T H O U G H T   F O R   T H E   W E E K

"Working With A Partner"

By Michael Mackay, Chief Instructor,
Midtown Karate Dojo

Long before videotape, before dojos even had mirrors, Okinawans embraced the concept of training partners as ki (key) to furthering their study of karate-do.  The effectiveness of one's techniques is best tested against a partner of comparable ability who knows all too well your strengths and weaknesses.  Because of your physical differences, repeated practice with a training partner sharpens your intuitive skill at detecting subtleties in strategy.  Because he (or she) is quicker, stronger, more proficient or determined in certain skills, you learn to emulate those superior qualities.  Just as they, in turn, learn to emulate yours.

The one-on-one testing of limits pushes both participants to levels they can not achieve on their own.  When one is on a plateau, the other's visible progress towards mastery inspires you to try harder.  When it's "inconvenient" to get to the dojo, your training partner gets you there anyway because he is counting on you.  Your combined talents and creativity manifest themselves in demonstrations.  You back each other up.  You notice you're training is off when they're not there.  You discover, after a while, that you've become a team.

Whatever it is you need to work on, or think you need to work on, or simply want to try just because you're curious, your training partner provides a safe forum.  She does not laugh at you when you look like a five year old.  Off the deck, your training partner lets you vent your confusion, frustration, exuberance and despair (preferably over tea or sake) in a warm-hearted atmosphere of trust.

With your training partner you discover a level of respect, loyalty and courtesy that extends beyond the formal precepts of karate training. You acquire a deep respect for a peer - not just yourself, your sensei, your style - but an individual who shares a commitment to the way, and a willingness to travel the path with you.

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