As we’ve discovered over the past couple of weeks, being stuck at home with no jiu-jitsu sucks. Many of us, desperate for training in any capacity, have been doing solo drills, using nothing but our own bodies and maybe a chair or stuffed animal to train with. But resources are limited, and it’s natural to worry that you may not be optimizing your home space to get the most out of your quarantine training.
Never fear — we’ve used our sudden surplus of free time for the greater good, and now, we’ve done the hard work to determine which household objects you should and shouldn’t be using for your home training routine.
If you want to use a couch for hip escapes, do so while imagining the gym’s resident superheavyweight clamping down on your thighs with all their weight. While every couch is different and I am not one to judge, my own couch was a terrible drilling partner. It told me, “Well, in a street fight, a criminal couch wouldn’t just not squish your legs as hard as it could.” I began to argue that criminal couches didn’t exist, but these are crazy times, so I didn’t want to speak too soon and make a fool out of myself.
Rating: 3/10, paranoia about criminal couches dramatically increased
2. Pillow Wrapped In a Gi
The tried-and-true pillow is a solid (and yet, soft) option for grapplers who just want to feel powerful again. It loses points for not having arms or legs or a neck, and we found it impossible to secure any kind of rear naked choke on it, but if you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to footsweep a small child into the next dimension, it’s got you covered.
Overall, the pillow was imperfect, but has earned its place as a readily available grappling dummy in times of desperation.
Rating: 7/10, great for controlling what you can when things feel out of control
Curtains may seem like fairly low-risk training partners, especially for those who want to practice lasso and spider guard. Be advised, however, that these will not just be your drilling partners, but your opponents. Curtains are great tools for the truly competitive — the athletes who aren’t afraid to get hurt, who prioritize great training over their own safety, who know that becoming a champion takes sacrifice and the occasional home repair job. However, as hospital staff are currently working hard to handle the surge in patients, we recommend saving this at-home training partner for a less risky time in human history.
Rating: 6/10, second photo was staged, we are not actually that dumb
4. A Wall
If you thought your training partners were tough to take down, just wait until you try doing it to the foundation of a building. A huge challenge with no positive outcome — either you fail to make progress, or your house crumbles on top of you.
Rating: 1/10, literally like trying to move a wall
5. Coat Rack
On the plus side, this coat rack features a number of small extremities, so it feels like drilling with a weird metal giraffe that’s wearing a metal octopus on its head. Seems useless, but again, crazy times, gotta be prepared for anything. Very difficult to choke, but provides high levels of satisfaction for people with short legs who can never secure a triangle from the back when training with humans.
Rating: 5/10, will revisit when the octopus giraffe apocalypse hits
6. Reusable Shopping Bag
A safer spider guard option than curtains, the reusable shopping bag is good for basic drills that might require sleeves, but less practical than a gi jacket, which you probably already have if you’re doing gi drills. Pack the bag with actual groceries to spice things up.
Rating: 6.5/10, at least you’re getting some use out of the bag you always forget in your car
This will stir long-forgotten memories of ancient techniques like “armbars” and “kneebars” that history has nearly left behind since the pandemic began. Unfortunately, though, you might also break your broom.
Rating: 4/10, surprisingly not good for drilling sweeps
8. Laundry Basket
This thing had the best turtle guard I’ve ever seen. Impossible to get hooks in. The basket was an eager drilling opponent, as it, too, has been bored due to a decrease in work since jiu-jitsu took a pause. Unfortunately, I never got to find out if it had arms or legs I could use to submit it. Definitely a drilling partner for a more advanced practitioner.
Rating: 5/10, excellent clothed guard
The chair is the default inanimate object most people go to when spending time drilling at home. It has legs! Some of them have arms! It’s practically a human being. We found this to be a solid and versatile drilling companion for both gi and no-gi practitioners, particularly for passing drills. The chair has earned its place in lonely grappler history.
Rating: 8/10, points docked for having four legs and no heels
10. Coffee Table
Our four-dollar coffee table looks like it had potential to be, like, a stray dog that turned into enchanted furniture in Beauty and the Beast, so we gave it a chance to be a training partner. Depending on your size, it could be useful for butterfly guard drills.
Submissions, of course, were harder. The table refused to tap, and we had to use our best judgment on when to release armbars so as to avoid injuring it. We remembered, though, that all white belts have some ego during their early training days, so we didn’t hold it against the coffee table too much.
Rating: 7.5/10, better at jiu-jitsu than I am at holding a bunch of stuff all the time, so I can’t judge too harshly
11. Plush Sloth
We went into this expecting Sloth to be a perfect drilling partner. He’s barely shorter than me, has long limbs, and a soft, chokeable neck. Boy, were we wrong. Apparently Sloth has been watching too many online instructionals, because he took drilling time way too seriously. After dislocating my partner’s shoulder and gloating about submitting a brown belt, he challenged me. I wasn’t prepared to sweat, but figured I could take him. Wrong. He triangled me and then swiftly transitioned to a triangle-armbar. His velcro hands and feet scratched our skin, strong with bloodlust. A malevolent cackle erupted from deep within his stuffing, his plastic eyes alight with the thrill of violence as his manufacturer’s tag fluttered in a sudden and mysterious wind. What have we done? Dear God, what have we done?
Rating: 10/10, look at that cute little face
The bed was very comfortable.
Rating: 1/10, ignored the tap and put me to sleep