Things have calmed down a bit with so many tournaments week after week and it's given me some time to reflect on some aspects of training. From observation there is a growing number of black-belt instructors making their way to Asia that are permanent to semi-permanent which is great. And while not every school is blessed with that leadership and direction of having such a person, I thought I'd write about teammates/training partners which is the other half of the equation. Having started jiu-jitsu in New York at a great school, I moved to Bangkok with a strong introduction to the art. And while I've had some fantastic instructors and mentors over the years, I always give credit to my teammates. Regardless of who is leading the class, it's these guys that have seen me through my ups and downs in training. Not to take anything away from my coaches but this isn't was this article is about. What I want to hilite here is the importance of the company you keep at your school and on the mat. When I first arrived to Bangkok there was only one place that I knew to train BJJ and this is where I would meet the core group of guys that have been around for the past 3+ years. Granted I live in a city of transient workers/friends but luckily enough this core group of guys have been here for me.
The relationship you have first starts with a mutual respect and trust. I respect the fact that you are trying to push your game as much as I am in return. I trust that you play at a pace/level that you know to be safe and without intention of hurting me or yourself. Now whether you take this for granted or you simply don't care, I believe this is an aspect that aids to the familial nature of most schools. These are your brothers and sisters that come in day after day, putting in their time and making themselves available to train with you.
These are the guys that know your game best. They have the luxury of training with you regularly and have learned from or adapted themselves to you. This has effected me in several ways both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. In one case I was able to use my favorite choke several times over on one of the larger guys in the academy. Besides being a natural athlete, he's a very quick learner. So eventually he asked me what I was doing that was catching him and not wanting to be stingy, I explained to him some of the details. Well, within the week it was nearly impossible to catch him with that choke. So while I may have temporarily ruined my favorite choke, it gave me a better training partner. There are no secrets in jiu-jitsu really. If not from me than someone else would have explained it to him. So why not take the moment to share with him? Since then, I've asked him plenty of questions that have helped me deal with his game and potentially with those that might apply the same technique in tournament. All in all, we're all responsible for our own progress. You get as much as you give.
I had written earlier that with more comp time I am able to hear my buddies coaching me from the sidelines better. I don't know about everyone else but I would say that we're a pretty vocal team when it comes to coaching and talking our buddies through the match. We keep time, take video and alert our friend to a better position/submission. Now he/she can choose to follow our suggestions but at the same time, the opponent is able to hear it all so it can play both ways. Even though I am the one that is fighting I never feel alone, I have my whole team backing me up.
We're all working to improve and with that, you're going to have your good days and bad days. Cause we're all improving more or less parallel to each other, I don't waste my time thinking who's better than the other. So regardless of how I may see myself and my skills, there's always that moment when you get caught. Give credit to your buddy, don't take it away from him/her by making excuses cause this is the time to tap, in training. Be honest with yourself and do yourself the favor of figuring out why. If you've been open, I'm sure your buddy is more than willing to share with you how it went down. The moment you take the attitude like you have nothing to learn from your training partners is when you stop improving. Man, when you get caught and it was spot on, I actually am happy for my friend and get even more amped to do better.
The topic has been on my mind for quite some time since moving here to Southeast Asia. There have been times when training was at it's most ideal and other times when it kinda sucked, haha. Regardless, it's been my teammates that have given me so much of themselves and hopefully I have done the same in return.
This month, I will be losing two teammates as they are leaving Bangkok. I want to dedicate this article to them and in particular Mr. Scott 'Momo' Calver. Scott is moving to Singapore, the city in which he came from prior to living in Bangkok for 3+ years. I am sure the guys out there will appreciate having him back cause the man is a beast. A key figure in my training as it's been a motivating factor to deal with the man's pressure, kung-fu grip and persistence for the kimura from every-which-way. He's saved me on and off the mat, a good friend. We'll miss you Scott. And to Pat, best of luck back in the US. I will miss your beyond-octopus-flexibility. -Luke