Don’t Try To Be The “Practice Champ”

Photo Credit: Issys Calderon Photography/ Instagram

Ever see that one person who never plays positions they are not good at?  The person who refers to submissions in the training room as “winning” or “losing”?  The individual who treats every single roll as though it is the finals of the Mundials?  Don’t be that person.  Don’t spend your time on the mat trying to become the practice champ.

I want to preface this by saying: there is a time to roll hard, there is a time to roll to your strengths, but that time is not all the time.  Trying to become practice champ can be harmful, and there are several benefits to rolling at a lower intensity.

For starters, high intensity rolling will cause lower level practitioners to miss a lot of the details of what they’re doing.  When I roll with newer teammates, I like to move slowly and smoothly. I like to let them experience every minute detail, and let them see what it is I’m doing to seemingly effortlessly overwhelm and overcome their defenses.  If I were out there trying to become practice champ, this information would not be transferred.

Low intensity training allows us to have a conversation with our training partner.  This conversation doesn’t have to be verbal; it can be simply through our movements.  You and your training partners’ actions and reactions are the content of that conversation.  But if all you are trying to do is “beat” them and “win” to become practice champ, you’ll miss half of the conversation because you’re so wrapped up in your own thoughts and actions.

Trying to be a practice champ is a surefire way to get hurt.  There’s always someone bigger, badder, and stronger. If all you’re trying to do is muscle your way through every round, you’ll find that eventually you’ll come up against someone who you simply cannot bully. Unless you’ve developed timing and finesse to deal with that kind of person, they will crush you and it will hurt both mentally and physically.

If every roll is to the death, you won’t be able to roll as effectively in the later rounds as you did in the early ones.  This translates to losing in later rounds at competition.  Learn to pace yourself when you roll. If you ever do one of the larger tournaments, you may have to deal with 10 matches If you are trying to bulldoze every single opponent instead of using good technique and jiu jitsu, you may win that first match, but later in the day you won’t be looking so hot.

I can’t speak for everyone on the mat, but I plan on training for the rest of my life.  I’m young and strong now, but in another 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, I may not be as strong.  If I never learn to use good technique, my jiu-jitsu will suck down the line.  I’m better off investing time, thought, and energy into developing fantastic technique so that down the line the techniques I learn today still work for me. This is better than being insistent upon winning by using brute strength and relying entirely upon positions and scenarios with which I’m comfortable.  I need to have the knowledge to handle the situations and scenarios where I’m not comfortable and make those situations and scenarios ones in which I am comfortable.

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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. Not everyone is a competitor and some just simply enjoy good sparring. To hell with drilling. If I want to fool around I’ll start karate.

  2. This is great advice, not just for training, but for life. You have to know when to push you hardest and when to think long term. I agree that you shouldn’t try to be a practice champ. Rather, do some other exercises and reset you fitbit. Then, take a deep breathe and pay attention to the skill level and details over just pure exertion.


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