How To Be A Great BJJ Training Partner

When we think about team sports, we usually think of basketball, football or rugby.  But Brazilian jiu-jitsu – or any martial art for that matter – can also be considered a team sport because it is impossible for any martial artist to improve without the help of his or her teammates. And it is every gym member’s responsibility to help create a friendly, open, and sharing culture in the gym.

Here are some ways to do so.

#1 Know How To React When Drilling

Don’t just focus on how to pull off the move that’s being shown by your coach. To ensure that drilling is productive for both you and your partner, you also need to take note of how to react correctly when the move is being done on you. This way, you can both fully utilize those precious few minutes you have for each drill. Also, don’t resist or go for a counter when the move is being done on you – that’s something you can try during rolling.

#2 Help The Newer Students Along

Remember how you felt being the newbie who didn’t know a thing about BJJ? Remind yourself that everyone has to start somewhere whenever you find yourself getting impatient at the hapless new student, who isn’t yet able to do even the basic shrimping movement or forward rolls. If you have some experience, volunteer to partner up with the new person for drills, and guide them along. Verbalizing the technique will also help you better remember all its details.

#3 Adapt Your Rolling Style Accordingly

Of course, when you’re called upon to roll with less experienced teammates, you’re likely to dominate them. But rather than submitting them five times in a roll – which can be immensely demoralising for your partner – why not take it as a chance for you to work on the weaker aspects of your game?

For instance, if you usually favor the top game, try working on your guard game instead when you’re rolling with a beginner. Adapting your style also means being self-aware, and knowing when and how to control your strength. If you’re paired up with a partner of similar size and skill, by all means, go all out. But if you’re called on to roll with someone smaller and lighter, and/or with less experience, try to focus on flow, movement, and technique, instead of relying on strength to get that submission.

#4 Give Your Partners Time To Tap

It is in everyone’s best interest to keep their training partners safe, and this means not going for a submission too quickly or viciously. This is especially applicable where joint locks are concerned; some people are less flexible than others, and injuries can happen in the blink of an eye. If you establish a reputation for yourself as someone who does not care about what happens to their sparring partners, don’t be surprised if your teammates start going out of their way to avoid training with you.

#5 Keep Your Emotions In Check

During training, celebrating your submissions or slapping your hand on the mat in frustration when you’ve been tapped is definitely not cool – it’s disrespectful to your partners.

#6 Be As Good As Your Word

If your teammate tells you they want to roll lightly and you agree to do so, don’t change your mind halfway during the roll and smash them. If your teammate tells you that they’re recovering from an injury, avoid going for submissions that might worsen that injury. Again, this is part and parcel of showing respect to your training partners.

Images: Mark Teo

Venue: Team Highlight Reel