Training Partners: Quantity vs. Quality

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We received the following question from one of our readers, Robby Lucio:

“Dear Jiu Jitsu Times I have a question.. .is it better to have the same 6-10 guys that I train jiujitsu with our do you think it’s better to go to a place that has 50-100 guys to train with…because at the school I go to we get a lot of one on one training but do you think we need more people to roll with or does it not even matter as long as you get mat time?”

I’ll try to answer Robby’s question to the best of my ability based on my experience.

When I first started training it was with a guy who didn’t really know a lot about how to teach jiu jitsu.  As a result, my technique and the techniques of my fellow students were sloppy.  The only people we had to field them against were each other and thus many of us had a false sense of our own abilities.  I’ll never forget the first time I rolled with someone outside of our little circle of training partners and discovered that what I knew or rather thought I knew meant absolutely nothing when faced with someone who trained under a knowledgeable instructor.

Similarly, rolling with the same people day in and day out one can get stuck in a sort of rut of doing the same techniques over and over again to the same people.  I have learned to time some of my training partners who normally would be able to beat me.  If you were to take their skill set and put it into someone with whom I hadn’t been training for a while that person would be able to beat me.

The point that I am getting at is that it is a good practice to vary your training partners as frequently as possible.  I personally am a huge fan of dropping in at other schools to roll.  This allows me both to experience new/different styles to that which I am used to as well as to try moves that my training partners have gotten used to and can now overcome against people who aren’t used to them.  I think of it as preparation for competition in that I am facing off against someone who I don’t know and who doesn’t know me in a friendly environment to see if my technique is on point.

On the other hand, if I had to choose between training with 5 world class competitors and 50 kinda sorta decent competitors on a daily basis the choice would be a no brainer.  In this regard, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity.  That said an easy way to gauge the quality of your training partners is their competition achievements.  I know this may sound “shallow” but it’s a fast and easy means to determine whether or not they’re good, lets be honest someone who has won pans or worlds is probably going to be a better jiujiteiro than a casual practitioner who only trains for “self defense.”

Lastly, do whatever feels right.  Do you enjoy training with a small group of people?  Or would you prefer to actively mix it up?  I wish that when I first started training I had more people to roll with so I could have gotten a better understanding of what it was I was doing.  Over a decade later when I came back around to training, I still locked into a small training group and only recently really started exploring this area’s available open mats.  There is such a huge range of talent available.

I hope this answers your question, Robby!

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. If you were trying to learn a new language by being in a room with people, would you rather have 50-100 random learners or 5-7 fluent bilingual (including your native tongue) speakers who like to have complex conversations?

    In a room of 50-100 learners you would probably roust a few people around your proficiency level to chat with on a daily basis, and those people would be the 5-7 core people you would end up talking with anyhow.

    With 5-7 fluent bilingual classmates (I’m considering these high level black belts by analogy), things could go either one of two ways. One (the ideal case): the 5-7 expert speakers are particularly beneficent and enjoy having fun chats with you and patiently teach you new words, phrases, and better ways to express yourself. The Second: they mostly ignore you since you cannot keep up with their conversations which are full of intricate gestures, slangs, and habits of mind you don’t comprehend.

    There are many ways to skin a cat, but the best thing to do is keep an open mind while fostering rich friendships with other learners who care about your transformation on the mat.

  2. never, ever understimate the power of HUGE amout of work.Going outside of your confort zone is a fundamental thing if you want to reach your highest potential.Look at world class competitors- they all compete all over the world, under different rule with different people.People who think that rolling in a small enviroment is praising quality over quantity are full of shit.You’re in scarsity and trying to justify as to why you being scared of trying new things is a good thing.A white belt who knows nothing might need a safe space to start, with friendly people but from time to time he should roll with diferent people or even compete.That’s what keeps you out of your own inner world and gives you motivation to grown.You’ll never be good so as long as you dont push foward and you wont push foward if you’re stuck with the same old same old, you need variety of training.The more training partners you have the more dynamic your training will be and you’ll be able to pratice different techniques especially your deffense because you don’t know what the other guy is going to do.Train in as many different academies you can


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