It seems that every group of people has an appreciation day dedicated to their service: International Secretary Day, Teachers Day and so on. I think that the bjj world needs a day to honour the role that great training partners play in our jiu-jitsu experience.
The head instructor is the center of the jiu-jitsu academy, but most of our time is spent directly interacting with our fellow students and training partners.
A few of the things that great training partners do for all of us:
1) Welcome new students to the academy
You probably remember being more than a little nervous when you first visited a jiu-jitsu academy. Very likely one of the senior students partnered up with you for your early classes and helped you with nearly everything.
How do I tie this belt?
Do I bow on or off the mats?
And a thousand other questions!
Instead of being intimidating or aloof, a great training partner is open and welcoming to new students and helps them feel at home in the academy. This is a major factor in a new student deciding to take up jiu-jitsu or say that it is not for them.
I recall one student say that he felt that he had learned more from the advanced students at his academy than he learned directly from the instructor.
Everyone has those days when they are overwhelmed by their responsibilities and obligations in life and getting to class is difficult.
A movie and a pizza is a lot more tempting than getting into the car and driving to the academy when you are fatigued.
But then that message pops up on your phone “Hey man, are you training tonight? I want to work on that triangle setup we did the other day!”
You look at the TV and you look at your gym bag.
30 minutes later you are warming up on the mat and getting ready for a great training session.
Your training partner provided that little bit of motivation to get you off the couch and into the academy.
3) Iron sharpens iron
We find training partners at the academy who share the same training goals and then test us and force us to raise our own level.
By its very nature, jiu-jitsu requires close cooperation with others.
Other than train at an academy with a top level instructor and good atmosphere, I believe that developing a handful of great, regular training partners is the BEST thing you can do to learn bjj.
When you develop a friendly rivalry with good training partners and regularly test each others techniques on the mat, you BOTH grow in your jiu-jitsu.
You learn each other’s games and attempt to counter and overcome their best positions with your own.
And vice versa.
These are the people who you will spend the most time with on the mat over a period of several years and the ones who will most shape your jiu-jitsu.
When you have a training partner who can push you to your limits (and beyond!) and yet train both safely and with mutual respect, then you have something invaluable.
A great training partner!
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam