by Kanani Guerra

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One great benefit of training BJJ is the relationships you form with your training partners. In order to attract the right type of training partner, you need to be a good partner yourself. Try this quick self-evaluation to determine if you are a great training partner or if you are that person being avoided at the gym.

Do you wear a clean gi/ no-gi gear? Do you shower, brush your teeth, and wear deodorant daily?

Yes: Thank goodness! Everyone appreciates a clean training partner. Not only is it hygienic and mitigates risk of infectious diseases, but it makes training more pleasant for your partners (especially the female ones!)

No: Stop right here. This is step one in being a good training partner. All other characteristics are overshadowed if your training partner has to hold their breath to come within arm’s reach of you and your B.O. Sweat and stink are expected at the end of a hard class. But coming in with a “clean start” is hygienic and just plain courteous.

Do you adjust your pace to each of your training partners?

Yes: Great! Each partner has a different skill level and pace. New white belts may be timid and unsure or bats out of hell. Can you apply the appropriate amount of technique and strength to encourage the timid and calm the “crazies”? Is your partner significantly smaller than you (or a youth student)? It is great if you can use technique without smashing or flow with these partners. Once you can gauge a new partners skill level and match it with the correct response level – you will gain a lot of people who want to train with you!

No: This is such an important skill to learn. Don’t be the person in the gym that your coach has to “avoid” putting you with some partners. It is okay to ask your partner what their pace is. Are they preparing for competition and want to be pushed hard? Or are they a day away from a tournament and want to move slowly to stay warm and avoid injury? Maybe your partner is brand new and timid and won’t respond well to being smashed for five minutes. Or maybe you got the guy who is new to BJJ but wrestled for ten years and wants a good butt-whooping so he can see if BJJ “really works”. Does your partner have any injuries that they are nursing? Maybe don’t kimura the guy or girl who just came back from shoulder surgery. If you cannot gauge (or match) your partner’s pace, see if you can drill instead of live sparring.

Do you watch footage of BJJ to gain further understanding of techniques?

Yes: Is this footage from reliable sources? And do you have a clear understanding of the rules of your gym (allowance of leg locks, heel hooks, etc.)? If you answered yes to all of these, then great! It is awesome to supplement your learning with other media. Reviewing high level competition matches, instructional videos, or how-to-videos from your coaches can be a great way to reinforce your learning and help challenge your training partners.

No or “Yes, but I watch crazy moves off of You-Tube”: If you answered “no”- that is okay, everyone learns through different mediums. But if you answered “Yes, but I watch crazy moves off of You-Tube”: Chances are your training partners and coaches don’t appreciate this. Be sure that you have a clear understanding of the safety aspects of the techniques and review the material with your coach prior to trying it on a training partner.

Do other students of different body types and skill levels ask to partner with you?

Yes: Then you might already be a great training partner. The ability to communicate, drill, and spar with different partners is invaluable. It benefits you as well! You will have an opportunity to test your skills out on different sizes and ranks instead of being pegged with the same person every class. You will have a chance to see all types of training styles and technique modifications for different body types. And if you are an active competitor, this will provide great practice for the absolute/open class!

No: If you are wondering why people avoid you in the gym, re-read this self-evaluation and determine if there is anything you can change or adapt in order to grow as a training partner. Pay attention during technique and drilling. Be cooperative. Don’t be a limp noodle during drills and don’t be the aggressive, stiff Hulk. It is about finding the balance between working hard and smart.

Some of the relationships built in BJJ become our strongest friendships because what other friends do you get to choke so often? Do you have a favorite training partner(s)? What are some of their qualities that you appreciate? Share with us below and tag your favorite partner!