Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
BJJ Drills With a Partner
Drills are among the most useful tasks you can do to improve your jiu jitsu, and maybe even the single best way to see the quickest results from your training time. Here, we'll cover three different types of drills. Each drill will have one fairly simple example followed by one somewhat more complex example. The idea is that you can create your own drills once you have the idea of how to categorize movements and techniques.
Drill Category: Two Person, Same Drill
The first example of the "two person, same drill" category is the half guard "sweep for sweep" drill. Start on your hip, making sure that you are focusing on basic half guard elements: block the crossface, stay on your side, and get a deep underhook. Once you have established good posture, start working toward your opponent's back. In response, they will stand up, attempting to avoid the back take. Your own response here involves simply taking them down as they stand, leading to them being on the bottom in half guard. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Slightly More Complicated - Deep Half
Another example in the same vein is this deep half guard back-take-and-escape drill. Start with your partner on your back, and execute a skateboard escape. This will encourage your partner to try to stay on top. When they do this, just capture their foot and enter into basic deep half guard. From here, set up an inside hook so you can keep your partner's leg off the ground, and grip their belt as you creep underneath them, toward their back. Your partner need not wait until you have secured your position, but instead, can simply work straight into their own escape and so forth.
Drill Category 2: Two Different Jobs
In this situation, each person doing the drill has a "job," and this job sets up the other person's drill time, but each job is different for the duration of the drill. One very simple example of this is the "buddy foot" drill from the basic guard maintenance sequence. Start by having your partner quickly pass to knee on stomach, with a preference toward blocking your hip from recovering guard (not pressure down). From here, utilize the free "buddy" foot to recover guard, and push your partner away to "reset" the position. Now your partner is free to pass to the other side, and you can practice your recovery there. The person passing can benefit from the drill as well if they view this as an opportunity to practice and refine their passing skills, especially blocking the initial recovery attempt.
Slightly More Complicated
Here's another great partner drill that involves two separate jobs (one each for the top and bottom person). The top person is once again passing from side to side, but this time, they are passing from their knees and underhooking the leg to get there. In response, the bottom person has to create a more complicated "buddy" system, wherein frames and posts are utilized in order to slow everything down, and then the free leg is able to step over.
Drill Category 3: One Person Static
In this final drill category, one partner remains relatively static while the other person is doing "the work." This first one is a rudimentary inversion drill. Start with your partner standing up, with you hooking their foot with yours. The key here is to stay balled up as you roll to your other side, aiming to insert your other leg while upside down (you will momentarily have both feet inside of their legs if you are comfortable with this drill). From here, you can essentially go to your left or right, but it's easier to use the momentum you've built up to move completely from one side to the other (and eventually all the way around them).
Maybe More Advanced
The "armbar from the back" drill is exemplary of a drill where one partner clearly benefits more than the other. Start with a kimura grip from your partner's back, and start to set up that first armbar by framing and creating the proper angle. Once you have the armbar set up, keep the Kimura grip while your partner holds onto their lapel (or clasps their hands together). This will enable you to take their back once again, and then move on to the other side.
Practice and Get Creative!
All three of these styles of drills are extremely useful any time you have a partner handy, and there are even solo drills you can do all by yourself. Jiu jitsu involves a strong need for technical instruction and live rolling, but drills are somewhere in between, and they are an incredibly important middle piece. Try these different methods out with the idea that you may be able to create your own versions of drills, and, as always, let me know how these techniques work for you!