How Do You Handle An Aggressive Training Partner?

Aggressive training partners who bring the pain with every roll are rare and valuable.  But like any rare and valuable commodity they must be treated carefully and with respect. They are not to be taken lightly.

Most people who do jiu-jitsu do not have the athleticism or skill to truly be aggressive on the mat.  It is for that reason that competitors often isolate themselves and have limited opportunities to truly be challenged.  It’s a tough path.  But there are some key guidelines to maintaining a healthy relationship with those who are really able to push you on the mat.

Respect the Ego. 

The truth is that for better or worse the more skilled or aggressive people are, the less likely they are to be willing to tap to a locked submission.  It took me a while to figure this out: some of my training partners, even those who hold higher rank than I do, will let me injure them before they tap.  And that’s a problem.  For this reason, I determine who these training partners are and either don’t apply the submission or clearly ask them during the roll if the submission is on or not, bringing them back to the reality of the situation.

Use sparingly/intelligently.

I don’t roll with the most aggressive training partners that I have at my disposal on a daily basis.  I pick and choose when I roll with them based on my training levels on any given day.  I train seven days a week. If I rolled with these savages on a daily basis, I’d be seriously injured in no time and would have to take off.

Communication is key.

If you want to work on something specific when rolling with a passive training partner, you can just work on it and generally they’ll go with the flow and see what your intentions are in the roll.  Aggressive training partners neither care nor have any interest in what you want to do UNLESS you communicate with them.

If you ever want to truly test yourself…

Roll with the most aggressive jiujiteiros in the room as your first and last rolls of the day.  There’s nothing quite like the kick in the teeth of aggression when you’re not entirely warmed up.  It’s dangerous, and if you are injured or injury prone it’s not smart. However, if you want to simulate stepping on the mat at competition, find the biggest baddest scariest dude in the room and come at them when both you and they are fresh.  And if that’s not enough for you, come at them when you’re tired and they’re just getting warmed up.

Different strokes for different folks…

Aggression comes in many different forms.  Some of my more aggressive training partners are former wrestlers and one of them is a judoka. One has a great guard while several others have phenomenal passing and top games.  Recognize each individual’s strong suit and try to beat them right there where they are scariest using whatever methods you have at your disposal.  This is a way to prepare yourself for any kind of opponent that you may run into at competition.

Many people view aggression and jiu-jitsu to be anathema to one another.   You’re supposed to be smooth, yielding, and flowy.  However if you ever roll with someone who has made it to the podium in a major tournament, you know that the best in the world are brutal and unyielding.  They often have very little interest in flowing and are more focused on putting you exactly where they want you so that they can exact cruel punishment upon you.  And it is for this precise reason that your most aggressive training partners are also your most valuable.


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