Gracie Barra Novi, MIGracie Barra Novi, MI

Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone

Being a Good Training Partner

So this weekend a couple of thoughts popped into my head that have come up a number of times in the past year around this question:

What does it mean to be a good training partner?

While the competition aspect of Jiu-Jitsu largely boils down to one individual vs. another, it takes a team, a well oiled cooperative team, to develop each individual.  And at the heart of that are 1) Great instruction, and 2) Great practice partners.  Today, I would like to focus on the latter.  Here are the essentials.

1) Consistency:  To be a good team member, you need to be consistent with your practice.  It is very difficult to be a good partner if you are not keeping up with the rest of the team.  Inconsistency will leave holes in your knowledge that will slow down the overall development of the school and your partners.

2) Drilling means Drilling (NOT Sparring):  Students will occasionally forget what good drilling is all about.  It is the constant repetition of techniques to build muscle memory that develops high level  practitioners.  Drilling is also one of the most difficult aspects for partners to excel at.  As a partner having a technique performed on you, you must provide moderate resistance to simulate a real situation, but not so much as to negate the person’s effort learning the technique.  This is especially important for new students learning a technique for the first time.  The BIGGEST issue I see in drilling is when a partner constantly tries to counter the technique while drilling.  There is a time and place for that, but NOT during drilling.  You can’t learn the basics of the technique if your partner is constantly trying to negate your repetitions.  Be a good partner, you are SUPPOSED to let them get the technique so they understand how it is supposed to work.

3) RELAX!:  This is especially hard for new students and the reasons are many.  The biggest I believe is the fear factor.  Until new students realize that (in our gym anyway) we are here to help you grow and prosper, and are not looking for the first chance to jump all over you when you make a mistake, it is very hard for them to relax.  Knowing that ultimately this is training self defense, there is a perception that you must be intense (and therefore TENSE) all of the time.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  You will actually stunt your development until you can learn to relax, both drilling AND sparring.  Ultimately this takes time to develop the trust in your partners to where you can relax, and the physical and mental capacity required to retrain your body to be alert, aware and yet still relaxed.  To most people this requires retraining an almost innate quality typical in most people.

4) Cleanliness:  This should go without saying, but unfortunately it needs to be said.  No one wants to train with someone who, well, for lack of better terms….stinks.  You are going to get REAL close to your training partners during class, so please show them respect buy cleaning your gi AND yourself after every class.

5) Fight Fair:  One of my biggest pet peeves occurs when it comes time to actually spar.  On many occasions I have sparred with individuals that were as happy as could be when they were in advantageous positions, but as soon as things reversed, they decided they were out of gas and needed to stop.  My other “favorite” is when someone will go 110% for about 30 seconds trying to rip your arm off, then as soon as they are winded and unable to effectively defend themselves, they want to stop.  This largely boils down to EGO (not all of the time, but most of the time).  This behavior is most often expressed by someone who only wants to play to their strengths, then quit when their weaknesses are exposed.  It’s a shame, really, because the person is hurting their own development, as well as slowly chipping away at the relationships of their fellow students.  Very often, that type of behavior will eventually lead that person to have fewer and fewer people willing to work with them, and ultimately they will leave the gym and never understand why.  This is especially difficult for students with great stamina, but maybe less strength and technique, to cope with.  If they are able to withstand THEIR weakness, quite often their training partners will want to quit when they are hitting their STRENGTH.  The best way to avoid this situation is set a time limit and stick to it.  Even if a submission occurs before the end of the time limit, KEEP GOING!  It will allow both partners to benefit from their strengths, as well as work on their weaknesses.

So be a good training person and follow those 5 simple rules!

Greg Fernandes

Gracie Barra Novi




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