How Hard Should I Roll?

This seems like an straightforward question with an easy answer: go hard or go home!

But not so fast. Let’s think about this for a moment.

There are many different types in BJJ class. Beginners, professional MMA fighters, very first class white belts, cauliflower-eared mat veterans, recreational 1-2 times a week guys, and the 21-year-old competition phenoms that are training every day.

A great instructor once explained to me “I will give the same that I get.” I can roll easy and flow if you are doing the same. I heard UFC fighter Carlos Condit say, “Only hit me as hard as you want to be hit back.” Fair enough. If you want to up the intensity, you should be prepared for your partner to match your intensity!

One of the factors is that early in your training you don’t have a lot of technique and smoothness; so, muscle and speed tend to take over. New students may well be aware that they should be using technique and not strength, but when the roll starts and they are battling a submission, all of that goes out the window and it is survival time! That just seems to be part of the experience of starting out in BJJ.

Your challenge is to try not to “lock horns” with your opponents (especially if they are stronger and heavier than you!) and to attempt to roll using clean technique. Beginners are often told “do not use too much strength!” It is true in every academy on the planet.

A second consideration is who your training partner is. You can roll differently with an experienced purple belt your same weight than a new student who you outweigh by 20 kilos. Roll differently with the black belt than with the recreational guy who is over forty.

Now on the opposite end of rolling intensity is that you should expect some intensity from your training partners. You don’t want to be submitted and neither do they! It is reasonable to expect that they will be coming after you and trying their best to choke you! If your training partners are not using dirty, illegal tactics, then you should accept that they will be bringing some heat to the roll. And don’t be dismissive of someone dominating a roll by saying “they just used strength!”. The reality of grappling is that strength and athleticism are part of the equation.

All of that said, here are four good guidelines for how hard should you roll:

1) Go only as hard as you want your opponent to go. Don’t be the “let’s just go easy” guy and then go like it is the final of the Mundials.
2) Safety first. You need to preserve both your and your partner’s health so you can train again tomorrow. Sometimes we need to ease off in the intensity to be safe.
3) Adjust your intensity to the partner that you are rolling with. Different partners have different capacities and you don’t want to discourage people from rolling with you. Roll hard with others who expect and want the same level of intensity.
4) Try to use technique and not “spaz”. We understand that you don’t want to lose, but remember that you are training to DEVELOP technique, not just to prove how good you are!

Read also on Jiu-Jitsu Times: Low Percentage vs High Percentage Moves


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