5 Tips On How To Foster A Healthy Training Environment

Published on by Erin Herle

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Chu
If you google the words "being nice career" you will find multiple sources willing to attest that being too nice is not healthy for your career. Being assertive, using the word "no" and not being the "yes man" will get you places more so than the alternative--getting walked on. A career is similar to the Jiu-Jitsu journey, so these tidbits of advice can be applicable. Coworkers are training partners, bosses or mentors are your instructor, there's a hierarchy in terms of skill and experience and learning techniques is the same as expanding knowledge in one's skill set.  
In Jiu-Jitsu, this is where the parallel is disrupted. Being nice can get you far and perhaps being the most assertive will cause disruption in your journey than anything else. Competition, however, is a different situation but this applies to training in the gym. Being nice pertains to the manners, values and morals we learn from the start of our education. And the foundations are much like the education you learn on the mat.
Here are some ways in which you can be nice to advance your Jiu-Jitsu:
Practice common courtesy
Training Jiu-Jitsu solo is not an option. You won't get better without partners to drill, discuss and spar with so you should practice common courtesy when at the academy. Acknowledge everyone. When you enter the mat area, shake hands with your partners and acknowledge their presence. Try to prevent cliques as there's nothing more unwelcoming than exclusivity. Make eye contact when you interact with people and keep your mood positive. A healthy training environment depends on good manners among all in order to keep it conducive to learning. 
Be willing to partner with anyone
Sometimes a day of training won't be about you. Helping someone else on the mat can be just as important as the alternative. Like in a math class, going over a problem with someone else can further engrain the information for yourself. Maybe a white belt can't discuss a move with you as well as a partner with a similar or higher rank than you, but your knowledge can certainly help them. The level of your training partners will only help everyone else in the long run--a team grows together. By being willing to partner with anyone, you have the opportunity to learn a new perspective from someone with more, less, or just different Jiu-Jitsu experiences than you. If you're a higher belt, you will promote the right values for those under you to follow.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Chu
Talk things out
Be clear in your communications with others. If you don't like how someone rolled with you, be sure to let them know in a polite but direct way. Being passive aggressive breeds contempt. Any issues that you have with someone should be directed to the person or your instructor so that you can work it out for future training sessions. If you talk it out with someone, you'll avoid future confrontations and in fact, you can turn a bad training partner into a great training partner. If your partner is rolling with too much strength or using dirty moves, let them know so they can adjust. If they don't change, that's a different story.
Avoid talking about sparring partners
Keep your training to yourself or between those involved. If you talk about tapping one of your training partners in the locker room after training, you're going to create a bad reputation. Training is for improvement and being in bad positions is essential to getting better at Jiu-Jitsu. Getting tapped doesn't mean you're not good, it just means you're learning. Capitalizing on someone else's learning experience not only makes you look like disrespectful to your training partner, it also exposes your need for attention. Don't create superiority, as everyone has something to learn from everyone in Jiu-Jitsu.
Don't use training to settle a score
Again, training is not for figuring out who is better. You may train well against one person, and another person could catch you quickly. One roll does not sum up your Jiu-Jitsu abilities. So don't use sparring time as a way to get even with someone. If a new guy comes in to train, welcome him rather than trying to prove you're better. Even with existing training partners there is no tally for who does what or who can submit the other more. You'll only turn a partner into an opponent. Take each roll as a learning experience rather than letting the relationship spoil. By keeping drama out of the way, you can focus on your technique rather than the techniques of your partner. 
These tips are for the ideal training environment. No academy is perfect and to say that there's an academy where there is no turmoil is a far fetch. But you can aim towards such. A healthy atmosphere always starts with the instructors and down to every student. So do your part and opportunities will increase to gain more training partners, create better quality training partners and focus on your evolution in a positive light.