The Excitement of Training With New Partners
Across the country, gyms are opening their doors again to eager practitioners. It’s a huge win for those who use jiu-jitsu as an outlet - physically or mentally - to manage the day to day doldrums. Like many, I’ve been looking forward to getting some training in. Whether it’s socially-distanced, small groups, simple movement drills, or reviewing fundamentals, there has been a yearning to work the familiar motions at a practice. But when I walked through the doors, the one thing that was in shorter supply than I imagined was familiar faces.
It’s completely obvious and understandable why some people would forgo training currently. I honestly expected a few less partners than previous times. However, something which I didn’t expect was an influx of new faces. This was a very welcome sight. As a chronic friend-maker, this excited me. As a jiu-jitsu practitioner, it really excited me.
Sadly, another local gym had to shutter in the passing months. From there, a few guys hopped on over. There were also a few completely new members. All in all, a pretty wide spread of experience. I had been training with a single partner for weeks beforehand and the idea of mixing it up with people from completely outside our gym’s ecosystem (so to speak) was exciting. Due to the relative size and rank of the class, I was matched up with one of the migrant members from the closed gym.
Immediately, we noticed how different each other's games were. Even at our lower belts, the different methodologies were apparent. While I like to play a more rubbery game, Dan plays a much more half-guard based game. While I enjoy surfing atop someone when I get top positions, Dan settles down hard and heavy.
It’s been very eye-opening to train with someone outside of the ecosystem over the ensuing weeks. Small nuances here and there add new wrinkles to every roll. It’s also very different to enter someone’s progress further down the line, rather than if you train with them from the beginning. With older training partners, you get to see their technique evolve and adapt over time. But with Dan, it’s like opening a window and seeing a different landscape.
I don’t want to make too-messy an analogy, but rolling with Dan is much more like a competition. Not in the intensity (we’re both in-roll jokers), but in the way that seemingly anything could happen. I don’t have much insight to his progressions or loops. It’s been great to surprise and be surprised by jiu-jitsu neither of us have seen before.
As for the regiment of totally-new practitioners, it’s also exciting. To see the lifeblood of the gym still going strong. To see upper belts taking these new guys under their wings is gratifying and reaffirming to the communal aspect of the sport. Helping new guys try to nail down some base-level movements is a special sort of satisfaction. I am consistently shocked at how much opportunity there is to grow outside of jiu-jitsu within jiu-jitsu.
So, maybe you are in the position I’m in. Or maybe you’re in the position Dan is. It feels like an inevitability that you will be thrust aside someone new. Make the most of it. Use the opportunity to not just regain lost ground but go further. The new horizons are welcoming.