Yin and Yang: How to be a good training partner in Jiu-jitsu

If we are going to learn Jiu-jitsu, we are probably going to do it in an academy that pairs us with a training partner in almost every class. As a result, it  is important to understand how to be a good training partner.

To this end below are five suggestions that aim to improve our knowledge and ability to be a good training partner in Jiu-jitsu.

1. Be Respectful

Respect is the cornerstone of all martial arts, but it also applies to being a good Jiu-jitsu training partner. Being respectful as a training partner means many things and is a skill we can develop throughout our entire Jiu-jitsu journey.
At its most basic being respectful means being clean and wearing a clean gi, trimming our nails, showing up on time and having a positive attitude. We should remember to greet our training partner with a handslap and fist bump, use their name, and to be kind and considerate to them throughout practice.
Without a training partner we can’t learn Jiu-jitsu!

2. Be Disciplined

It is important to keep up with our training and fitness so that we are able to progress and help our partner progress. Our partner is there to learn and that should be our mindset as well. Just showing up to class is not enough. It is important to give a consistent effort and pay attention every practice so we are pushing ourselves and our partner to continuously improve.
By showing up and applying ourselves consistently we are being respectful to our  training partners who are putting in the effort, and we are being a good example to others who may need to step up their game.
We need good training partners in order to help ourselves improve. By helping our training partner improve, we are helping them to be able to help us, which then helps them, and so on. It is truly a yin/yang circular situation.

3. Be Calm and Gentle

Learning itself is a skill that Jiu-jitsu teaches, but learning is a skill that takes a long time to master, and we all start as white belts. In other words there are going to be lots of mistakes in Jiu-jitsu that are learning opportunities both for ourselves and our training partners. Importantly, in Jiu-jitsu learning happens in a context of high stress and danger. The context is stressful and dangerous because it is physical combat where someone is trying to choke us unconscious or break our limb.
Developing the skill of calmness will make learning easier, as learning is very difficult if we are stressed. Being calm will also make it easier for our partner to learn, as calmness breeds calmness while stress breeds stress. Finally the ability to remain calm is essential in real combat situations because Jiu-jitsu is a form of combat that uses efficiency, technique, and intelligence, rather than brute force and strength.
Related to being calm is the skill and ability to be gentle. This means matching our partner in terms of use of strength, not losing our composure, and not being too dramatic if we accidentally get slightly bumped or hurt in practice.
Also remember that if we are in a compromised position, we must not let our ego get in the way of tapping out. If we do not tap when we are in danger we not only expose ourselves to danger, we also put our partner in an uncomfortable position of having to choose either to hurt us or to let go of a technique that was effective.

4. Be Mindful

While learning and training Jiu-jitsu involves a training partner, it is important to remember and be mindful that learning and training does not only involve two people. There is a professor in charge of our class who cares about us and our development and who has a plan for us to reach our maximal potential on and off the mats.
From the realization that our professor is invested in our development in Jiu-jitsu a few things flow. First, unless we are a purple or higher belt, we should not try to teach our partner Jiu-jitsu. We may be teaching it wrong and doing more harm than good both to ourselves and to our partner. Even if we think we know a move or technique, it is better to always ask a brown or higher belt to make sure we are not teaching something wrong.
Another related point is to stay focused on the task at hand as directed by our professor. Often times during drilling of a technique it can seem repetitive and not exciting. The temptation is always there to try to block our opponents technique or to start sparring. We may think we are doing our partner a favor by showing our partner a block to the technique he or she is learning and making them work harder, but this is actually counterproductive as well as disrespectful.
We have to learn to walk before we can learn to run. The purpose of drilling is to progressively improve the application of a technique. By stopping our partner’s drill we are actually stopping our partner’s progress. At the same time a drilling session which has degenerated into something where everyone is sparring and going their own thing is disrespectful to a professor who is trying to teach us Jiu-jitsu in a structured, logical, progressive way. If we want to do your own thing, we can stay home. If we want to to learn Jiu-jitsu in an academy, we should be mindful of the big picture which includes our professor and his or her plan.

5. Be Positive

One of the reasons we go to Jiu-jitsu is to improve our character. Through Jiu-jitsu we hope to become not just better combatants but also better able to face, manage, and overcome our personal problems, and help those around us. The good news is that over time through the steady and disciplined practice of Jiu-jitsu we will acquire many skills that will help us in our daily lives. The bad news is that it takes time to develop our characters, our progress is not always linear, and we ill have good days and bad days.
In every academy we will notice there are usually a handful of students who always seem to have very positive attitudes. In every Jiu-jitsu school we will also notice that there are also often a few students who seem to to have a negative energy about them. Being a good training partner means doing our best to be positive. Even if we are going through a tough time we have to remember our training partner may be going through an even tougher set of circumstances. We have to do our best to leave our worries behind, work hard, learn, and have fun training, not just for our own benefit but that of our training partner. Remember, if you are not having any fun, it is probably not worth it.

Yin and Yang Conclusion:

Learning Jiu-jitsu requires training partners. It is important to be the best training partner we can be as ultimately this will translate into rewards in our Jiu-jitsu level as well as in our personal development.  By being good training partners we also help those our training partners, who can then help us too.

Yin and Yang Takeaway:

The five points above are a rough guide only, being a good training partner is a skill we can and should continuously work on during our entire Jiu-jitsu journey. Who knows, we may even make a few life long friends along the way.

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