A Reader Question: “I hate rolling with the class Spaz”

Flickr / Creative Commpons: Sylvain

A Jiu-jitsu Times reader writes us: “I’m just writing to get some input.
There is a fellow in my class that is very aggressive when he rolls during open mat, but he does so uncontrolled.
I’m all for training at 100%, but this guy is hurting people.
We started taking classes at around the same time and are both currently white belts with about 6mo of experience.
I know the instructor has talked with him because I asked him to do so, but the cycle just continues.
A knee to the groin here, a head butt there, an eye gouge if he is feeling frisky.
So I have been avoiding the guy just to protect myself, but we had a substitute instructor last night and he was pairing guys up to roll, so he could get an idea of where we were at. Sure enough I get paired up with “Smack Around Sam” and as I was taking his back he threw his elbow right into my jaw.
I blew up and confronted the guy right there and walked off the mat. He is a really nice guy and was very apologetic, but saying sorry doesn’t heal my face.
I apologized to the instructor for the outburst and accepted my fellow white belt’s words of remorse.
Hopefully this sparks something in the guys head, but does anyone else have advice for this?
I know I shouldn’t have gotten that mad, but I have just had enough of the unnecessary injuries. Thanks for your time.”

Jiu-jitsu Times: I can feel your pain my bjj brother.
You have just encountered the dreaded “Bjj Spaz”.

The “Spaz” as he is known in bjj academies all over the word is not in control of his body movements.
A roll with the Spaz features head butts, eye pokes and gouges, twisted fingers, elbows in the face, scratches to the face and knees to the groin.


Ironically, it is safer to roll with that 200lbs. black belt than the 150lbs. white belt spaz (not ALL Spaz’s are white belts by the way)!

Why do Spaz’s roll that way?
For some people, they are just wired that way. Most times, with some mat experience, they learn to calm down and relax a little and become better training partners.
Some students of bjj just seem to be thrashers and have that temperament and will always be a “bag of knees and elbows”.

So what do you do?
1) Try to avoid rolling with any partner who you feel is a danger to roll with.
A polite and simple “not today man” should be enough to refuse a roll.

2) Privately and calmly inform the instructor that the student is a problem to safety and it is the instructor’s duty to speak to that student.
The Spaz may not even know that they are a Spaz!
read also: A Reader Question: The Bluebelt Went Really Hard On Me!

The Spaz is a threat to new students and an elbow to the nose could result in a new student quitting rather than endure more injuries.
The instructor needs to monitor the students rolling to spot and stop issues like this.

3) I had a problem student once who was the worst Spaz I had ever encountered. As soon as he would get in any kind of trouble in the roll he would start to gasp for breath, go completely stiff and claw at your face like a drowning man.
And if he was in a submission position would lunge for the submission with 100% of every ounce of strength, grunting with exertion.
Repeatedly talking to him did no good.
returning the favor and rolling rough did no good.
After yet another incident of spazzing out, I became fed up and stopped him from training and told him to go sit on the side of the mat.
I had to suspend his rolling for several classes to drive home the point.

4) Many of the Spaz’s are so involved in fighting (tunnel vision) that they don’t realize that they are even doing anything wrong!
They lack awareness of their elbows and knees and need to be educated to be better training partners.

Before training, explain to the Spaz that they won’t have any one who wants to train with them unless they pay more attention to the safety of their training partners.
Hopefully the correct advice can turn a Spaz into a quality training partner.


    • Physical contact may be part of BJJ but elbowing, kneeing and clawing people while rolling are NOT part of BJJ. When you’re trying to apply proper technique and your partner is throwing strikes instead of using proper defense it is frustrating and dangerous. Rolling hard is fine if you know what you’re doing. If you’re grabbing fingers, elbowing faces, kneeing groins and flopping around like a maniac, you’re only going to piss off your training partners and maybe get hurt. I always give a noob the benefit of a little extra advice if he/she is spazzing out. Most are just uncomfortable with being caught in a bad position and are experiencing the fight or flight reaction. Once they realize they’re not going to die they relax and try to use their technique. I’ve only had two training partners that reacted negatively to being told to settle down and roll smart. One ended up leaving class after another classmate decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. That was over a month ago and he hasn’t been back. The other was kicked out of the gym. He was hurting people in almost every class he attended and refused to heed the warnings from our coaches and the other members of the gym. Your ballet remark makes me think that you’re probably the spaz in your own class and I bet nobody wants to roll with you because you throw elbows every time your back is taken, which probably happens a lot.

  1. Better ways to describe clumsy people than referencing those with a medical condition. Zero meat in this article for instructors, just talking to people and saying “no-no” is silly and will be ineffective in many cases of flailers. This reaction is often psychological, much the same as what a drowning person does. For some, physical disadvantage in grappling will cause the same reaction, sometimes the issue is actual clumsiness, sometimes misplaced intensity is at fault. For those who flail and thrash in “drowning” type situations, an instructor can try mind body visualization and breathing technique to send student home with, and have them roll with those who teach instead of getting sharked. Clumsies need agility, balance, and movement drills, help them learn to move right. Misplaced intensity, make them roll only with higher belts who are instructed to go full power, or make them grapple without the option of any submission, only position and escape.

  2. Lol that’s me in the picture in the blue from like 6 years ago. I’m never signing away the rights to a photoshoot again.

    All of you 1v1 me no nades..


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