You don’t need to be good at jiu-jitsu to be a good training partner.
Be someone who people want to roll with. If people don’t make a beeline for you when it is time to pair up, or avoid eye contact, then you should be questioning why.
Don’t be an injury risk to your training partner. Injuries are of a particular concern at points of submission, where people stress to get the submission or panic to escape. Your desire to get a submission, or to escape, is not more important than your partner’s safety. Use the situation as a chance to use jiu-jitsu and critical thinking to achieve your goal.
Put others before yourself. You will reap the benefits of their growth. We should all be progressing together. Don’t demoralise your team-mate by putting them off training, such as by continually submitting them in a roll. If they quit, then you have one less person to train with. If that trend continues, soon the gym will be shut. On the other side, if everyone keeps growing together, the gym will be full of experienced jiu-jitsu players. Understand that your training partner may be tired, or nursing an injury. Roll in a way that keeps them on the mat. Rolls in training are not the finals of the Mundials. Rolling is just moving around within agreed parameters. It is not a war.
Be hygienic. Make sure you and your clothing are clean, that your nails are trimmed, you have no contagious skin complaints and that you don’t smell bad. Offer to clean the gym. Keeping evil germs off the mats keeps people on the mats. To paraphrase the greatest team in the history of organised, competitive sport: “Nobody looks after the All Blacks, the All Blacks look after themselves.” They are accountable for everything they do, including cleaning their changing room after games.
You are at class to train jiu-jitsu, so focus on using jiu-jitsu to the best of your ability. Don’t use attributes to mask deficiencies in your jiu-jitsu. Your attributes will fade over time, then what will you be left with? If you want to test your strength, take up weightlifting. If you want to move around frantically with little regard for others, go to a metal gig.
Try to be on time. People will be late because of a host of reasons including traffic and home life. I believe Sir Alex Ferguson said he never punished players for being late now and again, as he knew they wanted to be there for the whole session, so if they were late, there must be an understandable reason for it. That said, class starts at a certain time for a reason. Be there at the same time as your team-mates show up. They need people to train with.
Don’t try to roll ‘hard’ or ‘light’. People get confused about what those words mean in relation to jiu-jitsu. Just focus on rolling well, using the best non-attribute-based jiu-jitsu that you can.
As a wise man (Chris Haueter) once said: “It’s not who’s best, it’s who’s left”. If you ‘red line’ your body, your recovery time will increase. Train in a way that will ensure you can train every day, if your schedule allows it. Remember that other people are trying to train every day, if they have to over-exert themselves because of the way you train, there is more chance of them having one less day to get better in the future.
Be open minded. Try things. You are at training to experiment and learn. Failure is a key element of growth.
Don’t be an energy drain. Have a positive attitude. Don’t slouch when sitting out. Others pick up on negativity and it soon spreads around the room, while potentially making people feel uncomfortable. Training jiu-jitsu should be the best part of your day. The room should be full of positive energy.
Be consistent. Try to roll well with everyone who you roll with. Don’t capitulate against better people. Don’t take advantage of people you are better than. Understand how statistics work. Sometimes you will have to use defensive jiu-jitsu for a whole roll. It doesn’t matter, it’s all jiu-jitsu. It could be worse, you could not be doing jiu-jitsu. Don’t be embarrassed or timid when rolling with more experienced people. They need training partners as well. Just try to use efficient, effective jiu-jitsu, whatever the situation. On the flipside, if you find a positive position, don’t get over-zealous hunting the finish. That’s how injuries and frustration occur. Understand that you may be in that position because your partner encouraged you to get there, so they could work on the counter.
Don’t focus on who submitted who. If someone controls a 5-minute round for 4:50, but submits in the last 10 seconds, who had the better round in the context of their overall jiu-jitsu growth? This mindset just develops a negative culture where training partners are only focused on beating each other than their place in the pecking order. It’s a cliché, but you should concentrate on developing your game so you could beat the person you were before. Your only opponent is yourself.
Developing stoicism or grit is a positive. Sometimes you need to be put through the ringer and survive. As long as your partner is using jiu-jitsu to control you, that’s fine. It’s what you signed up for. You should be trying to feel comfortable in uncomfortable positions. That’s good jiu-jitsu.