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Are You A Good Training Partner?  What Makes A Good Training Partner?
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Are You A Good Training Partner? What Makes A Good Training Partner?

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I’ll never forget what it was like starting to train Jiu Jitsu.  

I walked in the doors not really knowing anyone and definitely not having any idea what to expect, how to act, what was acceptable and not acceptable behavior, do I bow, not bow, where exactly do I take my shoes off, am I wearing the right shorts, so do I start stretching or just hang out until someone else tells me what to do… completely clueless.  I walked in the doors having never trained any martial art before. I was fully expecting a bunch of tough guys to shoulder check me as I walked in, similar to the meathead gym I lifted weights at, I couldn’t have been more incorrect as I would soon learn, the Jiu Jitsu family vibe is strong, and I was fortunate to have picked an academy that was building an amazing culture.  In fact, it was obvious that creating the right culture was a priority, at the core, it was the most important foundational building block.

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When you are first starting out in Jiu Jitsu it’s easy to be overwhelmed with all of the new terms and techniques, not to mention meeting new people and trying to make sure you are following all of the rules and doing everything you should be doing.  It can be survival mode almost. That is until the first person you start talking to takes you under their wing and shows you the ropes.

The reality, for me at least, was much different than what I had expected.  I was expecting a macho vibe where it would be difficult to get help and awkward to try to talk to people.  That couldn’t be further from the reality. Immediately upon walking in the door I was introduced to some killer that had been training for years, guys that I would soon learn were capable of dismantling a human body with easy, these guys were basically gods (blue and purple belts at the time), or at least it seemed.  They took me under their wing and began showing me the ropes. As we went through the warm up, the spent time to make sure I was comfortable, I felt like I knew what I was doing, and I understood the why behind the movement. While I certainly didn’t know how to hip escape from bottom mount yet, having someone show me that that is why I needed to take shrimping in the warm up seriously was a huge help.  These guys have continued to be mentors of mine as I have grown in my Jiu Jitsu career.

As I look at my journey, there are some fundamental things that stick out that kept me coming back, the key one is always feeling like I had good training partners.  What makes a training partner good or bad?

First of all, hygiene.  Having a clean gi, or clean gear for no gi class is imperative to being a good partner.  Jiu Jitsu is hard enough as it is, let’s not make it harder by making our partner suffer through unwashed or otherwise smelly training gear. 

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Next, being on time.  Listen, we are all busy.  Sure, some of us are busier than others, but make a real effort to be on time to class.  It’s not only the respectful thing to do, it’s helpful to your fellow training partners. When you roll in after warm up when everyone has already partnered up you may disrupt a group and cause delays because now you have to find a group to partner with.  Make it a point to be on time so you can be prepared for class.

When choosing your partner, ideally choose someone who is a similar size to you.  Now, clearly, this isn’t going to always be possible, I understand that. If you can choose someone bigger than you, that’s also at least a blue belt, they should be able to control themselves well enough to not panic and accidentally hurt you.  Personally, I enjoy training with people bigger than me. If I can move a three hundred pound body it stands to reason it should be easier to move a similarly skilled two hundred pound body more easily. If you must train with someone that is smaller than you, it is your responsibility to take care of them, especially if they are a lower rank than you.  No one is impressed you are able to smash the one hundred fifty pound white belt that started training yesterday, when you’ve been training for months. Not only is no one impressed, but you’ll likely get some special love from the higher ranks at the academy, as you should.


Now that we are clean, not smelly and partnered with the right size training partner, it’s time to drill some techniques.  When you’re drilling the techniques in class it’s important to understand, this is not a competition. You and your training partner are working towards the same goal; learning  a technique and perfecting the details so you can perform the move as smoothly and quickly as possible. Resisting the technique more than required for your partner to understand the move is not only unnecessary, but it’s annoying.  If you’ve been training a while, you’ve likely had the training partner than just simply fights you every step of the way. Don’t be that person. Sure, we want to simulate real life when we are training, but be reasonable with the amount of resistance you are giving your partner and maybe start with little resistance and work up as their technique improves with each rep.

Next we have my personal favorite.  What I like to refer to as the “online video expert”.  This is the person who watches the professor show the move and tries to find every situation where it will not work, then when drilling with their training partner decides to “teach” them the move they learned on the interwebs.  Are there a lot of great instructionals available online? ABSOLUTELY, there are tons, however in my experience these types of training partners are typically showing you a move that belongs more in a pro wrestling match where it feels like we should be wearing costumes than it does in the Jiu Jitsu and or self defense world.  Bottom line, if you want to teach a move, talk to your professor and see what your options are, maybe they have an opportunity for you to take over a class on occasion. Regardless, be respectful of the professor and your training partner and focus on drilling the technique(s) that are being shown in that particular class.

Finally, don’t attend class when you’re contagious.  If you aren’t feeling well, coughing all over the place, it may not be a good idea to attend class and share all of those germs with everyone in the academy.  Additionally, if you have any new rashes or skin irritation, please, please, please consult with an instructor before training, you may have a skin fungus like ringworm that is easily cured in most cases, however it also spreads very easily and can take several people off the mats for weeks if it is not handled properly.  At the end of the day, use common sense, and ultimately, show respect for your teammates and your professor(s) by not training when you think there is a risk or getting others sick.

Last, but certainly not least, build relationships with your training partners, this is going to happen naturally most likely, but put in the effort.  When they miss a class, send them a message to check on them, and expect they do the same if or when you miss a class. Peer accountability goes a long way.  If you know you were supposed to work with someone tonight, the “I don’t feel like going” excuse becomes much harder because you have a teammate counting on you.  

Being a good training partner is your duty.  As you begin to grow in your Jiu Jitsu journey, you’ll find lots of ways to give back to Jiu Jitsu, however being a good training partner is the first step in giving back to Jiu Jitsu.  Don’t be selfish, make it a priority to be a good training partner. Be the reason someone comes back tomorrow. Be the reason the academy grows.

Craig Jones used this guard to beat TONS of legends. You can learn it too! Check out "The Z Guard Encyclopedia", and add some of Craig's game to yours! Check it out here!

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