Grappling martial arts are social sports. Nobody can successfully practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on their own. While it is important for most martial arts, the human factor is even more essential in grappling. There simply is no way for someone to master Jiu-Jitsu, or any grappling martial art, without people to train with. As such, the role of a BJJ training partner is paramount when practicing the Gentle Art. The trick is, that you have as many partners as you have different personalities. While most people tend to stick to the basic etiquette of BJJ, some do manage to go astray.
A BJJ training partner is essential in order to progress in the art. We all need a good BJJ training partner in order to learn moves and get the timing down. This applies in both rolling and in class. Nobody can ever reach black belt level alone. For that matter, nobody can even get a stripe by training solo. We rely on partners, but some partners are often better than others. Grapplers definitely need to train with everybody, but at certain times we need to be careful who we choose. Some partners might be unaware of their traits and a simple talk is going to fix things. Others simply behave that way intentionally and should be avoided until they manage to change. So, do not be that annoying BJJ partner and recognize your flaws in time.
1. The Unaware BJJ Training Partner
This is typically reserved for white belts. This habit has to be broken once you reach a certain level. The unaware newbie is a “space case”. They’ll watch the instructor show a move 5 times excitedly. Then, once it comes time to practice they have no idea even where to start. The unaware newbie will also continue to practice the move beyond time. While the instructor has called the class back to the circle, someone else needs to whistle or call them by name. We need to have these people understand that in many ways Jiu-Jitsu is like school. Hence the term “Jiu-Jitsu Academy”. If you want to get better, you need a certain level of focus. It is actually completely the same as studying any other subject.
2. The “Expert” BJJ Training Partner
This is usually related to the “unqualified “or “unwanted” teachers. These are typically white, blue, and sometimes purple belts who are a little too confident in their knowledge. These people want to re-teach their partner all the details as they practice the move.
These guys may believe they have the credentials for a technique. Many usually have a background in wrestling or Judo, and even many years in Jiu-Jitsu. However, they don’t have the moves down despite their over-confidence. Teaching is the task of a qualified instructor along with the upper belts (purple, brown). This is not to say we can’t help each other but do so within your own limitations. Just ask your instructor about things you are unsure about, that’s why they are there.
3. The Almighty Spaz
This guy is the biggest pain of all and he/she can be almost any belt. This is the person who when practicing a move will automatically defend and stop you from completing the move. What follows is the inevitable question, “why can’t you do the move properly”? Practicing moves with this BJJ training partner gets you almost nowhere. To make matter worse, rolling is no better either worse. When rolling this guy goes 100% start to finish. The finish is very often halfway through, as they gas out fairly quickly. You will learn nothing rolling or drilling with him/her. The reason is that your focus will be merely on surviving without getting injured. Not at all what BJJ is about.
4. Pepé Le Pew
No matter if it’s Gi or No-Gi class, there’s that one training partner that you can smell from across the gym. They are not necessarily dirty, but there is a certain smell to their Gi or other equipment that is unmistakable. While sniffing them out is easy, getting paired with such a BJJ training partner is always difficult. Imagine having to drill North-south escapes with Mr/Mrs. Le Pew on top of you.
Luckily it is often very easy to deal with such characters. It is enough to point out a different Gi washing approach or even recommend a new one. In cases of bad hygiene, there are rules and consequences that apply to everyone in a gym. Do not be afraid to call such a person out, since it can impact the whole academy in a negative way.
Chances are you have met a few (or all types) of these training partners during your time on the mats. We should all work to change this by talking to partners and explaining how we can help each other progress better. The key is working together. And, keep in mind that If you don’t know any of these people than perhaps, you might be one of them.