30 September 2010

Article - The Importance of Training Partners

Article #18, by guest writer Chrissy Linzy

Last month, I attended another amazing women’s grappling camp in Toronto, Ontario. This was my second week long camp, and it proved to me yet again the importance of seeking out different training partners. Even if you have three or four other people your size to train with on a regular basis, it’s really important to get out there and meet other grapplers to find the holes in your game before you find them at Mundials.

This doesn’t just apply to women, though. There are always outliers. Think about the people that train in your gym. Do you have a man training there that’s under 130 lbs? What about a man over 300 lbs? Are they always paired up with the closest person to their size, but still training with a size disparity? Sure, maybe the big guy is on the winning end in the gym but what do you think will happen the first time he has to compete against someone who is actually his size, or even bigger? He is probably going to find that his technique might not be as solid as he thought because he’s been relying on his size advantage for the last year.

Maybe you do have partners that are your size and skill. It’s the perfect scenario for great training, right? Maybe, but think about the last five or ten rounds with those partners. Did they all go about the same way? You pulled guard. Your partner passed your guard. You recomposed guard and tried to sweep with your favorite sweep (that your partner knows is your favorite sweep, so she defends it). If this (or some variation) is what every roll looks like, you just might benefit from finding some new training partners once in a while.

I know that I tend to fall back on what is comfortable, or on techniques that I have had success with in the past. For me, a great example of this is spider guard. That doesn’t work so well if I’m at a no gi class, or if I drop in to train at a school where everyone works low passes instead of standing to pass the guard. By forcing myself out of my comfort zone and training with a different style of jiu jitsu, I’m ultimately opening myself up to learn more and to improve. Sure, that learning curve is probably going to start with me playing a different guard that gets passed, but it’s all part of the journey.

The moral of the story is to seek out new and different training partners, especially ones that will push you to try new things or play a different game. As much as I love my teammates, I make it a point to train with other people at least once a month, just so that I can experience a different style of jiu jitsu, and to make sure I’m not developing any bad habits. I think women’s open mats are a great way to do this, especially if a week-long camp isn’t in your budget (or on your continent). Where I live, there are also open mats where men that are over 250 lbs (I think that’s their cutoff, anyway) get together to train. I know that sometimes it’s hard to get beyond the politics of an area to set these sorts of things up, but in the end, it will only make everyone better.

Chrissy Linzy has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 5 years, and is one of the owners of US Grappling, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling tournament circuit that travels across most of the United States for events. She (rarely) blogs at www.clinzy.com.

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  1. Another great piece, Chrissy. I am so on board with this. While I absolutely love my club and have a strong allegiance to my team, I love the opportunity to roll with other people at seminar or open mat without a sense of disloyalty. What you are saying about getting out of the comfort zone is so on point! I think sometimes even within a club folk can get too habitual with their fav training partners - gotta mix it up! Thanks again for the great post.

  2. Thanks, Meg! I really noticed it when my guard kept getting passed with a particular pass that the guys in my gym don't favor. I thought I knew how to defend it, until every single person at camp passed my guard with it. Sigh. I came home with some new goals, to say the least. And, my instructors made me drill that pass and counter in competition class for a night, until I was hitting the counter consistently. Hole patched! (With tape, mind you, but it was patched for the day anyway.)