How Not To Be a Bad Training Partner | 4GK Martial Arts
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Danna Davis

My 6 year old son has been attending Ninja class at 4GK since August 2018. He loves it and I do too! He loves the skills and games and I love the discipline he is learning. I’ve spoken with a child-behavior doc about what he gets to do in class and the doc was *thrilled*. It’s clear that he believes in the philosophies Sifu and Miss Heidi teach about the importance of play and physical activity for children for all aspects of their development.

Jen Robinson

I took a kickboxing class and it was amazing. I was so pumped and ready to take on the day. Everyone was super nice and the routine was so much fun I would definitely recommend and be back for more!!!

Laura Miller - Owner, Little People's Center reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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Had the pleasure of visiting Heidi at 4GK Martial Arts and observing both her EARLY SKILLZ for children ages 3-4 and MOMMY AND ME class for children 18 months and up. The children are guided through the basics of martial arts with hands on gross motor activities set at their own individual pace. It was a pleasure to see.

Di Trudden reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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My daughter completed her first group class tonight and I could not be a prouder or happier mama right now! Heidi Burmann and Raquel made Lily feel welcome and were so patient with her as she was learning the kicks and routines. I am so happy that we discovered a healthy and fun new hobby for Lily! If you are looking for an affordable place where your little one can learn and grow then 4GK is for you!

Everyone knows I have been on my own little health journey creating Our Mommy Movement and finding new ways to exercise. I signed up for kick boxing classes through 4GK and am really excited to try them out! Seeing how patient and kind the staff was with Lily I don’t have to worry about being surrounded by people who will judge me while I try to keep up with the moves.

Tina Dos Reis reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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Great school and awesome team! Everyone is extremely friendly. My nephew Sebastian just loves his Extreme Skill class and after watching the team work together, I decided to try the kickboxing class. Frank put the entire class through a great workout! I can't wait to lose weight and build muscle. It's just the change I was looking for! Thank you 4GK!

Jennie D'Ambroise reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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Great school! Adult kung fu classes are approachable for all levels. You will learn a lot and you will work hard. Sifu and your fellow students will help you to improve and you will make great friends. Kickboxing classes will also kick your butt. Women, train here, you are welcome at all classes and the atmosphere is friendly and supportive.

Tommy Aliberti reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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This has always been a home away from home! Very much a family, and I have been part of this system for 18 years! Great values, hard work, and many lessons to be learned every time, which I have taken with me in the ring, and in everyday life! 5 Star recommendation!

Donnie Keegan reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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My daughter has been studying here for, two months shy of, three years. She still loves it! I my self have decided to join. Love the staff. they are constantly innovating and improving,both the structure of the school and its teachings. I can only hope to improve myself to the degree in which my daughter has been improved herself! Absolutely top notch school!

Rachel Ramsey Weir reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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We have had a great experience in the last year that our son has been attending 4GK. He has become more disciplined in his actions, his body has been strengthened and he knows the rewards of hard work. The dedication of the staff is evident in each class. It is clearly a labor of love!

Cheryl Anne reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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Fantastic staff !!!!!!!!!! Fantastic fun classes, they know you're name, they know how to make you work while you happily sweat toward a better you !

Katie Bacigalupo reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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LOVE the kick boxing class! It is such a great work out and fun at the same time! I always feel great afterwards and can't wait to get back to the next class!

Michelle McCann reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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Great atmosphere, awesome staff and incredible workout! Love it!!

Victoria Ingoglia reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

I absolutely love the atmosphere. It's clean, friendly n very challenging. I've given some awful dirty looks while stressed n I get high fives later. High intensity fire burning workouts keeps me motivated!!

Rebecca Manzella reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

4GK is excellent! I signed up my son for Basic Skillz just a few weeks after his 4th birthday. He loves coming to class to see his fellow ninjas and I really enjoy watching him learn new skills. In a short time, I had already noticed a behavior improvement while in a group setting and the two half hour classes a week are perfect for his attention span. Thank you Miss Heidi and the rest of the staff for your patience and influence on Neil.

Dawn-Marie Francois reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

The school is great!!! Classes are manageable and they push you to do your best. Staff is friendly and patient.

Frank Gil reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

I wanted to make a change in my life. I was stagnant, not active and unhappy honestly. One day my brother and friend convinced me to take a class at 4gk. That was years ago and thousands of punches and kicks ago and I love it every bit now as I did that first class. The instructors are amazing, knowledgeable, and were always willing to work with me at my level. I've spent a lot of time here and find no matter how my day has been I can't help but smile when I walk through the 4gk doors. It's a great environment for people who want to challange themselves and grow and there is no place else I'd rather be

Roseann Wander Walsh reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

I absolutely love it there. Everyone is very welcoming and make you feel very comfortable. I've done kickboxing at several other place and all the people there were very clicky I am very comfortable here and would recommend it to everyone.

Kimberly Lago reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
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My oldest daughter has been coming here for a year. We fell in love immediately after seeing how wonderful the staff is with working with children of all ages. My second daughter was dying to be in a class also. As soon as she turned 3 we gave it a try and she has blossomed. Seemingly shy I was curious to see how her first class type activity would be. She loved it. Just waiting for daughter number three to be old enough because she is only two, but already feels like she belongs. We absolutely love it.

Shannon Marr reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

I love this place. Everyone is super friendly and makes you feel like a part of the family. I get constant encouragement to keep going. And when I had sprained my ankle and couldn't come for awhile, they worked with me financially and kept sending me encouraging messages to take it easy and get better. I get the best work outs and never any judgements.

Leianne Marques reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

4GK is an awesome school. The entire staff treats you like family. I take the kickboxing and skillz fit classes. The encouragement and motivation you get from the instructors makes you feel like you can achieve your goals, do anything you want, even if your first instinct is to say no when they all you to do something. I accomplish something in every class and have learned to think yes I can instead of there is no way I can.... the instructors break things down so you can easily understand each move. Everyone is made to feel important and special in each class, no one is left out. I can't imagine going anywhere else.

Linda Cummings reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

We just started the mini skillz program a couple of months ago. I admit, after being in the free play, no rules music program for the entire spring, my 2 yr old granddaughter was starting to rebel against listening. The first day of class I was almost in tears after five minutes when I realized how bad her behavior had gotten without structure. I'm so glad I stuck it out though. The second class was a joy, with her listening intently and using her brain. Miss Heidi has the patience of a saint. She is also on top of age appropriate skills and stresses them at each class. We've learned taking turns, following direction, jumping, kicking and punching, and many, many other useful things. She loves going to her class twice a week and I truly love taking her. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these wonderful people and this fantastic school to anyone.

Danielle Hulse Maloney reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

My two sons have been coming here since December 2016. They absolutely love it & have THRIVED since coming! The older one suffers from anxiety & general fear, he has since built up tremendous confidence & has learned to verbalize any issues he may be having. The younger one is a ball of energy that needed direction & a release, he has achieved focus & better listening skills. The staff is AMAZING! They are welcoming, accommodating & listen to any issues you have whether it be with them, the class or your children. I could go to any of them & speak with them about ANYTHING & feel very comfortable doing so. Si Fu teaches the class in a low-key, fun manner that has the children engaged AND having fun at the same time, it's not the typical militant style. We received a military discount since my husband is a former marine AND ... They run a monthly themed Parents Night Out that gives parents a break without their kids from 7:30-10:00! I am thrilled that we found them & highly suggest to anybody looking for a martial arts school to check them out!

Yaoska Fleming reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

Great team! My daughter loves the school. She has learned so much since she started a year ago. I am so happy I found this place. I am so grateful for Ms. Heidi, Sifu Mike and all the team. Their love and dedication is shown in every class. Good job!!

Neil Manzella reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

I highly recommend 4GK to anyone considering Martial Arts for their children or themselves. The staff has been doing an amazing job with my 4 year old son. He has a safe and fun outlet for some of his endless energy supply and the staff do a great job keeping all of the students involved, active, and engaged in the classes activities. My son loves it and looks forward to it every week!

Christina Annessa reviewed 4GK Martial Arts
5
via Facebook

We just started a month ago and my kids are in love & can't get enough of it. Everyday they ask do they have class. Its great for all ages and I really like that they split them up. My daughter is 5 and is learning age appropriate skills while in the next class my 8 year is learning different things. The staff is super friendly and always accommodates our needs. I absolutely love the fun nights they do as well, the kids get to hang out & have fun while I get to relax a bit a home. Overall very satisfied with this program.

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How Not To Be a Bad Training Partner

Almost every form of martial arts training requires a training partner of some sort.  In group classes, selection of a good partner can make or break the lesson.  Whether sparring, practicing self defense, working two man forms, or just working out, the partner is key to the lesson, and BEING the partner is often a lesson in and of itself.   Many high level practitioners of the martial arts were often uke (the receiving partner) to their instructors, and many instructors will only work with partners who have an intimate knowledge of what is being taught.  This allows the instructor to demonstrate motions for instructional purposes without injuring their partner.

Not all training partners are created equal, however.   In fact, while being a good partner is a lesson in the Middle Way, it seems that many people prefer to take things to one extreme or the other.   This guide is designed to help these people figure out which extreme they can most easily develop in order to become the worst possible training partner as quickly as possible.   OK, actually, this guide is a checklist of things for you to use as you examine your own actions within class so that you might better serve your classmates and yourself, but if those other types of people are reading, I suppose they might learn something, too, by simply doing the opposite of what is mentioned herein.

Hygiene

Many of us work a full time job (or two) to help fund our martial arts training.   Often, we come right from work, grab a quick bite, change into our uniforms, and rush out to class.   When you get to class, you work hard, sweat a lot, and may even end up a bit…. aromatic… by the end of class.   This is expected, and most people have the grace to deal with it.   But if you walk into class and are already leaving a wake of dead flies, perhaps a quick detour to the rest room for a John Wayne shower is in order.   Most forms of hand to hand combat require proximity to the opponent, and nobody wants to work with a partner who makes their eyes burn. In addition to personal cleanliness, make sure your uniform is clean, and your fingernails (and toenails) are cut.

The other extreme of the hygiene spectrum is the partner who cowers at the mere thought of coming into contact with another person’s sweat.   We are there to work, and the sweat we may encounter while training is a fact of life.   We must learn to deal with it.   In a real life encounter, the bad guy may not have had access to Gold Bond Powder and a hankie, and during the ensuing conflict, we may come into contact with blood, sweat, and other unsavory body by-products.   The time to worry about this is AFTER the conflict has been resolved.  Similarly, in the training environment, we must learn to deal with that which is presented to us.   After we complete the exercise, or at another appropriate time (especially when switching partners), feel free to towel off or to apply some hand gel.

Focus

When studying martial arts, it is not enough to simply be in class, we must be present mentally as much as we are physically.  When learning new techniques, it is normal to stumble at first.  But, if a training partner has no clue what is happening because of a lack of focus, time has to then be taken away from drilling the technique in order to explain the meaning of life, the Universe, and everything.  Or, even worse, a training partner with a lack of focus but ample confidence will jump into the lesson with both feet, but not knowing what is actually supposed to happen, will either end up injured or injuring someone.

Hyper focus, on the other hand, can also be a bad thing.  If a person is so focused on what is being done that they lose awareness of what is actually happening, they are likely to be involved in an accidental injury.  As mentioned, the learning curve involved necessitates that there will be mistakes made as a new technique is drilled.  It is important to remain aware of what our partner is actually doing.  Sometimes they will punch with the wrong hand, or forget to block, or simply freeze.  If we continue with what we are “supposed” to be doing instead of responding to the actual situation, someone will get hit fairly unexpectedly.  Regardless of whether we are working on direct contact or just a pad drill, both partners must remain engaged and alert.

Intensity

The learning environment requires a finely balanced level of intensity.   Go too hard and people get hurt unnecessarily, go too lightly and a false sense of confidence is fostered, which leads to people getting hurt unnecessarily.  In the article “Put a Little Oomph Into Your Training” we discussed finding a perfect balance between the classroom and the real world.  We must train in such a manner that injury is not the foremost thought that crosses our minds, and that a certain amount of effort is required to elicit the responses necessary.

If my training partner is always going 100%,  I cannot focus on taking the time to learn the nuances of a technique because I am too busy defending myself from my partner’s advances.  Conversely, if my partner never puts up any kind of realistic resistance, I will never be able to learn what it takes to make a technique actually work.  A perfect example is the learning of a new take down.  If my partner engages me full force, before I have had a chance to learn how to manipulate his entry force, then I am left with no option but to absorb the attack.  On the other hand, if my partner falls over as soon as I lay hands on him, then I may believe that I know how to put a man on the ground when all I have really learned was a lie about my ability.

Teaching the Better Way

There are many, many ways to execute a given technique.  It is said that each posture in our forms has a thousand applications.  Take that one step further, and each application has a thousand variations.  While a textbook application may work for a student, once we begin modifying the conditions under which the application is applied, we must also adapt the application to match.  I may be stronger, taller, faster than my opponent, but these are only contributing factors, not deciding conditions.  I may grab at the wrong angle when performing at full speed, I may misjudge my foot placement, I may underestimate my opponent.  Any of these factors may make the textbook application that we learn less effective without completely invalidating the technique itself.  However, just as we learned basics and stances before we put on sparring gear, we must fully understand what is being taught before we modify it.

When working with a partner in a group class, it must be understood that, while experimentation with respect is ok, it is NEVER ok to disrespect a teacher by discrediting what he is teaching.  It is better to simply ask for clarification, or to discuss the matter at a more appropriate time.  Similarly, when working with a partner, stay focused on the lesson.  Do not go off on a tangent trying to show your partner a better, more effective technique.  Very often, a new technique is taught a specific way that will allow for later modification.  If something isn’t working, ask the instructor; do not assume that you know better (if you do, it is time to open your own school).  For safety reasons, there can be only one teacher at a time.  For respect reasons, that teacher should be the one leading class.

Realism

Every so often, we come across a student who violates the previous three categories at the same time.  This person decides it is his mission as a training partner to PROVE that something doesn’t work, or that their partner is inferior.  When executing throws, locks, and strikes, he does so with full force and no regard for his partner.  When serving as the recipient of a technique, he refuses to “go with” the technique, thereby not allowing his partner to learn.  When working with an instructor, this type of partner will often resist.  What we must realize is that, when learning, it is necessary to go through the motions at first.  Using the previous example of the throw, we must be able to experience blending with the attacker’s motion, we must learn to find balance as we uproot our opponent, we must learn which muscles to engage in order to move the opponent without causing injury to ourselves, we must learn to control where we place the uke in order to maintain control.  And we must do all of this with control and precision.  Only when everything is done correctly do we start adding force to our motion and resistance to the actions of the attacker.

When a partner offers undo resistance from the very first demonstration, he is allowing ego to enter the training hall.  Most schools I have ever visited do not allow ego in the learning environment, and often have a free ego-checking service.  When serving as a partner to someone trying to demonstrate, you must realize that you can either assist the learning process by following where the instructor leads (thereby gaining deeper insight into the workings of the technique by being the recipient), or you can assist the learning process by allowing the instructor to demonstrate the force and ferocity required to MAKE the technique work.  When I teach, I demonstrate the technique.  You can go with it, or you can resist.  My follow through will not change, though your level of enjoyment might. Similarly, when working with another student, it is important to allow your partner to experience the full range of motion, without ego, so that you both might improve your skills.

Like any relationship, we must work on our relations with other students and other martial artists.  It is important to lay down ego in favor of respect.  There will be times when our experiences are almost magical, but there will also be times during which we are miserable.  Even when we find ourselves paired with a less favorable training partner, we can still learn a lesson: that of healthy boundaries.  If someone is trying to hurt you, you have a right and a responsibility to yourself to defend yourself.  In the kwoon or dojo, this can be as simple as respectfully asking someone to ease up, or even respectfully declining to work with someone who is not clean.  If you have trained long enough, you may even find that you have been the over-enthusiastic partner.  If someone asks you to go slower, simply acknowledge and comply.  By developing a healthy relationship with a training partner, we all stand to gain a deeper understanding of the martial arts; and is not that the goal?