Many years ago, as part of my sempai-kohai interaction I was sent to train with each black belt in the dojo with the following condition: They had one hour to show me what they thought was the most important aspect of the martial arts. The thought-flow was that if I was stuck on my own, with nobody to train with, what are the skills I should be drilling aspects of importance that could keep me advancing till I got back to structured training in the dojo. Each black belt- three of them, shared very different and unique perspectives.
I was recently thinking of this type of uchi-deshi training exercise, and thought to turn it into a blog post here on our training blog...
In our own class training, in every class, we practice a simple form of taisabaki movement. It can be scaled down for beginning students, or scaled up for the appropriate skill level. The training drill looks like this:
You and your training partner stand across from each other with enough distance between both of you, so that your training partner has to take a step or two to reach you. When they are ready, they are going to reach out and grab you.
With correct timing, as this happens, you move off the angle of attack, and put yourself in a position so they can not continue on to grab you.
This teaches a VERY important martial arts skill- when something is coming at you, be it a grab, punch, kick, etc. get out of the way.
Take yourself off the angle of attack, and using footwork, distance, and timing, put yourself in a place where you can not be attacked again.
Always keep moving.
This also has many advantages on a tacitcal level, in that a moving target (you) is harder to hit, and in always keeping moving, it allows one to use the leverage of the body (taijutsu) for effect, and proper kamae to control the situation.
That would be one of my most important martial arts skills.