I go to a lot of seminars and special training sessions. Some years it's a monthly occurrence.
I love going to them - obviously - for a lot of reasons. I love learning new stuff - or fresh takes on old stuff - from the experts. I love the connection you end up making with other martial artists with the same interests you have. I love being able to train with people I don't know well.
That last point is important. When you stay in your own school and with the same training partners over time, you know what their strengths and weaknesses are, you understand how they will react. They know the same thing about you.
It becomes a little predictable.
When you train with strangers (or people you don't train with every day) you don't have this level of predictability. That makes you pay closer attention to what you're doing, what your partner is doing, and not take anything for granted.
This is a good mindset to have - it keeps you on your toes.
The temptation, at seminars, is to stick to the people you know, or, once you find someone you're comfortable working with, staying with them throughout the entire seminar. This is a mistake - not only are you not meeting new people (again, one of the funnest part of the experience) but you don't get as much out of the seminar content as you should or could if you switch partners.
Yes, I used the word "funnest" deliberately. I REGRET NOTHING.
You see, of the best things about going to seminars is that you end up training with people of all different skill levels. You play with newbies, you play with intermediate players, you play with peers, and you play with people who are above your level. There's something to be learned from each.
The fun part of training with newbies is twofold.
First off, if you are getting what's being taught and they are not, you feel like you're some sort of genius when you help a newbie work on it.
The second great thing about working with newbies is that you get to be a part of the process of their becoming a part of this nerdy little community of ours. Look at it this way: They're a newbie to this acquiring bruises for fun thing, and they don't know you. You know that they are nervous about hurting you or themselves, or looking dumb, or not getting it, or wasting your time. You work with them, help them, make them feel comfortable, help them learn...you're totally cool to them and they now think you're awesome, and they get the impression that all of us are like that (and most of us are).
You help them become part of our tribe. That's important, and honestly, makes me feel pretty good about myself.
The big down side, of course, is for that section, you'll spend more of your time helping the newbie instead of getting in more reps of the technique yourself.
These are the folks who are not new to training, so they have some experience, but are a lower level of skill than you are. This group is fun to play with, because you still look like you're a genius, like you do with a newbie, but you'll actually get more reps in than you do with a newbie.
These are the people who are the same level as you are. When you play with peers you get to work out and solve problems of what you're trying to learn together.
Basically, you and your partner can nerd out together on an equal level. And all y'all know how much I love nerding out.
ABOVE YOUR LEVEL
Finally, at seminar you'll work with people who are way more experienced or skilled than you are. That makes you the "intermediate player" to them. The advantage to you here is that the other person ends up helping you learn what you're trying to master relatively quickly, and that you might pick up a little something extra from them in the process (such as stance correction, or a little tip or trick to make the technique work better).
So there's things you will get from each of the kinds of people you'll meet at a seminar.
This is why sticking to your friends, or your own school, or finding one person to work with throughout the seminar is a bad idea. If you pick a newbie or an intermediate player, you'll spend the whole seminar teaching someone else. If you choose a peer, you won't ever see the advanced stuff the people who know more than you will share if you train with them. If you choose and advanced person, you'll never get to nerd out or help another person along.
At your next seminar, see if you can spot the four kinds of people, and make sure to work with each one.
Change partners, and get more out of your seminar experience.
Tell us about your seminar experiences and working with the types of people I listed above. Did I miss anybody? Let us know in the comments!