There is an "I" in Team....and it's You!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

There is an "I" in Team....and it's You!

One thing that's certain about practicing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is that we're all in it together.  One of the very unique aspects about our art that differentiates it from other sports & even many other martial arts is that you can't do it by yourself.  Sure, there are certain drills that you can practice on your own, but most of what we do requires a partner.  The beauty of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training, and what separates it from many other martial arts, is the "aliveness" of the training-the fluid interaction between training partners during live sparring or "rolling".  This is what helps us to develop the timing, sensitivity, and reaction that are essential for mastering the art.  Therefore, it goes without saying that if you want to excel at Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you must have good training partners.

There are basically three types of training partners that everyone needs in order to maximize their success.  First & foremost, you need those who have more time on the mat, more experience, and more technical expertise than yourself.  These are your resources for developing your Jiu-jitsu to a higher level.  They push you in live sparring, showing you the weaknesses & holes in your game.  They are the people that you look up to & try to mirror your game around.  You feed on their experience to help your development.  In sparring, these people can be a nightmare for you, especially when you're already tired. You know that you will likely spend most of your time sharpening your defenses as they are the proverbial hammer to your nail.  You will probably tap a lot.  But each time you tap, you will be learning. This person may be your instructor, or simply one of the upper belts in the class.  In either case, don't avoid training with them.  Seek them out & take advantage of them.  They are an invaluable resource!  This is even more important if you are one of the upper belts in the class.  As you grow & get better, it becomes harder & harder to find those who really push you. Seek out those who are technically superior to you & grow from their experience!

Secondly, you need those training partners who are at your level.  These are the people that you match up well with in sparring for good, back & forth matches.  Sometimes you catch them, sometimes, they catch you.  You both push each other forward.  With this person, you have the freedom to open up your game a little more, always being aware however, that if you make a mistake or leave a big opening, you will probably pay for it!  These are the training partners that help you to clean up your fundamental techniques & develop your "go-to" game.

Finally, you need those who are below your technical level.  Often, these are the ones that are overlooked by the upper belts.  Sometimes, the more experienced students will avoid the newer students or view training with them as a waste of their time. They may even develop the attitude that they are doing the person a favor by training with them.  I believe that this is the wrong attitude.  Even very experienced students can gain from training with those below their level.  With this person, you have the freedom to experiment & "play" Jiu-jitsu.  You don't worry too much about getting yourself into a bad spot, because your experience will help you to defend & get out of trouble if you make a mistake.  So this is your chance to fine-tune newer techniques & practice those positions where you aren't as comfortable.  Whenever I'm trying to learn a new technique, I always try to apply it in live situations on the lower belts first, then work my way up to sharpen the technique & timing.

The advantage of training in the academy is that typically, all of these types of training partners are readily available to you.  In addition, at each level, there are people of various sizes and varying levels of physical attributes (strength, flexibility, endurance, etc.).  Each of these adds a unique element to your training.  So, the bottom line is this:


The academy isn't defined simply by who the instructor is, or the physical structure of the building.  More importantly, it is the interaction among the people who share the mat together on a regular basis & strive to learn from each other.  It is the collective experiences of those who are training together & the shared relationships developed that is what makes the academy so special.  So, whether you are the newest white belt, or the most experienced black belt, you are essential to the team.  It is the newer students responsibility to take advantage of the upper belts experience. It is the upper belts responsibility to help develop these newer students into training partners that will push them in the future.  So, the most important thing that you can do is to show up to train. Develop yourself & in turn help the entire team grow.  See you on the mat!

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