Karate Life Lessons Series #6 – Giving Resistance

If you’ve trained in a dojo for any period of time, then you know that there are times where you work with a partner. Most drills require partnership – after all, you don’t learn the physical side of karate just by hitting air. What isn’t immediately apparent to new students though, is that there’s an art to partnership.

In Karate

When you first learn a new technique – maybe it’s a takedown – it’s common for two partners to just go with the flow. One partner tries the technique, and the other falls down no matter whether the technique was done well or not.

Rinse, and repeat.

The other common scenario is that one partner tries the technique for the first time, and the other partner gives so much resistance that the first partner ends up frustrated, often giving up pursuit of the art as a result.

Of the two scenarios, no resistance is better. Neither is great, but at least giving no resistance allows the partners to experiment with the technique and see what feels natural. The first few times I try a technique with a partner, I like to give little to no resistance as well, to allow my partner to experiment before finding their groove.

Soon after that though, the level of resistance needs to change. Once the partners have internalized the movements of the technique, it’s time to start giving some resistance. It starts with a little, then dials up gradually. When one partner can reliably perform the technique at a given level of resistance, that’s when it’s time to dial it up to the next level, until the partner can eventually perform the technique with full (or near-full) resistance.

Here’s the important part though: the resistance needs to be increased gradually. Going from zero to 100 just like that ends in frustration for everyone, and it’s way too common. You aren’t setting yourself or your partner up for success that way.

In the Office

The idea of dialing up intensity gradually can be applied to coaching relationships too… except it works in the opposite direction. As a coach, mentor or manager, you start with rookies by giving them lots of guidance, slowly dialing it back as they show comfort at a given level. Eventually, they’ll get to a place where the guidance you give is far less than when you started. The difference is that you never work up to zero guidance – you’ll always give some guidance, but the kind of guidance you give will change over time.

Wrapping it Up

The common thread across both of these scenarios is awareness. You need to be aware of yourself, and how much resistance you’re giving. But you also need to be aware of the other person, and how much resistance they can handle.

Focus on developing this, and you’ll make yourself a better karate partner to train with, as well as a better, more empathic coach and leader.


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