Bjj: Rolling With The Best

One of the many advantages that jiu jitsu has over other sports is the accessibility of its stars.  For a meager mat fee you can learn from and in some cases roll with people who are at the very top of the sport.  Also some guys will roll with attendees at seminars, just the other day I attended an Eduardo Telles seminar and he literally rolled with everyone in the room that wanted to roll with him, in some cases guys came back for more!

There are some distinct benefits to rolling with guys at this level, and some very important rules to doing so.

For starters: remember that these guys may often be targeted by hungry lesser practitioners trying to cut their teeth, so always be respectful and quiet when approaching someone significant.  Don’t call the world champ out from across the room as you may really offend them.  It’s fine to quietly approach them and ask them if they’d be willing to roll with you.

Once the roll begins, don’t be a spazz.  These guys are human.  They have joints that can be damaged, and they make their living off of their bodies’ ability to perform.  Be gentle with the understanding that if they decide to spazz as well, their potential to hurt you is much greater than yours to hurt them.  That said, approach the roll as an exploratory experience, not a competitive one.  Try to experience whatever they decide to throw at you.  Play a bit of defense and a bit of offense.

Always thank them, show them gratitude for rolling with you.  Chances are unless you are also a top level competitor they don’t get nearly as much out of the experience as you do.  Also understand that they DO get something out of it, namely the opportunity to field their techniques against someone who has no clue what to expect.

When rolling with a high level black belt, be ready to tap and tap fast, vocally if needed.  Some of these guys are getting ready for competitions, and while they’ll willingly roll with someone of lower caliber, they may not take it easy on you at all.

Some will take it very easy on you.  I once rolled with a world class black belt at a time when I really didn’t understand much, he only tapped me out twice throughout the 6 minute roll so I thought that he might not be very good.  A couple of years later I had an opportunity to roll with this person, and he actually put a bit of effort into the roll, and I realized how wrong my initial assessment was.  These guys are sought after and considered world class for a reason, if they’re not crushing your soul don’t hold it against them.  Chances are they’re not really going after you.

Next time you have an opportunity to roll with a high level black belt, take it.  In fact, any opportunity you get you should capitalize on.  This is one of the very few sports in which casual practitioners can train directly with the very best; we should all take advantage of that as much as we can.


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