The Argument For Causing Pain When Rolling

Up until 2014, most of the grappling I had been exposed to was BJJ. As a result I had a very specific mindset when it came to grappling in training.  In 2014 I joined Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center.  We have a jiu-jitsu program, but some of the grapplers with whom I train have their roots in shoot fighting and catch wrestling.  They roll very differently from what I had become accustomed to in the past, and have a very different relationship with pain than most grapplers that I’ve encountered elsewhere.

Perhaps the biggest difference from these styles to jiu-jitsu is that these styles allow and encourage pain generation.  While in jiu-jitsu, pain is treated as an undesirable side effect of certain positions and moves, in many other grappling arts pain is the objective as the reactions that it creates are far more severe and definite.

Jiujiteiros probably read this in disgust: “Pain for the sake of pain?  That’s barbaric!”  But there is some method to this madness.

In learning both to absorb and dish out pain, sometimes truly excruciating debilitating pain, I have developed aspects of my game that I didn’t even know were there.  For example, I am able to make an opponent react far more aggressively in competition than I was able to in the past. That reaction often opens up opportunities to hit great submissions.

Also, my pain threshold has gone up substantially, making me far more capable of deciphering positions that I may have avoided in the past.

I recently saw a video on here covering the definition of a “dick move”, or an impolite move.  In the video, BJJ black belt Nick Albin explained that when he does something that may be painful; he must define to himself why it is he is doing that. If he is simply generating pain for pain’s sake, he is being a dick.

The mindset behind training some of these other grappling arts is that pain in and of itself should be a goal.  One of the coaches I train with, Sean Daugherty always likes to say “A.D.D.  Always Do Damage.”  When Sean rolls with me, he does things in neutral positions that force me to react, things that if I were still training with the BJJ mindset would upset me and make me think Sean was being a dick.  However, when he does these things, my instant reactions lead to effective transitions and submission entries.

As I’ve increased my understanding of pain, I’ve realized that yes it’s not nice, yes it’s kind of rude to do to your training partners, and certainly most of my training partners never see that side of my game.  But it’s an aspect of the game that deserves time and attention.  Learn to cause pain, and make sure that the pain you cause evokes reactions.  Figure out what the most likely reactions will be and learn to use those reactions to make your jiu-jitsu more effective.

Rolling like this isn’t for everyone. The fact that catch wrestlers roll like this may be a reason that catch isn’t more popular.  However, if you have a stomach for it, find yourself training partners who are willing to subject themselves to this kind of misery (and agree to rolling this way with you) and explore it. There is certainly an argument that can be made for pain.

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. Yeah, this is all great unless you are trying to train and avoid injury and benefit from all the incredible aspects of BJJ that don’t put you on crutches for 6-week periods throughout the year. As a relatively older guy with a history of athletic injuries turned “chronic” who is just beside himself to train 5 days a week, I would be BEYOND PISSED if someone hooked my arthritic ankle to show me what pain feels like. I would be inclined to find a hammer and pull a Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan on him so we can swap stories about our relative pain during all the time we could be training.

    • To be honest there’s a HUGE difference between simply seeking to cause pain while rolling and rolling with intent to injure.

      If I’m trying to cause pain when rolling, I’ll do a lot of shin to ankle/forehead to face/forearm to neck or jaw etc. I’ll dig my elbow into my training partner/opponent to get them to react, etc. the goal isn’t to injure the other person, and in my experience pain doesn’t usually result in injury, it’s the other way around. Plenty of things cause pain.

      Next time you roll, try it out. Obviously, let go as soon as the other guy taps and don’t try to injure him before he taps. But try mixing in a little bit of grind when you roll, see if you get more of a reaction from your training partners.


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