Sounds obvious doesn't it. Since we've emerged out of Lockdown 3 here in the UK and contact training has finally restarted, I appreciate this critical facet of my martial arts practice more than ever.
As a karate student, it's been pretty easy for me to continue training through the lockdowns, since a lot of what constitutes a karate lesson doesn't require human-to-human contact. We can practise two of the three 'k's: kihon (basic techniques) and kata (forms composed of basic techniques) in socially distanced lines up and down the dojo or at home, unperturbed by the restrictions! However, the third 'k' of karate, kumite (sparring); aswell as other fun things like pad drills and practical self-defence combinations, has been left behind until now.
It felt liberating to pair up with a partner recently and actually hit each other a bit! There are certain subtleties of my style, Wado Ryu, that are similar to Jiu-Jitsu joint locks and body manipulations; and these can only really be understood when you get that physical feedback from your opponent. I think that proprioception, the sense of knowing where one's body is in space, plays a massive role in this. Where is my knee in relation to my opponent's knee? Can I feel my opponent losing their balance? Thinking about these questions again after so long is really interesting. Moreover, it's notable that you can practise a technique or combination alone and think it feels right; but doing the same thing with an opponent feels completely different, and can often reveal weaknesses you never realised were there!