What can you learn from rolling with beginners?
Very often, I hear people say that they can learn something from rolling with anyone. I’ve heard this said by world-class black belts. The truth is that in the jiu-jitsu culture, inexperienced members are often treated as second class citizens, not seen as valuable as training partners.
One’s ability to learn from training partners of all different skill levels can determine their ability to develop skills. If you look at many world-class competitors, they developed their skills training with people far less experienced or talented than they themselves were.
So how does one learn from rolling with a beginner?
For starters, you need to establish expectations. Chances are a beginner is neither going to be able to overcome your “A” game nor your “B” game. Learn to figure out what an individual’s proclivities are, and play to their strengths. In doing this, you’ll be able to get the most actionable data from that roll.
I recently read a post about Firas Zahabi, a famed MMA coach and grappling expert, talking about how the best way to get better at moves is to hit them in live training against people slightly less skilled than you are. Zahabi isn’t the first person to talk about this, but the fact remains: the more times you get repetitions of a move during live training, the more likely you are to be able to use that move in competition.
One method that I’ve found handy for rolling with less experienced practitioners is to select one submission and only hit that one submission on them. This forces me to think creatively while rolling with them, because fairly quickly they will start doing everything they can to defend against that one submission. Of course you have to be careful with this as it can develop bad habits in the other person if all they are doing is making mistakes in order to avoid getting caught in that one submission, but at the end of the day it increases their awareness as well as your ability to impose your will.
The more time you spend training, the fewer people will be at your level. Given that most people quit at white or blue belt, purple, brown and black belts have a harder time finding challenges. If you go to any given gym, you’ll see two or three people at the very top of the food chain, and everyone else is a few steps below them. If you are on a higher level than many of the people with whom you train, you need to find ways to learn from people who are less experienced than you are.
So what can you learn from rolling with lower belts? How do you learn from them?