The Ideal training
By Shaun Banfield
I tend to think of my personal training as being split into
three, sometimes unbalanced sections. Firstly I have the training I participate
in, alongside my peers, sweating in dojo classes. Secondly I have training that
I participate in alone – which involves a variety of training on the bag, close
personal analysis and personal self study. Finally, I have the training that I
do with my close training partner…this is the section I participate in mostly
at this point in my career.
Karate training, when away from the dojo line up, can be a
somewhat lonely affair. Whilst fulfilling, it can be very isolated, so to break
up the large amount of personal training that I do, I work with my training
A training partner serves a variety of purposes, and can be
invaluable to your development. Finding the right training partner is essential
however. The person must be on your wavelength, there must be a mutual respect,
and criticisms must be offered and received in the spirit they are intended. My
personal training partner is of course Emma Robins.
When I am asked to list the most influential karateka on my
personal development, with an exception of Sensei Dave Hazard, Emma Robins is
at the top of that list. Emma is one of the most modest karateka I have ever
met, and without question one of the toughest and most talented karateka I have
had the pleasure of working with. We tend to train together pre-teaching and
post-teaching. She will look at me, and I will look at her, and we will do
drills etc. together. We’ll study one another’s movements and offer guidance.
The beauty of my working relationship with Emma is that I trust her viewpoint
absolutely. I know when she tells me I’m doing something inaccurately, that
she’s going to be spot on. Having a training partner that you trust, that is
capable and willing to share criticisms and also receive them well is
invaluable. Emma and I never take one another’s criticisms as negatives, as we
simply want one another’s karate to blossom. Just last week I was working on
the kata Empi, and she spotted the slightest of errors on my opening sequence.
When I self analysed, I couldn’t quite see it, but when we recorded it, she was
Over the last seventeen years of knowing one another and
training alongside and under one another, we have gotten to know one another’s
karate exceptionally well. She knows my strengths and my weaknesses, and visa
versa. Consequently, when we give one another advice, it’s fully informed. Over
this last seventeen years, we have seen one another go through triumphs and
ruts of the many. When I am in a rut, of which I have fallen deeply in the
past, Emma is hugely responsible for inspiring me to get out of it. This has
been vital to me, and is something I am remarkably grateful for.
Bouncing ideas back and forth with Emma is also essential to
my progression. There isn’t a class I teach, or seminar I conduct that I
haven’t discussed with her. Sometimes I may suggest an idea – be it technical
or in relation to the running of the dojo – and she will bounce ideas around to
make it better or more effective. In this way, I suppose she is my voice of
reason and insight. Training partners are invaluable in this sense. We can
often be too tunnel visioned in our own outlook, so someone that’s able to see
beyond your peripheral is so important.
In terms of the running of our dojo in South Wales, UK,
she is exceptional. I can honestly never overstate her talent as an instructor.
She has the ability to convey ideas, and motivate students in a way that few
are able. She is my perfect yang to my ying. Every weakness I have, is a
strength of hers. In the teaching context, this is so helpful as she has been
so pivotal in improving my weaknesses in every respect.
The beauty of my working relationship with Emma, is that our
egos aren’t competing. I sincerely want her to be the best she possibly can be,
and visa versa. I have, in the past, worked with people that simply wanted to
impress upon me that they are better than me. I am fortunate that when Emma and
I work together, we simply want to become better and to improve.
Looking back on my karate developments, and the successes I
have had, Emma is at the forefront of them all. When I competed at the World
Championships in Belgium
when I was in my late teens, it was Emma in the back room giving me support and
encouragement. Similarly, when Emma now competes, I’m at the side of that
tatami watching her exceptional skill. When I teach seminars, she’s there
looking at my lesson plan and giving her valuable insights.
I know, categorically, that without Emma’s support and
insight, I would be half the karateka I am today. I would therefore encourage
all karateka to develop a particular a working relationship with someone they
trust and value the opinions of.