You earn your training partners

You earn your training partners

          Renzo Gracie Black Belt & FloGrappling commentator, Shawn Williams, commonly referred to as “the teacher’s teacher” has a saying that is often echoed by the instructors at Stout PGH, “You earn your training partners”. What does this mean exactly? In my opinion it boils down to the idea that if you are a good training partner (whether it be grappling, striking or MMA), you will gain good training partners. This is important, because no student at Stout PGH (or other similar schools) are obligated to train with anyone in particular, if you do not feel comfortable training with someone you can always politely tell them no thank you. (An exception would be staff & instructors who in most circumstances do have a responsibility to train with their students) 


          Now the question is, what does it mean to be a good training partner? This can be roughly broken down into two categories, 1.)  hygiene & 2.) behavior. The following are guidelines or recommendations, take them as you will, I am not, nor would I want to be in a position to hand down rules or regulations on how one should live their life, but these are suggestions to help you become a better training partner and in turn have access to more training partners and thus more opportunities to improve in grappling, striking or other close contact fighting art which requires quality training partners to improve and advance.


          First let’s look at hygiene. With close contact combat sports & martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Thai Boxing & MMA it is important to practice good hygiene. Here are a few tips, some of which may not be intuitive to a new practitioner:


  • Trim & keep clean your fingernails & toenails: If your nails are too long, you can cut and scratch a training partner accidentally, or even worse cause an eye injury.
  • Any small cuts or scrapes should be covered with a bandage & athletic tape to avoid infection
  • Wash training gear immediately after each use
  • Make sure you do not have bad breath or body odor
  • Shower immediately after training to avoid skin infections
  • If you do have a skin infection or other communicable disease (cold, flu, etc.) stay off the mats until you are no longer contagious


          Secondly let’s look at training behavior:


  • Safety comes first. Protect yourself and your training partner. Always put safety as a higher priority than winning in all situations. 
  • Always respect the tap, and tap early. Do not allow a submission to go to the point of damage on yourself before tapping, and do not put additional pressure on a submission if you feel that it is at the point of damage even if you’re partner is not tapping.
  • Communicate with your training partners at what intensity level you want to train at
  • Respect the intensity your training partner asks for, if your training partner asks for a flow roll, don’t turn up the intensity half way through in order to win, again, safety comes first
  • Spar at the appropriate intensity level, for both you & your training partner, for example, I enjoy hard training but I seek out the appropriate training partners, not everyone is looking for competition rounds
  • You have a right to choose with whom you train. Never feel that you must train with someone, no matter their rank / seniority / etc. You can always say no to a training partner or situation. 

          I hope that these guidelines help newer & experienced practitioners and enthusiasts alike, again, they are not rules or regulations but guidelines that I hope to help you get the most out of training and gain some great training partners. My close training partners who I trust and train with frequently are some of my closest friends and this has all been thanks to jiu jitsu. I hope to see you on the mats soon.