We love to follow the achievements of the top jiu-jitsu competitors and are inspired by their technical innovations, sharpness and creativity.
But who is actually far more important to our BJJ learning is that guy beside you on the mat every week. The training partner who is the one you still the new techniques with and who tests you in rolling.
Ideally, you are of similar levels of skill. If you could choose, you would have a little heavier and stronger opponent that incorrectly performed techniques would simply not work. They would keep your jiu-jitsu honest. If you can’t make the technique work on them…then you have some more work to do.
This guy in the slightly stinky kimono is going to be your most valuable ally in developing your jiu-jitsu. It also helps if they have a good sense of humour and you can share a laugh over the sometimes absurd things that happen on the mats.
Some students take choosing training partners in class casually. When the instructor tells everyone to drill that day’s techniques, they glance around for a stray body and pair up.
If you find someone who you like to train with, put some energy into cultivating that training partner. I would message my best training partners before the class and ask “Are you training today? I really want to work on those back takes.”
Your training time and development are too important to just train with whatever body with a pulse is on the mat.
I am a big believer in picking a position that you want to add to your game and focusing on it for a month. Ideally, you can agree on a position with your best training partners and drill it together. Use specific training to sharpen that knowledge together. Combine your minds and you can go much further together.
The last point I’d like to make is about being accountable to your partners. If they are preparing for a competition, you should feel an obligation to not miss training and help them prepare. They can not prepare without you!
When you feel lazy some days, a message scolding you and pushing you into grabbing your gi and getting to the academy makes the difference between you training and not. Being accountable to your partners will help get your rear end into the academy on days when you otherwise would have missed training.
So here is a cheers to those valuable training partners who you sweat and learn with and battle every week. When you find great training partners, appreciate their value. You couldn’t be your best without them!
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam