Jita Kyoei

Training for mutual benefit makes everyone better.

If you train with judoka, you might have heard them talk about “jita kyoei,” or in English, “mutual benefit.” It's a foundational principle of Judo. It might sound crazy to focus on mutual benefit in a one-on-one competitive combat sport, but let's unpack why the judoka are right on this one.

Yes, it's true: Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are fundamentally one-on-one sports. And because of that, it might sometimes feel like a selfish, “me-first” attitude would be the winning one. However, there's a reason jita kyoei is considered so important in Judo:

Training for mutual benefit makes everyone better.

That's right: when you're practicing, you shouldn't just focus on making yourself better; you should be just as invested in making your partner better. Believe it or not, this will benefit you just as much as it benefits them. Here's why:

#1: Nobody wants to train with an asshole.
It's probably obvious, but if you're unpleasant and only care about yourself, you're going to have a hard time finding and keeping good training partners. This is a problem that even elite athletes can't dodge: just follow online gym drama and you'll quickly learn that nobody wants to train with an asshole, regardless of how good they are at martial arts.

#2: If you're selfish with your partners, they'll be selfish with you.
Even if you do convince people to train with you, why should they be interested in helping you if you're not interested in helping them? Recall the golden rule and “do unto others.” If you help your partners reach their goals, they'll help you back.

#3: Deliberate practice requires cooperation.
We've talked extensively on BJJ Mental Models about the importance of deliberate practice, which we sometimes call training with purpose. If you go into every training session with clear objectives, you'll get better faster. But you can only do this with a cooperating partner. If they have no interest in helping you get better, they might not be willing to drill what you want to drill.

#4: Your training is only as good as the quality of your partner.
You don't need to fly to Brazil or Austin to find valuable training partners. There's a reason we talk so much about raising the level in the room: the best way to get great training partners is to create them yourself.

So there you have it: four great reasons to train for mutual benefit.

Now, is there a time to be selfish? Sure. When you're running up to a competition, you need to put yourself first and make sure you're not being distracted from your preparation. But the rest of the time, consider jita kyoei.

As Andrew Wiltse once said on BJJ Mental Models, “Jiu-Jitsu is an individual sport, but it really does take a team to make an athlete.” So during practice, remember that the goal isn't to make you better, it's to make us better.


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