The benefits of training with higher BJJ belts
In recent weeks I consider myself very fortunate to have had the chance to train with many partners with far more BJJ experience than myself. I have had the opportunity to drill with brown belts, purple belts, blue belts, and higher white belts, and, while, as one would obviously expect, it has been thoroughly humbling, it has also been a wonderful experience. I wanted to write a blog post about a few of the initial benefits I’ve found and a few of the recent things I’ve learnt about BJJ.
Prior to joining SBG, I attended an intro class at another gym. After that first session, I went home with aching forearms, shoulders and neck from pulling, pushing and straining my way through 45 minutes of rolls without any knowledge of BJJ. There was no teaching to speak of, and I was simply man handled by higher belts who made no effort to correct my errors.
At SBG, postures, positions and techniques are introduced to new students through a process of progressive resistance, with a firm focus on fundamentals. Rolling doesn’t happen for at least the first few months. As such, at least as far as I have noticed, once a white belt begins rolling, they tend not to panic and use strength as much as I have seen elsewhere. Observing this stark contrast led me to believe that I understood what coaches meant when they tell you to relax during your training. While I feel like I have a good grasp on controlling my breathing and not panicking, drilling with higher belts often shows just how far I am from fully relaxing. I see how much room for improvement there is as my training partner works so effortlessly with me, and it opens my eyes to how much more can be learnt when one can train in such a way. Not just physically but mentally relaxed.
Drilling with a relaxed, more advanced training partner has also allowed me to begin realizing a different side to BJJ. When rolling with equal white belts, while perhaps remaining relatively calm and not using a lot of strength, I find myself going through three stages in my head; recognizing the situation I am in, picking an option to improve my situation, going to that option as best I can, repeatedly. My partner will respond in a similar way. It is almost a turn-based approach, with little regard for what the other might be presenting. More recently, I have found that some of my partners are more reactionary; watching what I do and naturally responding to my movements. Being relaxed, observant and open allows them to move more smoothly in reaction to whatever pressure or position I may offer up. While at times in may feel like being toyed with, at the same time, the relaxed nature of it allows me to start thinking more myself, as oppose to setting my mind on one particular technique regardless of my partners actions.
Of course, the most obvious benefit of having the chance to train with those more experienced than yourself is the chance to learn from them, not just by observing, but by asking. There have been multiple occasions in recent weeks where I have had people patiently explain things to me, or correct mistakes I am making without even being asked. It becomes ever clearer with each class that BJJ isn’t about two individuals against one another, but a more collaborative experience from which everyone benefits. On that note, a sincere thanks to everyone I’ve trained with in my time at SBG so far.
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