How to be a Good Training Partner in Combat Sports
In combat sports gyms, there are unwritten rules that anyone who trains should have some idea about. Following these basic guidelines will help you to become a better training partner and allow you to earn more respect from everyone in the gym.
1) Be courteous and treat everyone with respect
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Try to be more understanding and see things from a different (person’s) perspective.
Do not be so quick to judge people. Take the time to get to know someone before you make any assumptions about them.
You are training with other people and at the end of the day, they are human. While the struggles of everyday life differ from person to person, everyone is fighting their own battles, many of which we do not know about. Keep this in mind and lift others up, rather than put them down.
After a hard day of work or being a parent or going to school, the people at the gym still have enough drive to go to the gym. They choose to show up, to work hard and improve. That says a lot. Everyone should be treated with courtesy, while respect is earned.
2) Take care of your training partners
During training, the goal is always to get better. Everybody is there for this exact reason, so do not deliberately do things that will put your training partners out of action for an extended amount of time.
In all fairness, there is an increased risk of injuries when training a combat sport. Do your best to train in a way that allows you to improve your techniques in a safe manner for everyone involved.
For example, let’s say you are live-rolling during BJJ training. You have secured a very tight kimura on your opponent, who you know is not as strong as you are and is far less experienced. You start to put more pressure on the kimura, but they still won’t tap due to either 1) lack of experience or 2) being too “tough” for their own good. Instead of ripping their shoulder off of their body, you could choose to transition to a different submission. You get to improve your transitions between attacks and your partner gets to avoid time off from potential injury, resulting medical operations, and related post-operation rehab procedures. It’s a win-win!
Maintain your hygiene. Stay clean by showering after training sessions (within four hours of activity) and keep your nails (both fingernails and toenails) short.
In addition to cleaning your body, make sure you continuously clean your training gear and your equipment. Do laundry on (at least) a weekly basis and do not rewear previously worn clothes (gis, rash guards, etc) without washing them first. Use wipes or a disinfectant spray to sanitize any equipment used during training, whether it’s your own boxing gloves or shin guards, or the gym’s Thai pads or boxing mitts. Clean your equipment after every training session they get used.
Keep the mats clean. Do not wear shoes on the mat. Wear shoes if you need to exit the mats and plan to return. Help (or at least offer to help) your coaches clean the mats. We cover exactly how the mats should be cleaned in a different article, with a sample cleaning plan - linked below.
Cover any and all open wounds. This will reduce the chances of getting and/or spreading infections.
Do not train when you are sick or have an infection. Training while ill delays your body’s recovery. This means it will take longer than normal for your body to recover from training and also for your immune system to fight off the illness. In addition, very few people will appreciate you getting them sick. Just take a few days off, then go back when you’re as close to 100% as possible.
For more detailed information on how to maintain a minimum standard of hygiene, please read this article:
4) Train in a controlled manner
One of the main principles of martial arts is control. Training in combat sports will teach you control, both mentally and physically.
When you are drilling or sparring, make sure you are in control of your movements. Do not spazz out and move in violent, uncontrolled, and unpredictable ways. This only increases the likelihood of someone getting injured and does very little to help with the development of technique.
There’s nothing wrong with going slow and focusing on the finer details. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
5) Match the training intensity of your training partner(s)
Focused around improving technique, there will be lower-intensity training sessions where flow rolls and light-contact sparring take place. There will also be higher-intensity training sessions where high-pace rolls and hard sparring sessions occur, aimed at simulating “real world” scenarios (ex. preparing for a fight). Both of these and everything in between are fine, as long as all parties involved train in a controlled manner.
While training sessions will often vary in their intensity, keep some tips in mind for both the lighter and harder intensity training and sparring sessions.
If the overall pace of the room is slower and more controlled, match your training partners. They may be drilling, rolling, or sparring at a lighter pace because they want to focus on something specific and ensure that they correctly follow the steps of a technique. Another reason could be that they are sore from previous activity, but still want to train at a reduced risk of injury. Whatever the reason, try and match your partner’s intensity.
If the overall pace of the room is high, keep it that way. This likely means that people want to sharpen their skills and push themselves harder for the day, so lowering this pace will do very little to help them achieve this goal. You may gain some valuable experience in these sessions: your reflexes can become faster and your quick-thinking abilities may improve. Training while your body is tired will help strengthen your self-discipline and ability to react and adapt under pressure. Scan the gym’s environment and match the energy for the day.
Thank you for reading - we hope this article was helpful in explaining the less-talked about gym rules!