When it’s time to partner up, there are often students in class who most people would prefer not to work with. I will call them the “undesirables”. They may be older people, rambunctious children, the less physically fit, or just new students. When given a choice, I will usually chose to work with an undesirable. I seem to work well with these kinds of students, and I think the reason I have almost NO patience in the rest of my life is because I save it all up to use with unruly kids!
I can empathize with these students because I know how it feels to be an undesirable. When I first started Jiu-Jitsu I spent a lot of time sitting on the mat, waiting to roll with someone, anyone, and never get chosen. When it was time to pick partners, everyone within a ten foot radius of me would turn their backs and run away as fast as they could (until I started jumping on their backs to prevent their escape ;).
In Karate class at our dojo, partners are not often chosen, they are usually assigned (or we simply partner with the person on our left) and then we orderly rotate. There are many reasons for this; safety (they don’t want two newbs hurting each other), variety (you get to work with all ranks and sizes), and making people step outside of their comfort zone. The teachers know that most students will just choose to work with the same people over and over again if they’re allowed to. They usually try to not let the Ethridges work together in class. This method also keeps people from repeatedly avoiding working with the undesirables, and keeps those students from feeling…well, from feeling undesirable.
When I choose the “undesirables” as my partners, or I give my Karate brown belt to a sixty year-old man with Asperger’s syndrome, I do so because that is what I believe the spirit of Budo is all about. It’s not about how much you can take, but about how much you can give. I have something to offer these students, and I would never consider that a waste of my time. My own progress might sometimes be slowed because of it, but this school has no graduation, so I have the rest of my life.