Well this will seem a little ironic coming after my advice for the solo practitioner previously, but it is a subject which we all need to consider because sooner or later we will all be involved in a partnered drill, or in a partnered situation. This may be at our regular practice or at a convention or at some other sort of gathering. The partner may be someone who you have fenced with for years, or you may have literally just met them. All of the same stuff applies.
1. Don't Hurt Your PartnerSeems pretty obvious that we do not want to hurt the person that we are fencing with, right? Seems not to be the case with some. Some seem that they need to put a little bit more emphasis in on their strikes and other offensive actions. There is no need for it. If you continue to do this, you will simply run out of people who will be your partner and you will run out of people to train and spar with.
2. Follow the DrillsThis means that if you are doing a parry and riposte drill and you are attacking, you are going to get hit. The only reason why you should not get hit is if your partner misses, and even then you should assist them so that you do. You need to do your part of the drill as faithfully as possible to ensure that the learning experience is fulfilling for your partner. You should be practicing your actions at the same time to make sure that they are correct. If you don't follow the drill you and your partner will not learn what is supposed to be learnt. If you continually not follow drills people will not want partner with you and you again will run out of people to train with.
3. No AdditionsEven if you know what's coming next in the next drill don't make any additions to the drill. Wait until the trainer teaches the additional part of the drill. Your partner may not know about the new part and will be come confused, and will also want to focus on the current part. This also means that you should not really experiment with other options available as you may miss the point of the drill. If added defences so you don't get hit are not part of the drill, so don't add them. If you are supposed to get hit as part of the drill, you get hit. Additions to drills just show you as unwilling to follow instruction or arrogant, and not a good student.
4. Remain in ControlSome drills will be done at slow speed, some drills will be done at faster speeds. This will be determined by your instructor. It is up to you to remain in control of your actions. If you are supposed to be performing a drill at slow speed and your partner speeds up, do not follow them but remain at slow speed. You may even encourage them to slow down. Your instructor will have told you to do the drills at slow speed for a reason. Speeding up so that you can make a hit only cheats yourself.
5. Be TruthfulCheating in drills and bouts only cheats yourself. Being truthful in drills gives a true evaluation of how your learning is going and whether or not you need more practice at the skills or not. Changing at the last minute or speeding up to hide a mistake that you have made is a cheat, and even if it allows you to strike your target you lose because you have cheated yourself. You have cheated yourself in training and therefore from learning a lesson. By making mistakes we learn. By cheating so mistakes are not made, you cheat yourself of that learning, and also your partner as well.
6. Remove the EgoSome people feel that when they are struck it is a personal insult and their ego is somehow damaged. This is a very toxic attitude and you should avoid these people. Especially when training you need to remove the ego from the equation. Training is the best time to make mistakes as it is the best time to learn from them. Your instructors do not point out your mistakes to beat you down, but to help you learn. Your partners in learning are the same. If you get hit, ask how it happened so you can correct what you did wrong, not be insulted.
7. Respect for Your Partner
Finally, and this is most important, respect your partner. While a certain amount of training can be done alone and much more can be learnt by crossing swords with another. By respecting your partner you allow both of you to learn and thus both of you to grow as swordsmen. With respect for your partner much of what has already been said already will come into play. Regardless of your partner's skill level, ability, history, age or gender, all of them need to be respected. This is essential.
Being a good training partner is an ability which all swordsmen should train toward. This is something which will enhance your fencing career and also allow you to meet many interesting people in the process. It will also allow you to gain the most out of your learning experience. We have all experienced "that person" who deviates from the drills and will not follow instruction. This person is a nuisance and no one wants to partner them. The best thing is to not be "that person" and you will have a much finer experience.