BJJ: Rolling Hard? Or hardly Rolling?

There is very often a fine line between rolling too hard and rolling too light. I’ve been told I do both (depending on who I’m rolling with). I attest that there is a distinct benefit and rationale for at least occasionally rolling like it’s the finals at the mundials.

People who never roll hard will be sadly unprepared when it comes time to use their jiu jitsu (either in a street fight or in a competition.) That’s not to say that you can’t win matches, but you won’t have that grit and killer instinct that it takes to really beat worthy opponents.

A key element of rolling hard is trust. You must trust your training partner will let go if they catch you and you must trust that they will tap when you catch them, otherwise both of you are at risk. There are a few people that I roll hard with that I feel like I need to be careful because I can’t trust them on one of these fronts, but that awareness is crucial. I generally never roll to full capacity when I first encounter a new training partner for this reason as it could put one or both of us at risk. When rolling with someone for the first time I generally roll at about 50-60% and tap quickly if they get anything. As the roll progresses I may ramp it up if I feel I can trust them, but again, trust is a key element when it comes to rolling hard.

I’ve heard a lot about the notion that there is a faction that is weakening the sport. Specifically those who want to eliminate submissions for kids, those who insist on keeping attacks deemed too dangerous out of competition, the way takedowns in general are treated etc. I think that anyone who shuns hard rolling and hard rollers factors into that. I think that if you view someone who rolls hard as a threat, you might want to reassess why exactly you choose to roll at all.

The alternative to rolling hard is rolling light, flowing. The ability to flow is extremely valuable as well, so you should still factor that in. Not every roll, in fact, needs to be “to the death”. But every now and again you should find your favorite training partner and try to kill them, just a little bit, let go when they tap though and don’t crank joint locks fast enough that they won’t have time to tap because then you won’t have them to roll with.

Roll hard in the gym so that when you go to tournaments you wonder “Why are these guys taking it so easy on me?” Roll hard in the gym so that if you ever get into a street fight you can think to yourself “You call THAT aggression? Here let me show you aggression…” Jiu Jitsu is one of the very few styles which allow us to practice at full speed and force and still be able to walk out in tact (as long as you’re smart about it.)

Do you roll hard? Or are you part of the problem? If you don’t roll hard, how do you sleep at night? (I think I know the answer: without aches and pains.)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here