How to be the best training partner.
What does it mean to be a good training partner? Well, first it’s important to understand that there is a huge difference between being a good training partner and being the best training partner. And we should all want to try to be the best, for ourselves and our peers. There are a few things to keep in mind when training with others.
- Don’t fight
When we are learning and drilling techniques, some people like to try and make their partner really work for it. They immediately fight back and struggle, preventing their partner from trying the technique they just learned. Not cool. Drilling is about learning and practicing. So when you’re making your partner struggle, you’re taking away their chance to work on new moves. Challenge during rolls, not drills. Let your partner practice the new technique without fighting back so that they can build up the right feel for it before trying it out in a roll.
2. Moving with Intent
For every technique, there is a baseline direction in which most people will move. It all comes down to averages. A great training partner will move the way they would be expected to. We’re all different, so some of us might react and move a different way. But when somebody else is learning something new, it’s most helpful for them to know what should happen and where their opponent should be. So if I direct you to fall or move a certain way when somebody is drilling, it’s just because that’s how the average person reacts. Drilling is about building the foundation, the concrete. A new technique should be learned with what is supposed to happen before being challenged with the unexpected abstract.
Giving feedback to your training partner is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be really helpful. But it must be absolutely accurate. Obviously, a bad partner gives completely incorrect information, their personal opinion of how it should be done, (which is almost always wrong), or is just negative without being helpful. I’m always listening during class, so I’ll call somebody out giving bad advice on a technique. But it still happens. The best partner knows exactly how I teach the technique and can repeat it exactly how I taught it. This helps reinforce my instructions so that the technique is learned correctly the first time.
The best partners, and the best students, also ask questions. Asking how they felt about how well they did the technique or if it felt right can help the other person to better analyze what they just practiced. It’s also really important to ask the instructor questions. If it didn’t feel right and you’re not sure why ask me. The students who do best are the ones that ask questions.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an intimate art. Even more than most martial arts, you and your training partner are going to be in each other’s personal space. So it really helps to trust that the person you’re training with is going to help you succeed and improve. Being a bad training partner doesn’t just hold back everybody else, it holds you back too.