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Mark Morschhäuser
Mark Morschhäuser's picture
Training body reaction with timid students

Hello, I often have the situation (as a trainer) where a student is very timid, if that is the right word. They take so much care in parter training to not hurt each other, that the exercise sometimes gets pointless. And it does not matter what rank or general experience they have.

Example: I was demonstrating an application from Hangetsu in a very basic form that could be interpreted as pushing the knuckles of the thumb or index finger to the temple and start pushing the head to the side. They were supposed to try it out gently on themselves and on their partner to get in touch with that kind of technique for the first time.

And then there was the student (blue) who did not want to do it. I asked if it worked or if there were questions and she said she did not want to hurt her partner. The partner himself (big strong guy too) said it did not hurt him and tried to motivate her to give it a try. I said the exercise is not painful in the way we do it, that we have enough time to try and explore a bit and if the partner feels anything he can tap out etc etc. No way.

And the other scenario: I wanted to show that clinching might be a good idea to get out of range of a couple of haymakers that kind of surprise you, so one partner just protected the head like after a flinch reaction and the partner was supposed to deal a couple of haymakers - with gloves and low strength so you get some tapping left and right, feel what happens to the senses, then move backwards two steps where the partner had to follow, so the choice was to go in close instead and grab the neck. That was all.

When I said hajime, two young women (yellow) hugged each other first, which was kind of cute and all and then they worked like in slow motion. I later assigned them to an experienced, strong student and said: come on, beat him up a little, he can take it and she gave maybe 20% instead of 5%, which was a great step but was so difficult to achieve.

And another training, two black belts (who just met) in a bunkai situation and I said: "yes, that's right, now punch" and the answer was: "but I don't know her, I can't punch her"...

And now I gave this black belt self defense course and letthem partner up, tighten up the stomach muscles and deal some blows for one minute - but it had to be fun for both partners. There were two young women again where it only worked in one direction, but not the other. So I told her: come on, then punch me at least - "ok, I have no problem with that" and she did a good job and pushed me a bit to my limit.

I know this is just a mental thing but don't know how to deal with it... how can I motivate them? How can I even make them try? I have been in Dojos where you punch each other after 5 minutes (not hard, but it causes a reaction and yes, it might leave a bruise in a while, but who cares) and it is sooo much fun.

It also makes bunkai actually work. I so often hear it in training: "but when I do this and that, the partner can still hit me with his other hand" - sigh, we just smashed a knee into the opponent's lower region and you think his next move is to attack while the brain is in pain processing mode? And yeah, the partner was supposed to be bent over but if we stop 5cm in front of the target and the partner does not play along, we can never learn body reaction.

How do you do it? I mean, it has to be me somehow... :-)

[on reddit I read this evil trick once that the trainer talks to an advanced student to hit him as hard as possible in front of the beginners. And if a beginner does not try it, the student had to punch the trainer real hard again until the new student tried :-) But there must be a better way.]

Frazatto's picture

I think that showing beginners that the more seasoned students can't be hurt is actually counter productive, it only teaches that you are harmless or worse, incompetent. In the best of scenarios, I would just believe all the students are complacent and the techniques don't actually work.

Anyway, in my experience, people that don't even want to try are generally afraid they will get hurt harder in their turn, it's a lack of trust in the process and the other people around. And who can blame them.......

Desensitization is the only path I know, make sure to partner those students with really straightforward people and go through the flow with minimum force till they start to respond. To understand that they can handle much more than they believe, snap touch exercises usually helps too or hitting something inanimate until they feel the need of real flesh and bones hahaha

If it's a black belt, they are just being lazy? I mean, I saw a entire group of black belts refuse to train bunkai in a event "because it was useless and pointless". Again, who can blame them, but maaaaannn that was a strange situation for the rest of us who was seeing that stuff for the first time.

There is only one situation, me included, when students experience combat sports as a intellectual challenge and I don't have a good answer. I try to explain that the whole point of all the training is "learning to hurt other people" and in the dojo we learn to get hurt in return so we know how to handle things if one day need to, but it's a difficult thing to overcome. I think Iain once told of a guy that couldn't start fighting properly until he received a fill good punches and that is the feeling, things don't feel real, I can't deliver proper reactions before a couple of minutes of practice.