When was the last time you were paired up in class to work with a partner? If your school is anything like ours, it was probably the last time you were in class. So, why do martial arts schools use partner drills so much? It is because partner drills can be extremely effective at improving your self-defense when done properly. I say “can be” because this method relies on the students, as much as, or more than the teacher to make it effective. Your partner is not an opponent to be defeated but a friend to be assisted.
A good partner could mean big strides toward your understanding, while a bad one will only help your ego or test your patience. You must push each other to better your techniques. Not enough resistance gives a false sense of security while too much can destroy confidence; it is the balance that determines progress. One example of this is if you are practicing a sweep and your partner just sits on the floor without actually being taken down, it might make you believe you would have succeeded on the street. On the flip side, if you actively try to deflect the technique by making it too difficult for the partner to take you down you might still believe you would have failed, both beliefs being false. Working with a partner to learn the balance in each technique allows each person to master skills at an individual pace while still working together.
Working with a partner is great for helping you judge distance, angles, and control, of your opponent as well as yourself, building the confidence to allow you to deal with a scary situation. Practicing in a safe environment with a partner you trust can help lower your anxiety while also allowing you to effectively react to the situation. A good partner will raise awareness while lowering fear.