first time in this class and I was out of my element, even though Mr. R.S.'s students made me feel very welcome.

The dojang was a hot 80 degrees, even with the air conditioning unit on. I don't do well in heat to begin with, but as soon as I tied my gi and belt, I knew that the heat was going to make for a challenging class.

We lined up and started class. We warmed up our joints a little, then were lined up into three rows and did a variety of techniques and exercises back and forth across the room. Pushups, full situps, jabs, reverse punches, shoulder rolls, jumps, walking pushups, quick switches, lunges. . .by the end of this, I was already soaked with sweat and we hadn't even started the actual class. I now have a good idea of how to get the kids in our kids' class warmed up and tired though.

After our warmup, everyone was divided up for circuit drills. There were five stations, and a black belt at each with a different task for us to do. I started out on the mats with Mr. R.S. We worked on breakfalls, and then he showed me how to do a hip toss, which I have never tried before. These went well until I landed on the side of my knee. That was definitely not fun, but I learned my lesson and made sure to land correctly the next time.

The next station was joint locks with Ms. J.S. We started out by her grabbing me and then I reacted and tried applying various joint locks.

Mr. M had a heavy bag set up at the next station, and he had me throw reverse punches, front snap kicks, and ridgehands.

Mr. J.S. also worked with me on the ridgehand, but with a hand target. after throwing several ridgehands, he showed me a reverse ridgehand and had me do combinations with both. I really liked how this drill flowed and will be incorporating ridgehands more in my sparring now.

The final station was forms with Mr. G. He had me do Pyung Ahn 5 a couple of times with corrections on my timing.

Once we finished with the circuit drill, everyone geared up for sparring. There was room for three pairs at a time and I ended up being in the first group. I sparred Mr. J.S. first for about two minutes, then had a break while the next group sparred. This was followed by me sparring Ms. J.S, and finally, Mr. R.S. My last spar was by far the toughest. I walked into a roundhouse kick that he aimed at my face, and that threw off my mental game for the rest of the spar. It was a learning experience though. I realized that the actual pain of being kicked wasn't nearly as bad as the anticipation of being hit. That is something that I am going to have to work on more.

The class lined up once more and we had final comments before the students were dismissed. I didn't have access to a clock all this time, but I believe we had been working for about three hours at this point. I was surprised that even after all that work, it seemed to have passed very quickly. I was completely soaked with sweat, but I was still feeling pretty good at this point.

The black belts and I stayed for about another hour. I had asked Ms. J.S. prior to class if she could show me some things about groundfighting, so that is what we focused on for about thirty minutes. After this, we all talked for a while longer before it was time for us to leave.

I really enjoyed getting to work out with Mr. R.S.'s class and I've already asked my instructor, Mr. G when we can go back. Hopefully it will be soon, I just need to get Mr. Mc and some of the other students to go with us. I didn't get much time working directly with the other students, so next time I hope that I can get a chance to work with them and spar them.

All in all, it was a great class. I think Mr. G or Mr. M made the comment on the way home that it felt so good to just be soaked through with sweat like we all were after class. Even though we were tired, sweaty, bruised, and some of us were starting to get sore (ie: my neck, most likely from grappling), I wouldn't have traded that workout for anything.