Redefining the Value of Our Training Partners

Updated: Oct 14

Your training partners are not your opponents; they are problems to be solved.

Navigating human relationships is always difficult, and when those relationships are centered around the practice of a martial art, there are some uncommon variables to be navigated. The relationships we develop on the Jiu Jitsu mats, from the outside, must seem odd: the people we try to smash, and who smash us, are dear friends. The initiated understand the depths of such relationships centered around mutual suffering toward a worthy end.

We all train for different reasons, but we all train for the same reason: to improve. Some of us want to compete, others want to lose weight, but we are all looking to use Jiu Jitsu as a tool for personal development. And Jiu Jitsu is a tool that can only be used in a group. Our training partners are an indispensable part of our Jiu Jitsu journey, as important as the Jiu Jitsu itself.

We cannot live, nor do Jiu Jitsu, alone.

Far too often training sessions become heated. We injure ourselves or our partners as we value the achievement of a technique over the well-being of each other. We all need resistance to grow, but when we mistake our training partners for the resistance itself, rather than an embodiment of that resistance and a gift to be cherished, our relationships become strained. The physicality of training rises in proportion to our emotions and we quickly forget that we are on the same team, with the purpose of helping each other grow.

Your training partners are not your opponents. They are problems to be solved. 

Each training partner possesses a different body type and game, manifesting as a unique problem to be solved and a specific tool in our development. Our training partners are gifts, and the more resistance they provide, the greater the treasure they become.

Our egos get caught up in our training. How could they not? We value this practice to the point of anchoring much of our identity within it, and our only immediate, tangible metric for success is found relative to others, while we engage in live training in which we seek to manifest our will to the detriment of another. This allows us to get caught up in the myopic thinking of the immediate roll and neglect the big picture.

We are each other’s gifts. 

Our training partners are our greatest tools for development, both in Jiu Jitsu and our humanity. They force our technical and spiritual evolution. And if your training partner does not offer the resistance you need to grow technically, they generally provide opportunities to grow spiritually. When our training partner flails about and elbows us unnecessarily, we are tasked to observe our emotional reaction, and then respond with a clear head to the benefit of both ourselves and our partner.

To practice, to paraphrase the gospels, turning the other cheek, is as valuable for our personal development as drilling guard passing is for our Jiu Jitsu.

This is the true harvest of our Jiu Jitsu efforts. Jiu Jitsu is the vehicle through which we navigate human relationships and are given countless opportunities to be better for each other. How we respond to vicissitudes on the mat will dictate our responses in the real world. Jiu Jitsu is the laboratory in which we cultivate our equanimity. 

We are social creatures. The majority of humanity will live amongst others. We need this training to understand that when someone wrongs us, it is not always personal. And when someone is better than us, they are not an obstacle, but a tool on our journey toward our highest selves.

We cannot live, nor do Jiu Jitsu, alone. Our training partners are not our opponents. They are problems to be solved and people to be loved.

We need each other. We must not let unrealistic expectations, false mental constructs, or emotions impede this understanding.

Jiu Jitsu is the vehicle. And by the nature of the sport, we must carpool.


If you want to read Chris’s latest book on personal development, check it out here.

If you would like to be coached by Chris personally, click here.

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