Drilling BJJ: The Fine Line Between Assisting a Partner and Smothering Them

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there before- your instructor goes through a technique, you partner up with someone, and when it’s time to practice what was just shown, their eyes become as wide as saucers- their face filled with nothing but fear and panic. They turn into a deer in headlights, looking at you with an expression that screams “what now?”

So you try to coach them through the technique- put your hand here, your foot there, it’s ok, just breathe….

While we all want to help one another, you have to proceed with caution when it comes to this sort of thing. In the effort to be helpful, you run the risk of becoming too helpful, and the student learns to depend on you to teach them the technique, not the instructor. Which especially in the beginning can be sort of the blind leading the blind.

No one’s doubting your good intention- but it’s sort of like cheating with online scrabble with one of those websites (Not that I ever did such a thing…so-siree-bob…) You get stuck in a move, and so you refer to an outside source. Just this once, you tell yourself….

And then the next thing you know, you are checking the site for the best letter combination before you even attempt to play your turn. What was supposed to be an occasional assist becomes a crutch that the person depends on, which is also detrimental to you. The time that would have been spent drilling or practicing, you are essentially reteaching a technique. Or, what if this is the one technique that they actually fully understood, but now you two have gotten into such a routine that you automatically start to teach the person- there’s also the possibility that you don’t fully understand the technique yourself, and could be guiding the person to do something incorrectly. Again, not intentionally, but that’s why you have an instructor that’s (usually) higher ranked to show you these techniques.

As a training partner, it’s fine to point out one or two things, but you really shouldn’t walk your partner through a technique from A to Z: if they have that many questions about what was being taught, don’t be shy, call your instructor over and have them go through the technique. A) it’s kind of their job and B) the ultimate goal is that a relationship of trust is built between the student and teacher, so your training partner learns the technique through the instructor, and not a jiu jitsu verison of “Whisper Down the Lane”.

Have you been in that situation? How did you handle it? Let me know- otherwise, have a great day everyone!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Drilling BJJ: The Fine Line Between Assisting a Partner and Smothering Them

  1. danteofdoom

    I like to give little clues. Like “left leg” or “underhook” when I see someone is struggling. Then they seem to connect the dots on their own and continue the technique from there.

  2. Love seeing Women involved in BJJ. Im a big fan although its Capoeira i practice.

  3. amanda

    The rule in our school is white belts don’t teach. So if two white belts are drilling together and they are lost, they should call over the instructor. Usually, though, we try to pair white belts with a higher belt, so if there is a question the higher belt can assist. But if your partner is constantly lost after watching the instructor, they should pay more attention. Some people are kinesthetic learners though and will not learn the move by merely watching it. We have one guy who often asks the instructor to do the move on him. If I work with him, I do the technique first, then let him drill and he usually has no problem.

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