The fastest way to improve in martial arts is to have great training partners, but the best way to have great training partners is to first become one yourself.
In martial arts, paired drilling, the concentrated practicing of specific, often isolated, skills with another person, is an irreplaceable component of any well-rounded training regimen. However, a good, knowledgable partner is essential for the drilling of any dynamic skill. If your partner does not know how to properly respond to your movements, whether by attacking or defending, it will be impossible to train the skill you are working on in a beneficial way that develops realistic movement skills and instincts.
The goal of being a good drilling partner is not to stop your partner from working on his or her techniques, but it is also not to help him or her through them in an unnatural way. Your goal should be to be exactly who your partner needs you to be in a way that best represents the real challenges that he or she will face against a skilled opponent, helping him or her work through the problems that are likely to arise. In this way, you are building your partner up so that he or she will be more successful in the future, when it counts, perhaps in an unfriendly, even hostile, environment.
By helping your partners develop in this way, by being who and what he or she needs for optimal growth and progress, not only will they improve, but so will you. Better partners make you better as well. The more skilled and intelligent your drilling partners become, the more successful you will be against other opponents. You will develop exponentially faster than you would have alone. In this way, the fastest way to improve is by first being a good partner and by helping those around you to improve.
“In life, so too it is in budo. In budo, so too it is in life.”