You can learn something from everyone. That’s a common sentiment on the mats. In theory, it’s great. In practice….sometimes not so much. Even the mellowest colored belt can sometimes struggle when the 4-stripe white belt starts handing out advice or the more advanced student takes them to school on the mats. Let’s look at two distinctly different ways we can learn from our training partners — tactile feedback and verbal feedback or advice.
If you want to be able to learn from anyone via tactile feedback i.e. through rolling, you need to roll with everyone and you will want to experience all aspects of their jiu jitsu including their A-game. If every time you roll with better students you do everything you can to avoid being drawn into their best positions you will miss the opportunity to study up close and personal what it is that makes that particular position part of their A-game. If every time you roll with less experienced training partners you simply crush them you will also miss what they have to offer. In an ideal world you will spend some time being the hammer and some time being the nail. When you are the hammer, you are letting your training partner feel and learn from your A game. When you are the nail, you are learning from theirs.
If you want to learn something from everyone via verbal feedback or advice you must be humble and approachable. If every time someone gives you feedback you allow your ego to interfere and become dismissive or confrontational people will not be likely to continue to try and help you. Sometimes it is helpful to encourage others to give you feedback. This can be asking directly or you can be a little more subtle like just comment on something you were trying to do during the roll i.e. “I was having a heck of a time passing your guard” or “that was a great triangle”. Feedback is often revealed in casual conversations if you’re looking for it.
There are many ways of learning jiu jitsu: In class instruction, seminars, video study, drilling with your favorite training partners, as well as tactile and verbal feedback from your classmates and training partners. Take advantage of them all.
Train hard, train smart, get better.