Reader Question: I Don’t Remember Anything While Rolling

Reader Question: Should I be remembering more techniques when rolling? I’m a white belt in my 2nd year and go in about 3x a week. I’m in my 40’s which may not be relative to my question. Like any BJJ practitioner we are always learning and drilling new techniques all the time. I do great during lessons and drilling, but I’m often finding when rolling I am not remembering the mass majority of the moves I have gone through and finding myself hanging out in top positions without any answers of what to do next. I’ve been taught a lot of cool moves to do but find myself drawing blanks when it’s go time. Some guys are able to utilize something they just learned. Am I some sort of jiu-jitsu dummy or is it one of those things that gets better with time and installing muscle memory?

Jiu-Jitsu Times: This, in fact, is a very common situation in BJJ. There are two issues here.

You remember nothing while rolling.

This is likely hyperbole to emphasize your difficulty in recalling techniques that you had just learned.

A factor in this is your level of adrenaline while rolling. As our body tenses up, so does our mind. Our focus narrows and we simply forget moves that we should be able to recall.

Breathe! Any type of relaxing of the mind and body is based on deep breathing. When you catch yourself tensing during a roll, you are going to have to make a deliberate effort to pause, take a few breaths, and restore your clear thinking. You will find your memory starts to unlock.

How many moves do you need?

Did you know that there are 67 throws in the Judo gokyo syllabus, yet the Olympic judo competitors tend to specialize in only three or four techniques? They can demonstrate many techniques, but only actually use three or four.

BJJ has 1000’s of techniques and variations. Black belts know a lot of techniques, but usually only specialize in a few positions. Think of the incredible Marcelo Garcia. He uses a relatively small number of submissions, but has numerous routes to get there. Those favorite techniques are also honed to a razor edge!

My advice for you is to pick two moves from each of the major ground positions and drill those moves into muscle memory. This way, technique selection is not confusing and you will be allocating your precious drilling time to the moves that work for you in your game.

Read also on the Jiu-Jitsu Times: BJJ 101: I Always Forget My Moves


  1. I was the same way… What changed for me is rolling with a game plan. Try and pick one submission and escape from a position and just try them over and over when rolling. Once they become second nature, switch them up. I think the idea is developing moves that become reflexes. Eventually the amount of different techniques will increase. You wont feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Hope this helps

  2. I feel that as well… I’m 54 years old and started at 53. My biggest issue and also strongest trait is being a thinker. I am a visual learner and tend to do well in drilling techniques but when I roll I cannot link them together. I forget fundamentals and cannot daisy chain anything! Get stuck when mounted and when on someone’s guard I cannot pass!
    I’m stubborn enough not to give up, waiting for some magical moment when my mind will drop off and the body will do it’s thing but so far no luck! I overthink and that makes me slow and opponents love that little hesitation and take good care of tapping me!


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