Perhaps the most accessible way to train without a partner is through visualization. Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of visualization and have shown that you can increase by skill doing it. While a physical practice will always be a necessary part of training, a visualization practice should be a regular supplement. You can start by visualizing specific techniques, imagining yourself performing them step by step. Once you gain more experience, you can imagine yourself doing a sparring session or even having a match in competition. These mental reps can be very challenging, but the mental stimulation and accompanying gains in skill will be well worth the time.
Work on funditional movements
Many of the movements you’ll first learn in jiu-jitsu can be performed solo. These movements include hip escapes, bridges, technical stand ups, sit outs, and inversion drills, among others. Because of their ability to be performed solo and their practicality in a live situation, these moves are often included as part of a warmup routine. Getting extra practice with these movements will be hugely beneficial. Boxers have used shadow boxing and wrestlers have used show wrestling for years to help hone their movement and technique. The same can be applied to jiu-jitsu, especially when you’re without a training partner.
Watch instructional material
With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to watch and learn jiu-jitsu online. BJJ Fanatics and Jiu-Jitsu X offer tons of instructional material from world class competitors. It doesn’t matter what area of your game you’re trying to improve, there are more than likely multiple instructionals breaking it down in detail. It may be useful to find high level practitioners who have a similar body type as you to try to mimic their game. Certain techniques are easier to apply based on your body type, so don’t get too discouraged if a move doesn’t click right away. As long as you put in the mat time and the repetitions with a given technique, you’ll eventually find a way to adapt it to your body.
Watch match footage
FloGrappling has the largest archive of matches in the sport, ranging from beginners competing at local tournaments to invite only professional events. Watching jiu-jitsu not only helps you understand specific techniques, but also helps you recognize patterns that you can apply to your own game. Having access to thousands of hours of video footage is something new jiu-jitsu practitioners have become accustomed to, but this footage was not available back in the 90s when jiu-jitsu was first popularized in countries outside of Brazil. The availability of these videos has increased the level of the technique in the sport and should be utilized whether you’re a white belt or a seasoned black belt.
Do strength and conditioning work
Although not directly related to jiu-jitsu technique, increasing your strength and your conditioning will be invaluable on the mats. While technique is king, strength and conditioning are close seconds. If two competitors with equal technique face off, physical attributes will often decide the winner. There are many ways to work on your strength and conditioning, so it’s most important to first find something enjoyable that you can stick with. This will lead to more consistency and ultimately, more gains in the gym.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these methods of training solo will offer huge benefits to your jiu-jitsu game when you don’t have a training partner to work with.