Bad Boys & Grim Gals

Bad Boys & Grim Gals

Frustrating Habits in Martial Arts Partners

I believe most Martial Artists would agree that partners add a ton of positives to our training. In the most basic ways, they assist in learning proper targeting, blocks, weapon formulation, footwork and much more. When our training partners become friends, they go a step further and offer encouragement, guidance, and accountability amongst other helpful qualities. That said, I would be amiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to poke a little fun at some of the frustrating habits that some may display. Please don’t misunderstand. These don’t define the individual, as most of us have our own quirks where we may see a bit of ourselves in a couple of these descriptions. This article is meant to add some fun to the topic and remind us of what not to do to be a good partner. Now, let’s dig into the qualities that make for Bad Boys and Grim Gals in the dojo.

Dirty Doug

Martial arts training can be a sweaty business. Whether you’re doing stand-up sparring or rolling in BJJ class, it doesn’t take long before the perspiration kicks off. There’s no way to stop that from happening, so it’s expected. However, we all know that one guy that has decided that washing his Gi, or himself for that matter, is simply too much work. Don’t be a Dirty Doug. Make sure you and your uniform are washed regularly. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please use deodorant.

Stiff Sally

We often don’t know how to move and react when learning and dummying for new material. Nowhere is this more obvious than when you try a new technique on your partner during basic drilling, and you’d swear they had a full-on case of rigor mortis. Don’t be a Stiff Sally. The person practicing their technique should work with you carefully so you can relax and let them run the basics of the new move. Then when it is your turn, remember to move carefully with good control so they can do the same.

Resistance Ralph

If you thought Stiff Sally was bad, hold onto your belt and meet Resistance Ralph. He goes one step further while practicing techniques. As he dummies up for your practice, Ralph offers Hercules-like resistance to every step. While you are slowly and carefully trying to learn a new movement, he squirms, pushes, pulls, rips, and everything else under the sun as if it is a real fight that he can’t lose at any cost. Don’t be a Resistance Ralph. Sure, there are times to add some resistance during drilling, but learn how to incrementally add some challenge to a technique for your partner as he improves during a training session. The beginning of a new move is not the time to offer 100% resistance. If you do that, no one learns.

Downer Donna 

You’re not expected to be a master of a new technique the moment you first learn it. That’s why you’re at the dojo Donna. Don’t be a Downer Donna and talk negatively to yourself as you’re trying to learn something new. Remember, it has taken your instructors years to master what you’re just seeing for the first time. Be gracious with yourself and your fellow classmates. You’ll get it if you stick with it.

Never Work Neil

These guys usually don’t stick around, because why would they. You know this chap. No matter what the instructor is showing, Neil must tell everyone how it would never work on the street. When, in actuality, it would never work for HIM because he’s unwilling to put in the work and become proficient at the skill. Don’t be a Never Work Neil. Remember, it takes time to incorporate and become proficient at most anything worthwhile.

Instructor Irene

Someone is teaching the class for good reason; they are the instructor. How many times have you seen fellow class members trying to teach their training partner, and their “instruction” is entirely wrong? Don’t be Instructor Irene. If your partner asks your opinion or you see something blatantly obvious you can help with while practicing, then lend a helping hand, but leave the fine detail corrections and class instruction to…you guessed it…the instructor.

Advanced Adam

In American Kenpo, after we learn a technique, we are encouraged to ask, “What if?” During that process, we quite literally as “What if they do this?” and work through a multitude of scenarios that go beyond the simple base technique lesson. However, this comes after the basic lesson is absorbed. Advanced Adam, on the other hand, already knows so much that he’s so busy practicing his “advanced” responses before he ever even learns the base technique. Don’t be an Advanced Adam. Take your time to understand what the art has to offer and adapt after you’ve assimilated the knowledge.

Master Marge

Some practitioners cling to their understanding as if it is the gospel. They always have the answer, and absolutely nobody can tell them any different. Don’t be a Master Marge. Remember that there is always more to learn, no matter the rank, no matter the years, and no matter the style.

I hope some of these characters have given you a chuckle and brought some humor to what can occasionally be frustrating in class. Now that we’ve covered what not to do, get to class and be a great partner!


Ian Lauer

3rd Degree Black Belt American Kenpo

1st Degree Black Belt Tae Kwon Do

1st Degree Black Belt Hapkido

1st Degree Black Belt Coszacks Karate

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