How to Piss Off Your Training Partner, Part 1

I first wanted to name this guide “How to Piss Off your Training Partner and Get Your Butt Whipped” but figured that might be a bit excessive… Not everything in my top three list will get you beat up in class, so some moderation is in order. But this behavior does often result in the offender getting either a beating, a couple of nasty blows under the radar or at the very least the training partner doesn’t want to play anymore. In a way, this guide is the opposite of this one about how to train at a new martial arts school or gym.

pissed_off

What am I talking about? Annoying the crap out of your training partner. Doing things that piss him off because he either doesn’t get to train like he wants to or you do something dangerous, something that can cause him injury. Over the years, I’ve experienced a lot of situations in which I wanted to tear my partner’s head off. Sometimes it was necessary to get rough on that partner to make him stop, other times I just had to point out what he was doing and ask him to stop it. And there were also instances where I lost my patience and had to restrain myself from doing damage. We’re all human and nobody has endless patience. And sometimes you just don’t have a choice.

To place this in proper context, there are a couple of reasons why training partner’s end up pissing you off and it isn’t always clear which one it is:

  • Communication failure. Your partner misunderstood the teacher and does something different from what you heard. Or he misunderstood what you said. This happens a lot and is often the first reason why things go wrong.
  • Ego. We all have an ego and it’s easy to get emotionally hijacked by it: “How dare that white belt/beginner land such a solid punch on my handsome face! Doesn’t he know I’m a black belt and God’s gift to mankind?!” And that’s when you throw your next punch a little too fast and hard… Or the flip side of that coin: “OMG, I hope nobody saw that he got me good… Everybody will laugh and think I suck. I better show them I can stomp this idiot into the ground.” Losing face is never fun…
  • Mismatched assumptions. This one has many aspects to it but the common thread is each practitioner has a different idea about something and assumes the other is on the same page.
  • Physical attributes. The teacher says to practice at half-speed or half-strength. But that doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody: If your top speed is a punch at 100Mph, half of that is 50; If your partner maxes out at 60Mph, he’ll expect you to come at him at 30Mph and isn’t ready for what you throw. Then he gets pissed because he thinks you’re out to hurt him. And then you get pissed because you don’t see what you did wrong and why he’s getting all uppity.
  • Training methods. Some practitioners like to train rough and tumble, others prefer to take things slow and ingrain the technique first before they up the speed and power. A mismatch between training methods leads to two pissed off people in no time.
  • Liberties vs. cooperation. Some students assume you have to resist whenever their partner practices his locks; if he can’t make it work against a resisting opponent, they feel he isn’t doing it right. Others think the only way to go is to get the lock down first and then gradually increase the difficulty by adding resistance. Or your partner feels he can just hit you whenever you leave yourself unprotected as you execute a technique. Sometimes you are allowed to get creative as you train, other times you have to stay withing specific guidelines and cooperate with your partner. If you’re not both on the same page, it’ll get interesting real fast.
  • Ignorance, viciousness or stupidity. Sometimes, people are just plain stupid or mean. They do idiotic things like throwing a sharpened throwing star at you to see if you catch it or not ( I deflected it but still got cut). Or they suddenly punch high when you’re supposed to practice defense against a low punch to see if they can get you ( I slapped his fist away, grabbed him by the throat and almost slammed him head-first on the floor before I realized he was just being an asshole.) And the list goes on and on ad nauseam.

We’ll look at some of the things you can do about this in the next part. But for now, here’s the top three things that piss me off when I’m training:

  1. I’m bigger than him so he feels he can hit me harder than I can hit him. This one, I still don’t get after several decades of training. Just because I’m a heavyweight, doesn’t mean I’m somebody’s punching bag. Should be common sense but in my experience, it isn’t. Just because I can take heavier impacts than a lighter opponent, doesn’t mean that I have to. If the shot is hard enough, it still hurts me regardless of how much my partner weights. I’ve had this happen so many times, I can’t believe it’s coincidence. It’s a total lack of respect that can get the lighter guy in over his head, especially if he has misconceptions about heavyweights. Think of it like poking a tiger with a stick and then complaining that you get ripped up because that big cat is stronger and heavier than you. Newsflash! Don’t poke the tiger and you don’t get hurt! Play nice!
  1. They hit where you’re going, not where you are. Some people just don’t get the process of training. E.g.: you practice dodging a punch to the left and they turn their punch into a heat seeking missile: it goes straight to where your head will be when you finish dodging. Of course you get nailed! How could you not? It’s the martial arts version of predicting the future: it only works when you cheat. Meaning, your partner knows upfront you’ll dodge to the left. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to time his punch to where your head is going in such a way that you can’t do anything about it. It’s beyond me why people do this. Like taking candy from a baby; any idiot can do it. But strangely enough, when I return the favor, these same guys complain. Hey buddy, if you don’t want to stay within the parameters of the drill, why should I?
  1. They block the technique(s) you’re supposed to be learning. One time at a seminar, I almost put a guy through the window because he kept doing just that: we were practicing knife defense by redirecting a thrust and then striking back a few times. Each time I did those counterstrikes, he blocked them or parried and cut me again. Great, another genius… Of course you can do that when you know EXACTLY what I’ll be doing and WHEN I’ll do it. It doesn’t get more obvious than this. But in the mean time, I’m not getting to train the technique at all, because he won’t let me. So what’s in it for me then? He gets to stroke his ego and think he’s hot stuff because he blocked everything I dealt out; I learn nothing. But even he doesn’t learn anything because he’s predicting the future like in the previous bullet. So it’s just a big waste of time.

In Part Two, I’ll cover some more annoying crap people pull and offer some suggestions on how to handle this.

In the mean time, get your rant on! What pisses you off? What’s the stuff they pull on you that you really hate?

Leave a comment here and I’ll go through them all and try to incorporate your feedback in Part Two.

.

Comments

  1. Well said, there are an uncountable number of idiots out there who look upon training as an ego trip or some sort of “proving ground”.

    Differences in attitude one can work around with efficient communication, but it’s hard to work with someone if their attitude just plain stinks.

    What really raises my heckles is when your training partner keeps thinking that drilling a technique has to be a life-and-death training scenario and every time you punch at him he has a Vietnam flashback.. oh that and those who think that they’re in some sort of amateur WWF ring.

  2. Well said, there are an uncountable number of idiots out there who look upon training as an ego trip or some sort of “proving ground”.

    Differences in attitude one can work around with efficient communication, but it’s hard to work with someone if their attitude just plain stinks.

    What really raises my heckles is when your training partner keeps thinking that drilling a technique has to be a life-and-death training scenario and every time you punch at him he has a Vietnam flashback.. oh that and those who think that they’re in some sort of amateur WWF ring.

    • Yes. That’s what I meant with #10, going all out all the time. It’s just silly and dangerous. But hey, they probably look real cool going that hard, at least in their own minds… :-)

  3. Garry Hodgins says:

    I find that people are always picking on me whenever I do applications training, this may be because I’m 6 3′ and about 260 lbs. When I started training I was very patient and used to think it was some strange moral lesson about humility which was part and parcel of training in the martial arts. I remember doing grasping bird’s tail entry technique dozens of times with a guy who kept striking my arms so hard that both went dead and were covered in hideous bruises for weeks. I worked on being soft and getting the mechanics right because I was concerned the teacher was watching me. I soon discovered that it was o.k. to give as well as recieve. This helped me to enjoy classes considerably but didnt stop one training partner, who was constantly stubbornly resisting being thrown, explaining why I was doing the technique incorrectly and deigning to correct my mistakes every time he got up from the floor. I thanked him politely for the lesson. I’ve also had the training partners who assume that because you are a larger gentleman that means that they dont have to attack you in the way they are supposed to because, for some strange supernatural reason, you should be able to defend a sweep with a technique designed to defend against a straight punch. I’ve also been the asshole though. As a beginner, training with a bit of a legend who was about 70 lbs lighter than me, whilst training some throws I added the brilliant instinctive technique of grabbing the man’s testicles whilst he was in mid air and falling to the ground at an amazing speed.(I know, the jokes are endless!) Luckily, I let go…Even more fortunate was his reaction. We both had a laugh about it. I think social embarassement saved me a beating that day. So, I think beginners should be gently directed to train in a way that will accelerate their learning of technique while minimising the damage they do to themselves and others when their blood is up. And, for goodness sakes give us big guys a chance to develop our techniques…

    • I totally understand Garry. I’m not your size but by no means a lightweight. I think there are several reasons why people pick on heavyweights. They seem to make a bunch of assumptions (we’re all slow, have no technique and always rely on strength, etc.) that may or may not be true. Instead of actually checking to see if they are right with these assumptions, they just pretend all heavyweights are the same. It’s probably easier that way.
      Another aspect is probably just insecurity. However much you might fool yourself into believing you can take on the world, when you’re facing a heavyweight, even in class, it’s confronting for lighter people. They are forced to acknowledge they might no be as good as they think they are. Nitpicking on the details of your technique is a way of stroking their ego and making sure they can hold on to their own beliefs.

      For the record: I’m not saying lighter people can’t beat heavyweights. Happens all the time. I am saying that in the real world, size matters. It isn’t everything, but it sure is an important factor.

  4. Garry Hodgins says:

    I find that people are always picking on me whenever I do applications training, this may be because I’m 6 3′ and about 260 lbs. When I started training I was very patient and used to think it was some strange moral lesson about humility which was part and parcel of training in the martial arts. I remember doing grasping bird’s tail entry technique dozens of times with a guy who kept striking my arms so hard that both went dead and were covered in hideous bruises for weeks. I worked on being soft and getting the mechanics right because I was concerned the teacher was watching me. I soon discovered that it was o.k. to give as well as recieve. This helped me to enjoy classes considerably but didnt stop one training partner, who was constantly stubbornly resisting being thrown, explaining why I was doing the technique incorrectly and deigning to correct my mistakes every time he got up from the floor. I thanked him politely for the lesson. I’ve also had the training partners who assume that because you are a larger gentleman that means that they dont have to attack you in the way they are supposed to because, for some strange supernatural reason, you should be able to defend a sweep with a technique designed to defend against a straight punch. I’ve also been the asshole though. As a beginner, training with a bit of a legend who was about 70 lbs lighter than me, whilst training some throws I added the brilliant instinctive technique of grabbing the man’s testicles whilst he was in mid air and falling to the ground at an amazing speed.(I know, the jokes are endless!) Luckily, I let go…Even more fortunate was his reaction. We both had a laugh about it. I think social embarassement saved me a beating that day. So, I think beginners should be gently directed to train in a way that will accelerate their learning of technique while minimising the damage they do to themselves and others when their blood is up. And, for goodness sakes give us big guys a chance to develop our techniques…

    • I totally understand Garry. I’m not your size but by no means a lightweight. I think there are several reasons why people pick on heavyweights. They seem to make a bunch of assumptions (we’re all slow, have no technique and always rely on strength, etc.) that may or may not be true. Instead of actually checking to see if they are right with these assumptions, they just pretend all heavyweights are the same. It’s probably easier that way.
      Another aspect is probably just insecurity. However much you might fool yourself into believing you can take on the world, when you’re facing a heavyweight, even in class, it’s confronting for lighter people. They are forced to acknowledge they might no be as good as they think they are. Nitpicking on the details of your technique is a way of stroking their ego and making sure they can hold on to their own beliefs.

      For the record: I’m not saying lighter people can’t beat heavyweights. Happens all the time. I am saying that in the real world, size matters. It isn’t everything, but it sure is an important factor.

Speak Your Mind

*