Training your training partner – part 3

Rolling is competitive. You and your training partner are both trying to submit each other. The best way to do this is to stick to your A-game and only use the moves and tactics that you are best at. While this is a good way to submit your current opponent, it isn’t a very effective way to submit your future opponents.

To improve in jiu-jitsu, and to be able to beat better opponents, you need to improve your moves, timing, tactics and recognition of the game. This necessarily means doing things differently to the way you are doing things now. If you only practise your A-game, you never take the opportunity to change and hence improve.

Your training partner can help you with this. Recall from part 1 that there are different types of rolling. Don’t assume that your partner knows what type of roll you want. If you tell your partner, “I’m working on half guard sweeps when I have an underhook” or “I’m working on regaining the half guard from side control” your partner has more information to work with. Be specific, don’t just say “I’m working on half guard”.

This gives your partner information about what kind of roll you are expecting. How they respond is up to them. One response is to let more of the roll occur in half guard, so you can practise your offense while your opponent practises defence. Or your training partner may choose to avoid the half guard altogether. This lets you know that your priority isn’t practising half guard sweeps, but rather it should be practising your entries into half guard.

By telling your training partners “This is what I will be doing during this roll”, they will necessarily ask themselves how they will respond to this. Now both parties have a purpose in mind for the upcoming roll, and each has an opportunity to evaluate their success after the roll.

Rolls that have a purpose cause you to reflect on the roll. Reflection is a necessary component of improving.

Training your training partner – part 2

How do you know that you need to train your training partner? The easiest way is to ask yourself whether you enjoyed the roll you just had with them.

If you didn’t enjoy the roll, the worst thing to do is to talk to them about it immediately afterwards. When emotions are high, there will be misunderstanding and overstatement which will lead to bad feelings. Instead, just tap hands and mentally note that the goal of your next roll with them will be to train them to be a better training partner for you.

Here are five training partners that are not fun to roll with, and suggestions on how to improve future rolls.

The enthusiastic beginner with high attributes and low skill

Beginners have little skill, so they need to use lots of physical attributes to be competitive. With experience, they will gain skills and experience. They will realise that BJJ is an endurance game and will learn to conserve their energy and only use their attributes when necessary. But before that happens, they use too much strength, move too quickly and thrash around, all the while potentially injuring you with their flailing limbs.

Beginners will eventually become competent but you can hasten this. Firstly, rolling is competitive and beginners want success. All a beginner is thinking of is winning, so let them. Let them sweep you. Let them gain dominant position. Let them submit you. The easier you make it for them to do this, the less they’ll need to use physical attributes. They’ll quickly realise they don’t need to use so much energy and they’ll calm down. Now you can start increasing the difficulty level. Your goal is to have your training partner come to the realisation that winning isn’t sufficient, it’s how they win that matters.

Your training partner doesn’t gain any satisfaction when they win and it is obvious that you are letting them. You are helping them to clarify their understanding that they don’t want to merely win with their attributes, they want to win with their skill. At this point, many training partners will often say that they don’t know what to do (BJJ-wise) so go ahead and share your knowledge.

The too-rough training partner

Your training partner is competent, but he is rough. You walk away from a roll sore or injured. Your training partner likely doesn’t have a good grasp of controlling intensity.

Firstly, if you get injured, tell your training partner and tell your coach. Injuries should be uncommon. Injuries are a warning sign that something is wrong with the gym culture and your coach needs to know about this to fix it.

Your training partner needs to become aware of his own intensity level. Pretend you’re made of tissue paper and tap early and often. If your training partner squeezes you too hard, tap. If he attempts a submission, tap at least a second before it is applied. When your training partner asks why you are tapping so much, let him know you’re afraid of getting injured and are tapping early for your own safety. Ensure you are just stating a fact, don’t whine about it. Assume that your training partner is not malicious, just unaware. By tapping whenever the intensity is too high, you are training your training partner to become sensitive to his own intensity level.

Mismatched intensities

This is the most common cause of dissatisfaction after rolling. You’re tired or just wanting a fun roll, while your partner is rolling to test where their level is. The problem here is with mismatched expectations. Either you or your partner needs to match intensity, or you should stop rolling or risk injury.

The problem is one of communication. If you want a fun roll, say so before tapping hands to start. Be sure to say “fun roll” and not “light roll”. “Light roll” is code for “I want to go light only as long as I’m winning, but if I start losing I’ll go as hard as I can.”

The up-and-comer

Your training partner is less experienced than you, on a meteoric rise and you are the next stepping stone. This is a hard roll and you have to pull out all your physical attributes to prevail.

If this is not fun for you, then why are you fighting so hard? It’s time to contemplate your ego.

The arrogant higher belt

You’re on a meteoric rise and your training partner is next ahead of you. But whenever you roll him, he increases the intensity and you can’t beat him. It’s not fair.

You’re not there yet. Improve your skill level. This training partner is the best to help you with this. If you can’t pass his guard, ask him why not. Ask him to show you how to pass his guard. Drill it with him. Your training partner will be happy to help you improve because it means you become a more challenging training partner for him.

If you’re not having a fun roll, either you need to train your training partner or you need to change your attitude.

This post has been about improving bad training partners. The next post will be on making the good ones even better.

Training your training partner – part 1

What do we need to learn BJJ? We need some ground, a training partner and a desire to improve. Coaches can give us the benefit of their experience. Instructional videos and competition footage can give us inspiration and new ideas.

It is the training partner that has the biggest effect on your ability to learn and improve your jiu-jitsu. Your training partner is always there with you when you are training. Your coach can only be there some of the time.

A good training partner knows how to vary the level of resistance, knows how to match pace/intensity, draws your attention to your mistakes and makes your training challenging.

We choose our coaches carefully by going to the best gym we can find. We watch matches of the highest level of competition. Yet most of us spend little thought on the quality of our training partners.

Good training partners don’t just magically happen. You have to build them.

Many of us are knowledgeable about how to develop our training partner when we are working on skills, but we also need to do it when rolling.

When you roll, some of your rolls will be for fun, some will be to work on integrating new moves, others will be to test yourself, and some will be to train your training partner. Roll for a specific purpose. Don’t be vague in your thinking about what sort of roll it is.

In upcoming parts we’ll be looking at the specifics of what goes into a roll where your goal is to train your training partner.

The most effective submission in BJJ

Rickson Gracie demonstrating the rear naked choke

There are many different submissions in BJJ. Some are more effective than others. If our goal is to submit our opponents, then it makes sense to focus more of our training time on the most effective submissions.

In BJJ, we get very good at almost breaking . . . → Read More: The most effective submission in BJJ

The 6 positions of Jiu-Jitsu

To understand something complex, we often break it down into to smaller chunks. Smaller chunks are easier to understand but we lose understanding at the boundaries between chunks. If the chunks are too small and numerous, we have many boundaries between chunks and hence lots of grey areas where we can lose understanding.

A . . . → Read More: The 6 positions of Jiu-Jitsu

That’s not a real move

Would you tap to this?

Jiu-jitsu is a contest between two people to see who can make the other give up. It’s fun and we want to do it every day, so we have rules that ensure no-one gets injured.

The rules are simple

stop when the other person taps use a mat . . . → Read More: That’s not a real move

Beginning frustrations

When you first begin jiu-jitsu, you feel like you’re fully awake and alive. The stars are brighter when you leave the gym at night. Your body feels like it has a purpose. You hunger for answers to the questions that arise on the mat.

These feelings stay with you as long as you do . . . → Read More: Beginning frustrations

Paying homage to Jiu-jitsu

I’ve played many sports over the years. Some I’ve passionately enjoyed. Many were fun ways to pass the time. Other’s were boring and only done out of a sense of obligation. Jiu-jitsu is the only sport that has made me cry.

What jiu-jitsu brings, that the others don’t, is honesty. Honesty about yourself and . . . → Read More: Paying homage to Jiu-jitsu

How to begin a roll

Ideally, every roll would start with both opponents standing. Potential collisions with other people rolling nearby make this impractical on a crowded mat. Additionally, takedowns often result in wear and tear on the body. Most gym rolls have an implicit agreement that both opponents will avoid standing at the same time.

The naïve compromise . . . → Read More: How to begin a roll

The Right Way(tm)

When we learn a new move in jiu-jitsu, we want to learn it correctly. We want to perform it the right way.

A move is a collection of concepts and tradeoffs. There is no right way to always perform a move in the general sense. The specific way to perform a move will depend . . . → Read More: The Right Way(tm)