I have read a number of stories on online BJJ forums with comments such as
“I am the only female in my class and this huge guy keeps pushing his forearm into my throat from closed guard.”
“How do I roll with females?”
“I am the smallest guy in my class and I keep getting beat up by 200lb training partners.”
“I am a white belt and an upper belt told me I am spazzing.”
One solution to training with training partners of the opposite sex, varying body types, and skill levels is to “S-Train.” I learned S-Training as a white belt from my head coach Shawn Williams. He developed this method of flow training with John Danaher when the two trained together at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.
In the video below, Williams will demonstrate the concepts and methods of S-Training. It is a form of slow, light, flow rolling with very little use of strength that starts with one person attempting a sequence of submission attempts on his/her training partner while the training partner defends the submissions. The number of submissions attempts varies from 1, 3, or 5 attempts with beginners starting at 5 sequences and more advance students starting at 1 or 3. Once, the first training partner completes his/her set number of submission attempts, then the roll will continue to flow, but this time the second partner will transition to offense and attempt the same number of submission attempts with the first partner now defending. The training partners will continue to alternate offense and defense for the whole duration of the round. There are no resets in S-Training. The only time someone taps in S-Training is when someone does not know the defense to the submission. Once the person submits, the roll will continue from the same position and the training partner who is on offense will transition to the next submission attempt.
As a white belt, I watched Shawn Williams and Ken Florian smoothly S-Train and work against each other as if they were playing a friendly chess game with each person flowing and transitioning to improved positions and submission attempts on each other. Recently, I was in New York City and attended a class with John Danaher. I arrived early and watched his private lesson with Purple Belt, Ottavia Bourdain. Despite a substantial difference in size and skill level, the two were flow training with each other at a moderate speed with each person alternating submission attempts while the other person countered the attempts. This was done in a very technical and safe flow that allowed Bourdain to work her game against the larger and more advanced Danaher.
In my own experience with S-Training, it allowed me as a 210 lbs. white belt to safely roll with a 120 lbs. female blue belt where we were both able to practice advancing position, submissions and defense with little risk of injury. At that point in my BJJ journey, I had very few moves in my tool box, other than to smash her down in a cross face under hook from half guard, which would not have been a productive use of time for either of us. Instead, we were able to train at a controlled pace in a mutually beneficial roll where both of us could work on our timing, follow ups, transitions, submissions and defense. In doing so, she was clearly way more technical and fluid in her movements than I was and we were both able to work on our techniques. Since she was more advanced than I was, I basically tried to mirror the sweeps, passes, and submission attempts she used on me. This was a more productive form of training for the both of us compared to a hard roll where I would have used my overwhelming weight advantage on her to create an ugly stalemate.
S-Training is an excellent way to flow drill fundamentals, timing, movements, transitions, submissions, and defense. Here are a few scenarios where S-Training could be for you.
- Light days where you want to break a sweat and get some mat time in, but you don’t want to go hard.
- Larger training partner versus smaller training partner.
- More experienced student training with less experienced student with less experienced student mimicking the movements of the more experienced student.
- New students that are just starting to roll. The instructor might need to teach a short flow sequence with a basic sweep, guard pass to submission and the submission defense for the students to get them started since their offense and defense will be limited.
- Rolling to cut weight. Put on a few layers of sweat shirts underneath your gi and S-Train to move your body, get your heart rate up and start sweating to cut the last few pounds without beating up your body.
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