Training Partners: Quantity vs. Quality

We received the following question from one of our readers, Robby Lucio:

“Dear Jiu Jitsu Times I have a question.. .is it better to have the same 6-10 guys that I train jiujitsu with our do you think it’s better to go to a place that has 50-100 guys to train with…because at the school I go to we get a lot of one on one training but do you think we need more people to roll with or does it not even matter as long as you get mat time?”

I’ll try to answer Robby’s question to the best of my ability based on my experience.

When I first started training it was with a guy who didn’t really know a lot about how to teach jiu jitsu.  As a result, my technique and the techniques of my fellow students were sloppy.  The only people we had to field them against were each other and thus many of us had a false sense of our own abilities.  I’ll never forget the first time I rolled with someone outside of our little circle of training partners and discovered that what I knew or rather thought I knew meant absolutely nothing when faced with someone who trained under a knowledgeable instructor.

Similarly, rolling with the same people day in and day out one can get stuck in a sort of rut of doing the same techniques over and over again to the same people.  I have learned to time some of my training partners who normally would be able to beat me.  If you were to take their skill set and put it into someone with whom I hadn’t been training for a while that person would be able to beat me.

The point that I am getting at is that it is a good practice to vary your training partners as frequently as possible.  I personally am a huge fan of dropping in at other schools to roll.  This allows me both to experience new/different styles to that which I am used to as well as to try moves that my training partners have gotten used to and can now overcome against people who aren’t used to them.  I think of it as preparation for competition in that I am facing off against someone who I don’t know and who doesn’t know me in a friendly environment to see if my technique is on point.

On the other hand, if I had to choose between training with 5 world class competitors and 50 kinda sorta decent competitors on a daily basis the choice would be a no brainer.  In this regard, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity.  That said an easy way to gauge the quality of your training partners is their competition achievements.  I know this may sound “shallow” but it’s a fast and easy means to determine whether or not they’re good, lets be honest someone who has won pans or worlds is probably going to be a better jiujiteiro than a casual practitioner who only trains for “self defense.”

Lastly, do whatever feels right.  Do you enjoy training with a small group of people?  Or would you prefer to actively mix it up?  I wish that when I first started training I had more people to roll with so I could have gotten a better understanding of what it was I was doing.  Over a decade later when I came back around to training, I still locked into a small training group and only recently really started exploring this area’s available open mats.  There is such a huge range of talent available.

I hope this answers your question, Robby!

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