Reader Question: “I know that a mix of upper belts and lower belts it what makes someone better at Jiu Jitsu. I have heard you say that it is my job to help make my lower belt training partners better, but I am just a white belt too. I don’t know that much and don’t like it when other white belts give me advice. Can I really help them improve? What if I tell them wrong information?”
“Great question! The better your training partners are, the better you can get at Jiu Jitsu. Helping partners improve, in a way is a selfish endeavor to be able to add resistance to your own training. Upper belts help with training defense, and lower belts help with training offense. Sometimes, our training partner ratio can become a little skewed. Getting more out of fellow white belts can be a huge evolution in training.
I think of improving my training partners like adding weights to a weight rack. The newer they are, the lower the weights. It is key to remember thought, that if I am creative and selective, no weights are needed to get strong.
I can pick out the right bodyweight exercises to get the most out of natural resistance. Check out my previous post on what to do when you are one of the best training partners on the mat for more thoughts on this concept.
Here are a few ways to get the most out of training partners when you are both white belts.
- If you are of a similar knowledge level and are beating them easily you are probably using your attributes to achieve victory. Dial back on using your strength, speed, weight, flexibility or explosiveness to instantly empower your opponent to have a better chance of performing well. Also, practicing training without reliance on these attributes prepares you to game plan against worst case scenarios. Someday you will meet that opponent who is stronger, faster, heavier, more bendy, or explosive.
- If you have more knowledge than the other white belt and are beating them easily, your task is to give them the information they need. Your goal is to make your own job harder Nobody likes a know it all, so there are rules of thumb I try to follow when offering advice.
- Only make a maximum of one to two recommendations AFTER the entire round is over. A laundry list of critiques just beats somebody up. Build up your partners confidence and mentalities. They will come at you harder and make you work.
- Only make recommendations I KNOW need to be made.
- Example: Elements of a technique you have an above your belt understanding of. If you have a top notch cross collar choke, there will be elements of defending or finishing that choke that you are qualified to give advice on when appropriate. If you never play spider guard but saw a YouTube video once, DON’T offer unsolicited advice. Refer them to the coach or other upper belts for this information. Encourage them to take private lessons.
- Example: Something you felt from them. This could be weight distribution, an opening of space, a grip not deep enough, a choke that was almost finished but they just let up too early. Even as a brown belt, I will often solicit this advice from even white belts. “I noticed it took you a little white to tap, was that choke just not in all the way?” Feedback like this is on of the most valuable pieces of information a training partner gives us.
- Only give information that YOU DON’T WANT TO GIVE! What do I mean? If you are capitalizing on a repeated mistake or tendency that gives you an easier time against this person, then telling them specifically what this exploit is will make your Jiu Jitsu life instantly worse.
- Teaching the big guy how to pass your guard is going to leave you squished in the bottom of a horrible side control. Explaining to the explosive guard player to add dynamic changes in effort so that he isn’t coming at you with just one speed is going to make countering him much more difficult.
- Think of this as giving them the plans to your Death Star and highlighting the secret entrance that would explode everything. Understanding these vulnerabilities in your techniques will help you improve your finishing rates. What do the upper belts do that stifle these same techniques from you? Arm the other lower belts with the same defenses. The lower belts will use these defenses less efficiently, so you will now get a chance to overcome a weak version of that counter. After improving your chances in this lab, you are ready to try to re-counter the upper belts attempts even better.
Set up a buddy system. Encourage your training partners to attend class a consistent number of days each week. Good luck!