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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being a Good Training Partner

Getting into BJJ started out for you in one of two ways: either your friend convinced you to go, or you went in by yourself. But soon enough you found yourself expanding past that introduction stage and branching out to meeting new people, making new friends, and developing new bonds through the training process with your training partners. It' difficult to put into words how great that bond is; and can become. I think a lot of us out there on the mats will agree that our training partners mean more to us than a large majority of the rest of the people in our lives (results may vary). But that's why it's important to be a GOOD TRAINING PARTNER. 

I've been kicking the idea for this blog post around now for a while, but when my close friend (and good training partner/instructor) Marshal Carper , said something about it in one of his classes last week, I knew that was a universal omen speaking to me to do it. What Marshal said was something that we all need to keep in mind, but we'll get to that later.

Being a good training partner is more than just being friendly with the person you're working with for the night, or class. A lot goes into it. Believe it or not, but you might not be the best person to train with--and that might not be your fault. But by the end of this post you should have at least a better idea of what to do and how to improve so that you can be a good training partner.

Unspoken Rule of BJJ #89: If you weigh over 200 pounds, you're with the big guys.
Yes, it's true. If you even flirt with 200 after a heavy meal, you're most likely to be with the big boys. In the picture above--taken last year at NAGA--you can see me (left) with my usual training partner, Luca. We're both about the same size. I compete somewhere around 190, but walk around over 200. We're a good match for training partners because we're about the same size. Usually, us bigger guys have no idea how much stronger we are, or how much heavier we are with our smaller training partners. So, at least until you're rocking a blue belt, try to keep your training partners roughly the same physical size as you. Ideally you'd like same size & rank, but that's the ideal situation. 

What happens with NOT same size training partners

STOP Spazzing
We all did it. So don't feel like the worst person in the world if you're doing it. What is spazzing? Simply, it's using no technique to fight and going off of sheer brute strength of ripping, pulling, squeezing, etc to escape. 'Well, Jesse, wouldn't you be fighting a spaz on the streets anyway?' someone may say, and yes, I would. But let's keep in mind the 'training environment' we're in and not try to kill each other. Very rarely will higher ranks ever physically hurt each other because they know what is dangerous, what's not, and most of all they don't turn into the Hulk when in bottom mount. If you're still not clear on technique, slow down and ask your training partner to help you with the position. You're there to learn anyway, so be humble and admit when you're jammed up. You might just make a new friend and earn a new training partner.

Be Clean, Be Polite:
Don't wear unwashed gis, rash guards, board shorts, or anything. Always-always-always come to class in clean gear. Beyond common manners, it's a safety issue--unclean stuff means germs, it's science, don't argue science. But don't forget to be polite. Some places are big on bowing to your opponent (especially a higher rank) and addressing instructors by title instead of their first name. If your school is not one of those, it won't kill you to do it. In all occasions though, shake hands, say "thank you," ask permission if you want to try to do something.
Conversely, if someone asks your permission to drill something, that doesn't mean your mission is to stop them from doing it. They're basically asking if you'd be their grappling dummy. But that leads us to my next point...

Don't Be a Pushover:
All jiu jitsu moves/techniques are predicated on our anticipation of our opponent's resistance and presumed movement. If you're drilling sweeps and your partner just slumps over the moment you apply some pressure on their body, then the movement is useless and the technique you're trying to drill is cancelled out. Give some resistance--don't spaz--and just allow the move to happen. Maybe, as you develop a better relationship with that partner, you'll be more comfortable with each other where you'll be able to add some resistance to increase difficulty.

Pay Attention to the Instructor:
When the demonstration is going on, pay attention. Learn what the offensive person is doing and what the defensive person is doing. In about 3 minutes, you're going to be one or the other and you're going to need to know what to do so that you don't slow down your partner's training time. Be ready. And in that preparation you're going to learn not only what to do for the drill, but also what to do when that situation comes up on the mats in rolling, competition, or otherwise. 

Be Friendly:
Nobody likes a jerk. Say what you want about antiheroes and whatever, but there's no room for it in Jiu Jitsu. Don't come into the gym with an attitude where you don't want to make friends and just want to kimura everyone's arms off. No one will want to train with you. 

Remember at the beginning of the post how I mentioned something that Marshal said during class about being a good training partner? I don't remember the exact quote, but it went something like this: 'if there's someone out here that makes you go: 'no, not that guy. I don't want to train with him.' Then that's not on him, that's you. The problem is you.' And I think what he meant there was that we need to check our attitudes at the door, but also that if we're of the mindset that we're good training partners, but refuse to train with someone for some reasons, then we're not. We need to take the initiative to help that person to become better rather than sitting there being negative. So even if you think you're a good training partner, you might be surprised.

Special Thank you to our sponsors this week:

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