Practice makes perfect. If a person wants to have stronger arms, the person has to use their arms, if a person wants to develop a greater skill at knocking pins down with a bowling-ball, the person has to do that a lot.
It’s also known that the closer your practice is to your goal, the better it is. You can practice all your life trying to roll a football into a hole from half the bowling distance, but when it came to an actual bowling-match, you wouldn’t do much better than if you had never touched a ball, because the training prepared you for the wrong thing.
In self-defense, this is complicated, because what we are trying to prepare for is not something we want to develop a familiarity with, but something we wish to avoid completely.
We can break joints and hurt throats and necks and pull off tufts of hair and bite and knock each other out in training, but then we’re putting ourselves through exactly what we’re training to avoid having to suffer.
Furthermore, due to the myriad of factors playing into the result of a fight, and the fact that none of those factors can be accurately predicted, there is no guarantee that you would stand a chance in the particular fight you ended up in, even after a lifetime of suffering greatly in training, because your opponent was simply too big, or his first sucker-punch landed too well, or you stumbled on a fallen chair, fell and knocked the back of your head against a table, during the fight.
So What Is The Point Of Training At All?
As I elaborated in, techniques are tools. Sure, even with a box full of tools you’re proficient in the use of, you may encounter a problem you can’t fix, but more tools is better than fewer tools, right?
The challenge is how to train, specifically with a partner.
So How To Train?
The goal is to come as close to the challenges of a real fight as possible, with as few of the risks as possible. This is achieved perhaps mainly through cooperative resistance.
Cooperative resistance means resistance performed for sake of mutual development, rather than for the sake of winning, and can look very different, depending on what stage of development you’re in.
When learning something new, cooperative resistance means no resistance, or even to help each other perform the technique properly, in order to gain an understanding for the goal of the technique, the mechanics governing it and the risks involved with it.
For an example of cooperative resistance in the purpose of demonstration, check a look at this video:
When those things are understood, and the technique fundamentally mastered, cooperative resistance means a slight physical resistance, which allows your partner to begin to practice the technique, in order to develop, not an understanding of the mechanics of the technique, but a skill in applying them.
As the skill increases, so can the resistance, and more and more advanced details will be introduced, in order to solve the problem of greater resistance. With many techniques, however, there is a limit, a point where a partner who knows your intention and has time to prepare for it, can thwart your technique every single time, no matter how well you do it, even by just passively resisting.
At that point, where you know the technique as well as you can, in basic execution, comes the need for free exercises, in which both you and your partner can attack more freely, allowing you to use feints, set attack up, switch between techniques, and so on. These “free exercises” are the various forms of sparring.
Sparring is done to, among other things, develop the competence to apply the technique with a dynamic, actively resisting partner, something which creates more challenges, but also more opportunities, if you’ve got the training to see and exploit them.
Even in sparring, however, cooperative resistance is still very much a part. No matter how intense your fighting gets during training, it’s just a more dynamic form of practice. The goal is still mutual success and development, both you and your partner getting to practice techniques by performing them, practice ending up in and getting out of various situations, not least including being taken down.
This calls for a more complex type of resistance. One that forces both of you to know the techniques well, in which you resist differently at different stages of the technique, resisting more where it’s safe and resisting less where more force would cause injury.
This is very difficult to explain without showing, but for some examples of exercises you could do with a partner to develop a feel for it, yourself, take a look at this article.
The techniques and elements that cannot be practiced at full speed or force with a partner are practiced more slowly with a partner, and then at full capacity elsewhere, such as in individual exercises, with a partner wearing protective gear, or on pads, depending on the technique.
An example of a way of training that would be inadvisable to do at full speed with an unprotected partner:
There is more to be said on the subject of training with a partner, of course, but this will be it for this week.