Ever had a bad training partner or Uke? This may help...

When I am training, sometimes the techniques work very well on one person.  Then I switch training partners.  And everything falls apart.  What worked very easy is now hard.  What I did effortlessly becomes a struggle.

Why can the same technique succeed or fail so radically?  What makes going from one training partner to the next cause my technique to fail?  Sometimes I blame the Uke.  If only he had better ukemi I think.  Or, he is too stiff.  Maybe he is trying to make me fail.  Why won't he just cooperate?

But the true problem is myself, my expectations, and my failure to ADAPT.

When I meet a new training partner he becomes a mirror for my taijutsu.  Every partner I train with reflects back to me a different part of my taijutsu.  Sometimes I like what I see.  And I think, what a good training partner!  I know certain people who ONLY train with carefully selected partners because it is safe.  And maybe they like the reflection they get back.

But then there are those other times.  I train with someone who makes my taijutsu look ugly.  Or the reflection I get of my taijutsu is not what I want to see.  And I think, man, this guy sucks.  I won't train with him again if I can help it.

Sometimes my expectations of my partner are way off.  I have had the experience where I punch someone and they instantly shriek in pain and fall over.  I think, wow, I barely touched the guy.  So I don't get to finish the technique at all because he just fell over. 

Then I switch partners, and no matter how hard I hit, the other guy stands there like a rock.  I can't make the technique work because my strike has no effect on his balance.  I try to continue with the rest and it's like trying to rip a streetlight out of the ground. The guy just stands there staring at me while I struggle.

These are problems with my expectations.  I expect my partner to react the same as me.  I think how I would react to the punch.  But he doesn't care how I would react to my own punch.

The answer is to ADAPT.  Each training partner and training situation is completely unique.  Just like any confrontation in real life.  People sometimes ask me, "I saw this happen...  What would you do?"  And my answer is, "It depends."  I don't know because I wasn't there.  And there are a million details that can change your response in the situation.

How do I ADAPT?  With my training partner it is a matter of accepting him in my movement.  He has to be part of my taijutsu.  I have to listen to what his movement is telling me and use that information.  That information tells me about his weaknesses loud and clear and they are easy to exploit. 

Then, I must see the reflection of MY taijutsu and fix what I don't like.  That's what my partner is there for.  To help me learn.  He may not be aware of that but he doesn't have to be.

Or you could always just train with your friends who make you look good.  That seems to work for a lot of people.



Hello, thanks for the great post. I just did a search on google for "Being the Uke in the Bujinkan" and I happened upon this. This is something that's been nagging me for a couple of weeks now. I've been in the Bujinkan for about 2 years now (Still a baby duckling haha) and I've had those moments where I think "Is this guy trying to mess with my training?" And I've left thinking, "Oh god I hope this guy gets the stick out of their so-and-so next time around!" And that Cold Dead Stare that they give while "hindering" my movement nil doesn't help me believe that it's just me, but, after reading this, which by the way, relates to how I feel in my very Soul, you've shined a new light on how I look at myself... Adaptability, something my pride was allowing me to overlook, I think I spend too much time trying to see my taijutsu's progress from the 3rd person instead of looking at my "opponent" from the 1st. Well, hate to ramble on, just wanted to say thanks, you've helped a fellow Buyu realize something he was lacking in. I don't expect to be Yoda level calm the next time I face this situation, but I don't think I'll completely put the blame my partner either. Thanks!

Michael Glenn

You are welcome. I wrote this post because most of us have encountered these feelings in training. So, since the lesson is there, we may as well learn from it! However difficult it may be to swallow...

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