Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is often regarded as the most effective martial art for self-defense, and the rolling (sparring) culture has much to do with it. BJJ is a grappling-based martial art, so you get to roll with your training partners after every class. BJJ fighters typically roll a handful of times with multiple partners during each class, so they get the experience of up to 15 fights per week under their belts. As a result, you improve as a fighter at a rapid pace.
People who train in martial arts like boxing don’t have that luxury since sparring at 100 percent puts a lot of stress on the body. People in these sports typically only get to spar once or twice weekly. Anything more than that can end up doing more damage than good.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Rolling Sessions
You’ll get more out of your sparring sessions if you do some simple things like:
1) Roll With A Purpose
Always have a few things you want to work on in mind heading into your sparring sessions. You’ll still improve with mindless rolling, but you can work on your specific weaknesses and add different elements to your game by having a clear purpose.
Think of all the main things you struggle with and work on them when you roll. Remember, rolling isn’t about making your training partners tap out and feeling like you’re the best student in the class. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity to work on your strengths and weaknesses as a BJJ player.
Write down your main weaknesses and things you want to add to your arsenal. Examples of things you can work on while rolling include:
- Improving your escapes from bottom positions
- Improving your cardio (roll at a faster pace to push your lungs)
- Experimenting with a new technique
- Improving your guard passing
- Mastering a submission
Talk to your training partners about what you work on before your rolling sessions, and you’ll be shocked at how many of them will be willing to help you. For example, if you notice you typically get stuck in bottom half guard while rolling, ask your sparring partner to start in that position so you can work on your escapes and reversals while they try to submit you. It’s the little things like these that separate average BJJ players from great ones.
2) Stay Focused When Rolling
It’s not uncommon to see BJJ players spend more time talking and discussing techniques during rolling sessions, but that’s not the best approach. Don’t roll for a minute, and then spend five minutes talking about the technique you used.
Taking some time to give your sparring partner some pointers or explaining how you did something is okay, but don’t spend most of the time you should be rolling having conversations about technique. You can do that after class when your body has had all the grappling it can handle in one day.
3) Lose The Ego
Failing to control your ego will prevent you and your training partners from getting the most out of your training sessions. Egotistical people tend to turn everything into competitions, including simple things like performing drills in the dojo.
A massive ego makes it harder to grow as a martial artist since it makes you reluctant to train with people you know who are better than you are. It makes you more worried about who looks better during sparring sessions instead of looking to improve.
For example, your ego might prevent you from going for an advanced technique because you’re worried about losing your position and potentially losing the rolling session. As a result, you don’t get to practice advanced moves as often as you should because you’re more concerned with playing it safe to protect your ego. Playing it safe is for competitions, not sparring at the dojo. The dojo is where you experiment with positions, sweeps, and submissions. It’s the ideal place to master complex techniques like helicopter armbars.
A huge ego also increases your risk of injury since you’re less likely to tap out when caught in a submission. This also denies your sparring partners honest feedback about their techniques since you’re more concerned about protecting your ego than acknowledging defeat. An uncontrolled ego also puts your training partners at risk since you’re more concerned with hunting for submissions than your training partner’s safety.
4) Ask Questions
Don’t be shy to ask your training partners or instructors questions if there’s a technique you’re curious about. It might be a move a training partner executes on you while rolling or something you notice someone doing at the gym. Most gyms encourage students to share knowledge, and your training partners will probably be happy to help. The fact you noticed something they do that is effective on the mat gives them honest feedback, and you’ll be a better grappler once you add it to your arsenal.
5) Roll Regularly
Rolling a few times a month won’t cut it if you want to be good at BJJ. You need to be consistent with your training, and that includes sparring. Sparring allows you to practice your techniques on resisting opponents, and it also gives you a full-body workout. It builds sport-specific muscles that make you more effective on the mat. It’s why grapplers are typically stronger than the average person, even if they’re around the same size.
6) Be Respectful
Being respectful goes a long way in all aspects of life, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. First, you show respect to your training partners and instructors by showing up on time to train. Time is the most valuable thing in the world, so respect the gym by not showing up late and interrupting class.
You should also be respectful to all your training partners regardless of their skill level. You were once a beginner too, so try to inspire, encourage, and give them pointers are you train. Always train in a way that allows your training partners to get the most out of their time on the mat while you do the same for yourself.
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