BJJ: Roll with the best if you want to be the best

This may seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t necessarily follow it: seek out people who are better than you and roll with them.

Far too often, I see guys only seek out training partners who don’t give them much of a challenge.  These people may do this in order to be mat bullies, which is terrible.  They also may do this out of fear of getting tapped out in the gym.  They don’t want to experience failure, and as a result they miss out on some of the best opportunities available.

A while ago I wrote an article about how tapping out is an inevitable byproduct of learning and growing in this sport, and it is important to seek opportunities to be forced to tap.  This is accomplished either by rolling with superior grapplers, or putting yourself in bad situations while rolling with your training partners.

On the other side of this, I’ve seen some people with upper belts avoid people of the same or better caliber as getting tapped out hurts their ego.  I’ve also seen more experienced white belts avoid upper belts that don’t let them have it easy when rolling with them.  These people are limiting their own growth, and are not going to benefit as much as they would if they diversified their training partners.

I am not saying to avoid anyone who can’t beat you, as there are a lot of potential positives to rolling with less experienced teammates, but if those are the people you predominantly seek out to roll, good luck improving on the long run.

Here’s the thing: tapping doesn’t help the ego.  If you roll with superior grapplers you’ll tap out a lot.  I’ve had some opportunities to roll with some high level guys who were nice and let me work and some other where the high level guys came at me hard.  Both serve to improve and expand one’s game, and both should be encouraged.

For this reason, whenever I go to an open mat, I seek out the highest ranked people in the room and roll with them.  I could very easily stick with white and blue belts and enjoy a greater level of success, thus stroking my ego, but that’s not going to make me better.  At a tournament it’s not going to matter if I tapped the worst guy in the room out 50 times.  What WILL matter is if I took time to roll with the very best, and was able to develop some sort of strategy.

I always think about the reality that if I am able to do well against purple and brown belts at an open mat, my chances against a fellow blue belt in competition go up exponentially, and the more I roll with people of a higher caliber the better.



Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and


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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


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