Being the Best Training Partner You Can
Training BJJ is not a solitary activity. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, as the old saying goes, it takes an academy, an instructor and a lot of training partners over the years to raise a black belt. One of the most important skills you can set your mind to acquiring is not the berimbolo, but instead the skill of being the best training partner you can be. Let's take a look at some ways you can achieve this goal!
Train with everyone
Being a good training partner means understanding that training is a two way street. Whether you are drilling or live rolling, take it as your responsibility to protect and serve your training partner. This does not mean that you should overly cater to them and forget your own development at all, instead its important to have a mutual understanding of respect and desire for each other to get better.
You should be willing to train with anyone, from the person on their first day trying out BJJ for the very first time, to the black belt competition team member who might be much more skilled than you. The best mindset to take is to say to yourself, "I will learn something from this roll" no matter who you are rolling with.
If you are rolling with a brand new student, you must recognize that you may be the first person they've ever interacted with on the mats and if you treat them with respect and help them, you could be helping to solidify a life-changing moment for them. In addition, one benefit of training with brand new people is that after a certain amount of time, training with the same individuals, a certain level of familiarity arises and our reactions to each other can become almost scripted. Brand new people have a way of reacting in ways we may not have seen before or haven't seen in a while. It's important to broaden your understanding of possible reactions.
If you find yourself training with the more skill practitioner, or black belt competition team member, understand that they have different goals than you. They are most likely working on honing much different skills than the average practitioner who has a family and works a full time job. In this case, do the best you can to utilize what you know in the most perfect way you possibly can, knowing that they will most likely be able to exploit any error of technique or timing and capitalize. You should come away from those training sessions feeling inspired, not dejected.
Know that everyone trains differently
Being accessible and eagerly training with everyone is a great first step to becoming the best training partner you can become. No matter what your current belt level, gender, or goals are, you should always be willing to train with everyone. The second step is to recognize that everyone is looking for something different from their training. It's difficult to capture them all because they can be very individual. Let's take a look at some general categories and look what the training motivations might be.
The students who are competitors at your academy can be some of the best training partners for you, especially as you are up and coming. Depending on their current game plan, you can learn a great deal from them. But keep in mind, when competition is getting close, you will begin to notice a transformation as the begin the final stages of honing their game. Be ready for a heck of a challenge when you're rolling with them, no matter what their belt level in relation to yours.
Different Belt Levels
Every belt level can have different goals and motivations, just as every person can. White belts are eager to absorb every technique they can learn and are typically overly eager to try to surprise you and catch you in a submission. If you are a white belt, concentration on breathing, being relatively defensive, and working to achieve good positioning. If you make it through an entire live training roll without tapping, after remaining active, you should be very happy. Set your expectations appropriately.
Blue belts finally start to feel like they know something. This can be both good and bad. If you are blue belt training with someone less experienced than you, you should keep in mind what it was like to be a new student or a white belt and train accordingly. Be helpful, but don't try to be a know it all. Let people work their techniques and make mistakes. Help them if they have questions. If you are training with someone who is a higher belt than you, do you best to work your game. You may find yourself relying on a few moves that you are particularly good at. Rolling with higher belts is usually not the time to try to be innovative or try something you've never done before. Sure you can do it, but be prepared to get rolled up and possibly pay for any errors.
Purple and brown belts can be great training partners in that they are finally settling into a particular style of game and typically train with much more control and technique than the lower belts, due to experience and confidence, honed from more time on the mats. As a new practitioner, the purple and brown belt students are going to take care of you, challenge you, and work to make themselves and you better simultaneously.
The average practitioner comes in many forms, shapes, sizes and from many different worlds outside of the academy. The average practitioner could be the over 30 guy who works full time and has a family who loves the UFC, or the hard-working single mother who brings her child to the kids class and reluctantly signed up to learn some self defense and get in shape. It doesn't matter. The vast majority of practitioners in a school fall into this group. They may strive for 3-4 classes each week, but sometimes it can be a struggle with other commitments outside of the gym. They are looking to get a workout, burn off some stress and be around positive, like minded people. They are going to train very differently than the competitors and that is perfectly ok.
Work your game
Every time your train, whether it's with the competitor, the average practitioner, the lower belt or higher belt, you should always try to work your game. You should always be trying to advance to better positions. You should always be trying to look for the submission whenever possible. But you should be sensible. If you are a 250 lb male competitor, training with a 120 lb female average practitioner, you are going to want to tailor your session differently. Perhaps you work on guard passing footwork, or perhaps work solely your bottom guard positioning and sweeps. Similarly, if you are a high level competitor and you are training with a new student, your goal should be to flow perfectly working technique, or possibly allowing that student to put you in a variety of bad situations and work your way out of them. In other words, by knowing who you are and what your motivations are and also knowing who they are, you both will get the most out of the situation.
It goes without saying that safety it of the utmost importance. This goes for both you and your training partner. Being cognizant of goals and being mindful of your training will ensure that everyone benefits and comes out of the class or session better for it.
It is important along the lines of safe training to always tap appropriately when necessary. People who are reluctant or even downright refuse to tap can be some of the worst training partners because they are feeding their egos rather than their BJJ game. By not tapping, they are not necessarily improving anything but their pain thresholds. They are doing their training partners a disservice by not providing them fair and honest technique feedback. This doesn't mean tap early, or not to try to work your escapes. It simply means being able to understand when you've been caught and learning from the mistake, rather than risking injury.
Be grateful to your training partners, no matter what group they fall into. These are the people who share the mats with you at your academy and whether they are competitors or average practitioners, everyone is working towards some variation of being better grapplers and hopefully better human beings.
Being a great training partner also means understanding the goal of BJJ, which are to move into dominant positions and ultimately to be able to submit our opponents. No one knows this better than Marcelo Garcia black belt and stand out competitor, Matheus Diniz. You can get his entire game delivered right to you in this easy to follow BJJ instructional from BJJ Fanatics! Do not wait, check it out here!