Although jiu-jitsu is an individual sport, you have many teammates in your training partners. You need your training partners in order to excel in jiu-jitsu. It doesn't matter if you want to learn to defend yourself, be a top competitor, or just get in great shape, you need your training partners to help you accomplish any of it!
If your goal is your partner’s success, you too will succeed!
What does it mean to be a good training partner?
One of the first things we have to learn in order to be a good training partner is the difference between “practicing” and “drilling”. These different forms of training serve different purposes. There are a couple of key words we have to understand in order to distinguish the difference between “practicing” and “drilling”.
1. Resistance – In jiu-jitsu resistance is when you use your technique, weight, strength or speed to battle against your partner’s technique, weight, strength or speed. For example: If you wanted to grab my wrist and walk me across the room and I pulled against you, I would be resisting.
2. Active Cooperation – Sometimes people think that not resisting means that they are cooperating. That is why I use the term active cooperation. In jiu-jitsu, active cooperation is very important to understand because since there are so many varieties of positions and situations that you could be in, there are also many techniques. The techniques are developed to work best in specific situations. In order to understand when a technique works best it is important to learn to create that situation during practice so that your training partner can successfully perform the technique correctly. For Example: If you wanted to grab my wrist and walk me across the room and I actively cooperated then I would walk with you. If I did nothing, I would fall over and be dragged across the floor. It takes an active cooperation to create the perfect position or situation for your partner to practice.
What is the purpose of “Practicing”?
The purpose of practicing is to learn, become familiar with, and to develop a certain technique. We focus on using “Active Cooperation” during practice time. In becoming familiar with the technique both partners play a role in the practice. The partner applying the technique wants to be able to go through the steps of the technique and establish what the technique feels like when it is done properly. Once they have established what it feels like to do a technique properly then it is important to repeat that process over and over again to develop muscle memory.
The partner on the receiving end of the technique (the dummy) also has an important job. The dummy needs to help his partner create the proper situation for the technique. Every technique has its moment. Every technique has a situation that, when sparring, either needs to be identified by the attacker or created by the attacker. If a technique is not being applied in the right situation than you will struggle to make it work, if you even can. You will waste time and energy if you don’t understand the proper time and situation for a particular technique. The dummy needs to help his partner create this perfect situation for the technique they are practicing. If you never distinguish when the proper time to do a technique is or how it feels to be done properly, than you don’t really understand the technique and will struggle to ever make it work in drills.
Think of professional wrestling. Professional wrestling is all about “selling the moves”. They have to make sure that what they are doing is entertaining to watch and therefore it has to work as smoothly as possible. The wrestlers actually work as a team to perform their techniques so that they are not as exhausting or brutal as it may look. They truly have to sell their moves to the audience. When being a training partner you have to understand the move being taught so that you can help create the perfect situation for the move to be practiced in. You have to know when this move would be applied and help create that posture or scenario that your partner needs to perform the move smoothly. You work as a team to execute the perfect move. Students always say, “It looked so easy when the instructor was doing it.”, that is often because the instructors know how to work together to create a smooth technique and an easy visual. When you are practicing a technique in class, your goal is to sell the move to one another. Only when you have successfully PRACTICED the move properly without resistance, do you have any chance of making it work with resistance.
What is the purpose of “Drilling”?
Drilling comes in many forms. Other terms that may be used for drilling are “Rolling” or “Sparring”. In any case, a drill session is a time used to “resist” your partner according to the rules of the drill so that they may develop the other essential elements (control, timing, leverage…) of their technique. These are elements that are hard to develop during “practice” but are crucial to mastering a technique and making it work in real time. Sometimes you may drill according to a very specific set of rules to help develop a very particular technique and other times you may drill with no particular technique or set of rules in mind (other than the rules of BJJ itself). A drill might also have a certain resistance level that is being applied. For instance, your instructor might say to drill the technique with light resistance which would mean to give your partner enough resistance to work but not so much that they won’t be able to continue practicing the technique. Other times you may be told to resist 100% which means that you do not want to let them to get the technique or techniques to work on you.
Why is it important to know the difference between “Practicing and “Drilling”?
It is extremely important to understand the difference between practicing and drilling because people always want to drill before they have even learned the technique. Trying to drill a technique before practicing it is a backwards approach to learning and will greatly hinder your partner’s ability to excel. Resistance training is something you work toward. If you wanted to get stronger I would never put you on a bench and give you 500 lbs right away. Yes you need to increase the weight to get stronger but it is a gradual process. First you would learn to bench properly and safely and then you would set goals that help you increase the weight or resistance. It is the same with jiu-jitsu. First you must learn the moves in a practice format and then once you are able to perform the move properly on an actively cooperative partner, then you can begin working to achieve it with a resisting partner in a drill.
I can see how this helps my partners but how does it help me?
When one person learns to practice properly (practicing with the intent of your partners success) than more people are going to want to practice with you. They are going to want you as their partner and will also begin to practice more like you. You can share with them why they are able to perform a technique so well on you and they will begin to do the same. This is going to make the Academy an overall better training environment for everyone. With a good training environment and good training partners, you are bound to excel faster in your own game. Also, in order to help your partner successfully perform a technique you have to learn the situation for the technique and imitate it. This helps you to better understand your techniques inside and out!