When Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock told us back in 1988 that “it takes two to make a thing go right/it takes two to make it outta sight,” they could have been talking about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Sure, you can do solitary drills to supplement your training, but the good stuff—live rolling, technique drilling, troubleshooting—requires a partner. Of course we all want to train with the “good” partners, and we aspire to be good partners ourselves. There is a lot of discussion of what that means, and it usually involves admonishments like: don’t spaz, tap when necessary rather than forcing your partner to see to your well-being, wash your gi, maintain a good attitude, etc. It isn’t surprising that we also want to train with people who are skilled.
Another thing I know I look for in a training partner, and something I try to provide to my training partners, is productive drilling opportunities. As we know, the repetition of technique sequences against a non-resisting partner helps us, over time, improve our ability to apply those sequences against resisting partners.
Too often, though, when we are practicing technique we focus only on the proper movement for the person executing the technique without also accounting for the fact that techniques only work in response to specific physical stimuli. For instance, I am unlikely to try to hip-bump sweep my partner if he or she is pressuring into me. For that sweep, I am far more likely to be successful if my partner is trying to posture and create space.
For drilling, this means that both partners must know what their role is. Have you ever worked with a less experienced partner and discovered that that partner is better able to execute a given technique than you are? Often that can be because the less experienced partner is not as good as you are at giving the reaction necessary.
The Grand Panda himself, Nelson, cites deep half guard as a notable example of this: It is difficult to drill deep half moves from the bottom if your partner does not distribute his/her weight effectively. Of course, this will open up opportunities for other movements, but that is not useful in a drilling session where improving at deep half is the goal.
The point is, if you are an instructor, consider spending some time teaching your students how to react appropriately to the moves you are teaching them. If you are a student trying to apply a technique, consider working with your partner to ensure that he or she is moving in a way that helps you do so. If you are a student having a technique applied on you, consider asking your partner or the instructor how you should be moving so as to facilitate your partner’s drilling.
This will increase your stock as a partner and enhance your understanding of the movements you are trying to learn.