“That” Guy - A Public Service Announcement Ep. #1
“Shh shh, here he comes”.
In todays issue of “That” Guy we will be discussing “That” Guy. Where he came from, who created him and, more importantly, how do we get rid of him? Why is it important to the martial arts? We will also introduce you to the first “That” Guy.
Ok, so who is “that” guy? “That” guy can be defined as someone that does something that affects others in a negative way. Maybe its against the rules, maybe it’s a detriment to others or to the task at hand or otherwise impedes something you are doing as a group. Examples include people that microwave fish at work or have their music too loud at a stop light.
Where does he come from? Ignorance mostly. They are unaware that what they are doing is affecting anyone. Whether they are unaware of the social cue, the rules, whatever, they mostly don’t know that what they are doing is wrong or has an effect on anyone. For the ones that do and keep doing it, we will have a series on “them” later.
Who created them? You did! Congrats. How is that, you say? By not communicating. By not expressing, as a group, or individually, that what they are doing has an adverse effect on others. Yes, some people are slower than others and have different life experiences, we are all different. Whatever the reason, we need to notice that and be willing to speak up to ensure they know or are aware. Either as a group or individually. “Excuse me Bob, you may enjoy the smell of blue fish microwaved in an industrial 1100 watt microwave but it’s making the rest of us nauseous.” Once you do, you have either prevented the creation of a “that” guy or destroyed him in one fell swoop because hopefully, they make the adjustment. If not they end up in that “other” series. On the other hand, if you don’t speak out and help educate, you are the reason they exist. And you just became “that” guy yourself. So don’t be “that” guy.
“Ah, but what of social graces and people’s feelings? Why is it my responsibility?” Yes I admit these are valid concerns. The issue may be of a sensitive nature and we don’t want to cause embarrassment. We also cant take on the world alone, but again, as long as you are silent, they exist and slip into permanent “that” guy status for you. If you can live with that, great, if not, what to do? We are not all, nor could we be, great communicators. We may be too nice, or not confident ourselves. We may not have the communication skills or social graces to do so. And that’s ok. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we cant do it all. We also want to avoid conflict, as that is not the goal here but too often a side effect. So we want them to get the message and we want to avoid conflict. Whats the best way to do that? We employ the help of others. Just like we go to someone that’s good at plumbing to fix our sink, we find someone who would have influence or the communication skills to be able to effectively communicate the message. This could be a mutual friend, coworker, loved one or Bill Clinton. Or, a public blog.
And that’s where I come in. For the Yang has a Yin and here in the martial arts it is in the form of politeness to the extreme. We are more apprehensive of insulting someone or creating conflict. A lot is placed on etiquette and respect and its level is directly proportional to the extreme violence that we train for. And this is a good thing, but also at times a hindrance. So I will offer this Public Service to you, dear reader, from time to time, to get the message out to those that need it in a safe and positive manner. To help others as well as ourselves to live and train harmoniously so we can get better and progress. In the end isn’t that what we want?
Todays “That Guy” is the bad training partner. You know the one, the one that goes too hard, or is always trying to one up you. Or prevent you from doing the drill/technique/exercise at all. Even doing something completely different than what the teacher showed. There is a time and place for all that. Its called sparring or actual combat. Not in the training hall. And not in a training partner. A partner is a beneficial relationship. Each time we work with a partner we have give and take. We each have responsibilities. And that is to be just as helpful to them as they will be to you. Some drills or exercises work both people at the same time and both benefit simultaneously and sometimes you just have to take turns. Either way, if you are on the receiving end you are for all intents and purposes the Uki. Don’t be a bad Uki. Bad Uki’s aren’t Uki’s for very long. It takes just as much skill to be an Uki as anything else. You have to do your job well. There are also benefits of being an Uki. See this. Be a good Uki.
The Paul Bunyun, The Arnold Schwarzenegger, the strong man. You know “That” guy. Always going too hard. Always leaning too hard or bending that limb too far. Maybe he thinks this is what he should be doing. Maybe he is unaware that he is doing it. Maybe he doesn’t understand his own strength. Many people new to the martial arts do not have the sensitivity or the proper movements in their muscle memory. Because of this they are awkward, put the pressures in the wrong place and by doing so wear us, and them, out. Now we are more tired than we needed to be or maybe even injured. So much of what we do is finesse and physical strength gets in the way sometimes or is just not needed. Let them know. Yes, sometimes we up the intensity in our training and this is needed but agree before hand how far. Where is the ceiling today? Let the newbie know they are putting too much into something. Teach the new guy how to be a good training partner. Tell them when they are too heavy or going too hard, too fast. Slow it down. Lighten up. Help them understand and we all benefit. You get a good training partner and they get better. I was “this” guy. I was always too heavy. I’m glad my elder brothers kept mentioning it. It has helped me be a good training partner and a better marital artist. Win/win.
One-up-manship. Yeah, that guy. The one that always goes above that ceiling. Instead of giving the same that they are getting they just have to go just one notch harder. A light tap to their shoulder will get you a punch in the gut that drops you. Why is this? I suspect that some may have different tolerances and maybe they think they were meeting you? Again, they may be unaware. Let them know they are going too hard. Be prepared to be told they thought you were. You may not know your own strength. And together find a common ground. We want to maximize our time with our training partner and progress. There are also the ones that just will always go harder because that’s the way they are. Those make good opponents, not training/sparring partners. Let them know as best you can that they either make it beneficial for both or they might as well marry that mook jong.
The “Oh no, youre not pulling that one on me” guy. Oh man. “That” guy. You know the one. He prevents you from performing the technique on him and stops you each time from doing it. You know, the technique you just willingly and compliantly let him put on you. What’s up with that? I have no idea but you need to tell him to stop. Again, this is for the ring or the street. When you’re working on defenses or doing a drill where you want the guy to try and stop you, fine, but not in an educational setting where we are trying to get it down. To get good at what we do we need to succeed. We need to feel what it is like to succeed. If we can’t, we can’t progress. This is why we do these things at half speed and quarter speed. Once we know what we are looking for then we make it progressively harder. We don’t learn to write essays right away, we learn the words then the sentence structure, paragraphs etc. Each time progressing and getting better. We do this by going slow. The race car driver doesn’t start out doing 200 mph. He starts out like everyone else. Doing 25mph down the side street on a Sunday afternoon. If you are training down to your partner’s level remember to recognize where they are so you don’t inadvertently go too hard or do a more advance version of the drill. New guys? Listen to your elders and learn how to train effectively.
The Alternative Drill guy. Yeah, “that” guy. You know the one. The teacher spends however long showing you the drill or technique and goes over the nuances and you go to do it and the guy you’re working with is doing it slightly different or he was watching another show entirely. Why? Maybe he didn’t understand it. Maybe the way that concept was shown is not what is going to ring for him and he is exploring. Or maybe he did get it and is already moving on with it conceptually without regards to your level of understanding. They are all valid reasons for this happening but what to do? First, the teacher showed you this specific way or example for a reason. If your English teacher said to go read Hamlet you don’t go and read Harry Potter. You read Hamlet. So lets see why the teacher used that example by doing it correctly. If you feel you have it then try and correct them or ask an elder or the teacher themselves to help assist if you can’t both agree on how it should be done. Others may have a hard time performing it or understanding the concept and you’re doing them a service by getting the teacher involved. But communication is key. Learn the move/drill as shown and explore the lesson there. Be a good training partner and make sure you both understand the lesson. Then once understood communicate that you want to evolve your understanding of it by exploring other options etc. and be open to their ideas as well. Give and Take. If they are not ready, that’s ok, a good session will have you switching partners often or even just ask to switch.
So the next time you touch hands or cross weapons with your trainer partner do a self check and make sure you’re being a good training partner and not “that” guy. And don’t be afraid to speak up. An opponent only has a responsibility to himself. A training partner has a responsibility to both himself and his partner.