Training Partners

In physical disciplines, a bond forms between two or more people for a common aim. These people are known as training partners. They can be thought of as a complex set of variables… mood, personality, etc… with preconceived ideas and desired outcomes. Your training session is vastly determined by how you engage them.

I have practiced around the world in different disciplines, environments and foreign languages. Sometimes for a week with over a hundred people or, with one person less than half my age where I can barely speak the one language they know.

I have concluded the ideal attributes in a training partner are patience, encouragement and kindness. These should be thought of as the intent rather than the action as they may manifest in unorthodox ways. Encouragement can come in critical feedback or in no words at all. Good company can propel us forward when dealing with the unknown. It forms the connection. Patience gives space to be vulnerable- to screw up, and ask for help. Kindness is the desire to see and act on the best of the other. As they flourish, it reflects in us.

What this guy (who couldn’t speak English) and I (who could barely understand French) got up to for the hour I was there.
Feb, 2018. Lyon, France

A desirable partner will enhance our experience. They can play, motivate, focus and adapt. On the other hand, someone that doesn’t want to be there or someone with no regard for your well being is also part of life. Too many of these meetings could leave you disenchanted. Treat them like vaccines- you don’t need to catch the virus to know you don’t want the sickness.

A good mover doesn’t necessitate a good training partner- nor does their experience. The signs don’t come in snapshots. Do they play well? How do they practice? Why do they practice? How consistent are they? These are valuable questions for determining who you’re dealing with.

When the intention behind the session is not shared, it becomes difficult to understand where it went wrong. Presuppositions prevent open communication. Incoherency will breed complacency and disengagement.

To be better partners, know your intentions and understand theirs. Form great partnerships by consistently building on shared values. Be open and creative. Treat training partners as a limited resource.  

This writing was inspired by a brown belt I met for the first time, who kindly helped me work the triangle choke for much of the session.


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