Below is an article by Indrek Reiland of Aliveness Gym Estonia (SBG) on the 5+1 stages of resistance he uses to coach his students. He had originally developed these and written about them before learning about the SBG training methods, but he found that his methods matched up nicely with their curriculum and the I-method in particular.

This articles has been very useful for helping me think of new games and drills when I am coaching, and as a student it has made me think about how to best help my training partner learn.

How to act as a training partner to help your partner learn

Stage 1 (Introduction 1)

This is the stage when you as a training partner help the one learning to learn the technique by not giving any resistance at all. You are as dead as a dummy. Even when he leaves out some details that make the technique work, you do not resist. Using the scissors sweep as an example, despite not pulling your weight on top of himself to do the sweep, you still let yourself be swept.

This is the first part of the Introduction stage. It´s only needed with complete beginners, and even then only a couple of times with each technique. It´s needed just to get them to understand where the grips should be and where their limbs should be.

Continuing our scissors sweep example, the left knee goes in across the stomach and the right foot touches the ground. The right hand grabs his left hand and the left hand grabs his collar or back of the head. If a beginner does that for 2-3 times and gets a little feel and understanding of his limbs and the grips, he doesn´t need that stage anymore.

This stage is not needed for guys who have a basic understanding of the game, but the stage is still helpful for teaching slower people or complete beginners to understand just where the limbs go, the grips and the body mechanics.

My own experience shows that it´s sometimes useful to let them do the technique a couple of times like this, so they get an understanding how it works. Otherwise some guys tend to for example switch the grips for the sweep or do it to the wrong side or etc.)

Stage 2 (Introduction 2)

This is the Stage 2 of Introduction phase. Now you as a partner still do not give any resistance, but you do not help the other guy do the technique. By this I mean that when he doesn’t do it completely right, you do not let it happen. For instance, when he doesn’t pull your weight on top of him and do a good scissor movement then you will not let him sweep you—instead you correct him by saying “Pull my weight on top of you and then do the movement… Very good… Correct. Now let´s do it again.”

This should be the way everyone with basic understanding should start learning (or in this case helping your partner to learn) the technique.

This is the technical repetition stage where the most important thing is to understand the mechanics of the technique and how it works and from what situation to use it, as well getting the body mechanics right.

Stage 3 (Isolation 1)

This stage correlates with beginning of the Isolation stage. You as a training partner start to get some Aliveness into the training, such as in the form of a drill.

In this stage you as a partner do not have your own goals yet, but you are in an alive drill, not letting him just exercise the sweep in a dead manner. You do not let him just pull your weight on top of him, you try to break the grips, get him moving and so on—but you do not have your own goals, e.g. passing the guard.

This could be called one-sided isolation. The most important thing to understand about this stage as a training partner is that you have to act in accordance to your partners size, technique and experience. You are supposed to help him learn in an alive manner, but not fight back at all cost.

A better example might be top or bottom game drills. For top drills, the top guy has a goal to dominate and move; the bottom guy (the training partner for this article) is only trying to get his partner to move—not to escape but to get the correct posture and make his partner fight for the top control. In a bottom drill, the bottom guy has the goal to escape, while the other one is just moving and giving alive resistance but not with the goal to dominate or hold the other one down.

Let´s take double leg takedown drills from some punching or focus mitt drills as another example. In this stage, the one guy has to finish the takedown according to his partners resistance, but the other guys goal is not to sprawl or defend. The only goal is to make his partners life harder with moving and presenting different energy (pressure forward/falling back) for finishing the double leg.

At this stage drills are tremendously effective for getting the techniques learned in Introduction to work in an alive manner, yet in a way that allows the one doing the techniques to practice it without being afraid of the partner ruining his training. The partner is not killing the learner’s objectives to learn. This helps everyone and creates better training partners overall.

Stage 4 (Isolation 2)

This is an advanced Isolation or two-sided isolation stage. You begin from a position, such as the scissor sweep position with neutral grips, and both have a special goal. In this case, it is to get the scissor sweep and to pass the guard. Both partners go at a selected ratio of technical resistance they choose together from 10-100%. After one side manages to complete his goal they restart again from the specific position. You as a training partner have your own goal and also learn as you’re helping the other to learn to defend your goal and achieve his own by alive training.

For instance, one can work the double leg (or both can shoot depending on the drill) and the receiving end will give his effort to defend/sprawl and get to a better position. Or one has the goal to dominate from the top (side control, modified scarf hold or mount) and the other tries to escape.

This is the phase where most of the real training occurs.

By the way, I believe that differentiating—Isolation 1 and Isolation 2—has tremendously helped my ability to create drills and get the point across.

Stage 5 (Integration)

This is basically technical sparring. You can start from an isolated position (making it a sort of Isolation stage step) or on the knees or standing up.

Partners (or coach) choose the intensity from 10-100%. You can give or have different goals, like passing the guard or getting a submission, but it´s basically sparring with a technical emphasis. The difference between isolated positional training in this stage and the previous Stage 4 isolation training is that partners do not have a single specific goal but rather an overall goal (like tapping the other guy out) or personal goals they set themselves (like working on their escapes) or to integrate newly learned techniques into ones game. In my opinion, this is how most sparring should be done. You as a partner help the other guy learn by technically sparring him; help him learn to defend and attack and so on. This is technical sparring at a choosen intensity level—it´s not a competition or a deathmatch.

The integration at this stage comes more from a personal mindset like “Today in sparring, I am gonna drill only guard passing and top game.”

These are the five stages of resistance that you can give to your partner while learning techniques and fighting.

And the + 1 Stage

This is the stage when you stop being a training partner. This is all-out sparring, fighting and competing where you use whatever means you can (if in a competition or in the gym then according to the rules; if on the street then by any means and so on). You use strength at this stage also and are probably just trying to get the other guy tap by any reasonable means, which makes this different from the technical sparring phase. You stop being a training partner in the sense that you are supposed to be there to help your partner and yourself learn. Instead you have your own goal that you have to get using any agreed upon means available.

This type of training is good on some occasions but problems occur when people switch from any previous stage (especially Stage 5) to this stage during training when they should not. There is a higher risk of injury and other problems.

But of course this type of training must be done too to prepare for competitions or to create an environment similar to self defense situations (in MMA or self defense drills).

I hope that the article has helped you to assess your training and understand it a little bit better.