Being a Good Teammate
by: Daniel Frank
Jiu jitsu is a solo sport. You step out onto the mat by yourself and match up against an opponent. You can hear your heart beating in your ears. Your palms start to sweat and your mouth gets dry. The referee signals the start of the match by cutting a hand through the air and you can feel your blood pressure rising. You sense a little bit of the dreaded adrenaline dump and you do your best to get it under control. You make grips, but feel that they are slowly getting weaker and weaker. Suddenly, in the space of half a breath, you are thrown violently to the mat. You cannot tag someone to come save you, now that you find yourself in trouble. You need to find a way to get yourself out of any tight spots and onto the path to victory. Over the din of the crowd and the sound off your heartbeat thumping wildly in your head, you can hear your coach calmly telling you to breathe and to close your guard. You can see your favorite training partner clap and smile while watching your match. You hear your family calling your name and encouraging you to keep up the fight. You come to realize that you are not really alone in this match. Jiu jitsu, despite being a solo sport, is better done with teammates. The training required to improve, the dedicated practice leading up to your matches, the match itself, and the aftermath of those matches are all better done with good teammates.
Despite the fact that you will always compete by yourself out on the mats, jiu jitsu is a team effort. The training that you must do in order to learn jiu jitsu and to improve at it has to be done with quality teammates. The more quality teammates that you have, the better your game will be. Solo jiu jitsu is still important and is possible for numerous drills. Solo jiu jitsu can be very helpful, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Mental training is very important too. You need to study techniques and watch matches to improve and you can do a lot by working alone and being studious. There is a limit to the amount of jiu jitsu you can learn by yourself though. A live partner gives you the resistance and the feedback needed in order to progress and lift your game to the next level. Good teammates understand how to push each other in the right direction. They understand when to step on the gas and when to ease back a little bit. Even though you may be alone out on the mat, you’ll find that jiu jitsu is a communal effort and the whole group will succeed together as one.
Some days you would rather not go to the academy. It seems to be the place where you put your gi on, step out onto the practice mats, and then proceed to get your butt kicked by that training partner that seems to kick your butt each and every time you roll. Instead you mope about the house looking for things to do now that you’ve decided not to go to jiu jitsu class. Then you get a message from that person, “You coming to train tonight?” Immediately you thumb in your response, “Of course, prepare to finally lose tonight sucka!!” Having that training partner is vital to keep you training and spurs you to getting the best from your training. Good training partners become people you cannot live without. Your training partners at your academy are your second family(sometimes your first). The training partners that you know from other academies, have competed against, and have watched win championships are all part of your extended family.
Competition is not for everyone, but one day you might want to compete. If not competition, then maybe you will want to progress to the next belt level or even just learn the fanciest new sweep. Having a peer to measure yourself against will definitely help you to attain your goals faster than if you were trying to just measure your own skills against your expectations of those skills. It may be possible for the most talented human being to learn jiu jitsu solely from books and video, but I doubt it. You need someone to tell you if you are moving down the right path, to tell you that you are doing a good job, and to encourage you to do even better. Nothing motivates you more than having a supportive group behind you, pushing you to new heights. Strength does come from numbers.
Just like a jiu jitsu match will have some give and take, the momentum swinging back and forth from one side to the other. Your jiu jitsu will also swing back and forth between being a solo endeavor and being a collective effort. Certain solo efforts must be done to attain victory, but in the end you WILL need the presence of your teammates to get you to the top and to celebrate with you once you have struck gold.