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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Drive, She Said

Lots of two-person partner drills in Presas Arnis - mostly derived from Modern Arnis and Kombatan - have different roles for each partner.

We use a lot of different terms for each role, but the one we tend to use most in our neck of the woods is "driver" and "passenger".

I wrote some about being the passenger HERE.

Often, our newer students start out in the passenger role in these drills. Initially, they have one job - learn the motions in the drill, and react/counter to what their partner, aka the driver, does.

The driver role is the harder of the two. The driver is the one who thinks a little ahead and who leads the passenger through the drill. They initiate the drill, and part of their job is to pressure the passenger a little in order to get them to respond the way the drill demands.

There's more to being a driver, I think, than just being able to lead a passenger along in a drill.

For me, driving requires "owning" the space around you, especially between you and your opponent. Your job, as the driver, is to lead along the passenger, and to do that, you must be the one controlling range, pace, and timing. You have to adjust these things to meet the training goals of both people in the drill when you drive.

Over time, at least in our students, we expect everyone to learn how to drive, and to own their space when they're doing so.

This isn't as easy as it might sound.

Turns out, some people are natural drivers, and some are natural passengers.

I am a natural driver. I have always taken the initiative in drills naturally, and I tend to push into other peoples' spaces to make them react to me. This is not always a good thing, mind you, as it's easy to take advantage of my tendency to "take the space" and turn it against me.

I had to learn to be a good passenger, and I had to learn how to control my tendencies to "steal the drive". I also had to learn how to not be overly aggressive when driving.

I've had training partners and students who are natural passengers. Their nature is to be more reactionary and to give space to the opponent. While sometimes this results in their being on the defense all the time (and I don't think that's a good thing), this can also mean that they are giving ground on purpose to rope in the aggressive one into a bad position.

Natural passengers have to learn when taking the ground and being aggressive is in their best interests (often, they end up out of position for a counter attack because they give too much space).

Being a passenger feels safer sometimes, and it really isn't, because never taking the initiative means the other guy gets to decide what's going to happen here, and you're playing a defensive game.

A defensive game will fail, eventually.

Some people don't fall naturally into either the driver or the passenger role. They're able to do either side without overcoming their instincts. I envy those people!

Regardless of your natural tendencies, our goal in training is to develop into people who can be the driver or the passenger by choice, versus by instinct. There are times to be aggressive, and there's times to give way to aggression.

Not too long ago, one of our students asked me what a black belt "looks like" to me.

My answer: a true Black Belt is someone who is comfortable in driving.

It doesn't mean they know everything, it doesn't mean they're perfect, it means they can take the initiative and get their partner to respond the way they want them to, at least sometimes.

Just drive.

Are you naturally a better driver, or passenger? Does your training include responsibilities like this? Let us know in the comments!

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