There is a place inside all of us that longs to feel connected, as to a twin.
A couple of years ago, we had a teenaged young lady start karate. She was a bright, positive student. She would have liked to see other beginner females her age at the dojo. I think that is why she lost interest in training and quit after a short time. She was looking for the perfect training partner. She wished for someone who was the same age, same gender, and a beginner like her. She wanted a BFF with whom she had a lot in common, someone who saw the world like she did.
Ironically, a few months later, another beginner, a teenager, joined us. She was more independent, and stuck with it longer. But she also wanted the perfect training partner, someone who fit her mold. She stopped training too, never having met her “perfect training partner.”
We all long for the perfect training partner. The big guy with a black belt wants another advanced man like him who loves kata. The older student wishes for a class filled with seniors. The second-grade kid comes to the dojo hoping to see other boys his age. Even I have fallen into this thinking-trap.
I have yearned for a friend or associate who would look at life from a similar perspective. She would be close in rank, and also a dojo owner because that entails a unique point-of-view. She would be in Traditional martial arts, and have a similar set of values. After having all that in common, we would have to have compatible personalities. That is a dangerous line of thought for a martial artist, because:
1) Dwelling on not having a perfect training partner is just another of hundreds of excuses for not staying on the martial arts path.
2) I have seen many students with cookie-cutter training partners, and it’s not all it’s “cut out to be.” When you notice differences in your martial arts technique it’s a headache. The training partner you identify with most has too much pull on you. If they criticize a dojo-mate, your opinion of that dojo-mate will also go down. If they quit, you will find it hard not to.
3) Each of us in martial arts is always on our own path. If the dojo were filled with your clones, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stay on your path. We are each very unique and special creatures. We get our own lessons from our training. At the dojo we learn more about our inner selves than anything. A “perfect training partner” makes it hard to truly focus on your own training and growth.
Really, the perfect training partner is the one right if front of you who cares about your safety and works hard. I have learned that no matter our age or rank, we can learn from the youngest and lowest rank. We can learn without a partner too. The most important thing is to keep on training mindfully and regularly.