Why The Right Training Partners Are So Vital To Your Progression In BJJ

Seth and Paul from Leverage BJJ drilling bow and arrow chokes.

The BJJ students that seem to progress the fastest have good training partners to help them develop their skills. Yes, the skill level of your rolling partners is really important. Many competitors seek out other serious guys to get the high intensity rolls that are essential to push them.
Today I’m talking about a different aspect of needing a great training partner or two. Specifically in learning and drilling techniques that you want to add to your game.
I was never a fan of simply showing up to BJJ class and grabbing whichever body in a kimono (hopefully not the “stinky gi guy”!) and doing whatever position was being taught in class that day.
I tried to cultivate training partners and made appointments “Hey man, are you going to BJJ tonight? I want to work on that sweep we learned on Friday.” I recognized other students who were goal oriented and wanted to build their jiu-jitsu through systematic drilling and concentration over a period of weeks and months.
Often we would get excited about a new instructional DVD set and commit to work on the positions over the next month. Show up to class early or go to a corner of the mat and go over the moves on the DVD. Instead of a new position every class, we would focus on a specific position for an entire month or 2 to get a deeper knowledge of that area. Seeing a move in class and performing 10 repetitions before moving onto the next technique is not sufficient time to really get the move down.
When it comes to drilling (something almost everyone says that they should be doing more of) you need a competent partner who is going to be consistent and not miss training sessions. They will patiently work as your “training dummy” as you bust out your sets and reps. This is not the funnest job. In return, you dummy for them when they perform their reps.
The best drilling partner is not going to fight your efforts as you are initially working through the mechanics of a new move. They will allow you to fumble your way through your early, not-so-good attempts. Conversely, they will not flop over for your sweeps or behave in an unrealistic manner. Good training partners adapt the amount of resistance they give you to your skill level with the move.
If you are fortunate enough to find a training partner who is a good drilling dummy, bribe them with Starbucks or finger tape to work with you!
Another subtle but important thing that a great training partner does is provide feedback.
Some positions require a certain “feel” or sensitivity to get right. For example, I see many students struggle with the arm triangle choke, which I describe as a “feel move”. At a distance, it appears the arms are in the right position and they squeeze but the opponent doesn’t tap. It can be frustrating!
A great training partner is invaluable in providing feedback. “I feel space for my neck on this side of the choke” or “that was more of a crank than a blood choke”. It may feel to you that you are performing the arm triangle correctly, but your partner can tell you for sure what you are missing.
Your instructor can not say to you “Rotate your wrist 7 degrees and shift your weight 2 inches higher”. But your trainer partner can provide instant feedback as to where the tightness and pressure is optimal.
To solve a problem like this arm triangle choke that isn’t working, ask the instructor to apply the choke to your partner. Then immediately you apply the same choke. Your training partner will feel the difference and provide feedback as to where your technique is off the mark.
Feedback from a great training partner is one of the greatest assets you can have in improving your jiu-jitsu game.
What makes a great training partner for you?


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