So, That’s How You Roll?

Since I departed the only training home I’ve ever known, I’ve ventured out into the world of BJJ more than I had in the previous 8 years combined. I’ve been fortunate to roll with world champions and ADCC winners, amongst others. There are some great schools out there with some tough guys at every one. Here’s the question, how do you roll? Are you sure of that?

A BJJ legend told me when I visited his school that because I couldn’t verify my lineage, I was a white belt. So, out of respect, I wear a white belt when I visit other schools. I don’t keep my experience or even given rank a secret, I just wear a white belt. Now, I don’t have a disclaimer that I present before each roll, but I make sure to explain to the professor my situation. Most just cringe and say go roll, which is what I came for anyway, the challenge and the experience.

Visiting various schools and rolling with a ton of cats of all belt ranks, I’ve learned that people roll very differently when they believe they have the advantage. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. Actually, it’s great! Because it seems to allow them to channel the “flow roll” vibe unconsciously. They believe they are safe in their BJJ and they are correct! I find that when I’m wearing the white belt I get these intense, but moderate tempo rolls that aren’t super tense with strength and don’t become stagnant, with cats of all ranks. (Black belts and even browns are prone to flow more naturally because of their confidence and experience, but they just allow less, unless they want to allow it.) However, if they were consciously rolling with a purple belt instead of a white, they would be more tense, use more strength, experiment less, and over all have way less “flow” in the roll.

Ok, granted, there are some dudes that are just gonna tool you up because that’s just how they roll. That’s fine for them. Trust me, I like to go for the kill too, but some of us also like to get way out into the zone trying stuff and escaping and that’s just not possible if everyone is tense to death. It’s basically what separates the no time/sub only crowd from the points crowd. Same game, people just play the two rule sets differently. There’s obviously a time to go hard. My problem was always that going hard is easy to find. White belts come into the gym all the time, big ones, with various backgrounds and experience, and give you hell; you can compete at tournaments to test yourself against other similarly experienced fighters; you can visit other schools for open mats if they allow it. Lots of tough matches to be had, but where do I get some good flow rolling in? The high tech. That’s what I wanted.

Let me explain that when I say flow roll, I’m not talking about loosely rolling with no real intent other than movement. (I enjoy that too for practice.) What I mean is a moving and live exchange; one that’s open and things can happen. Taking chances and trying things because even though we’re competing on some level, LEARNING is more important than WINNING in TRAINING! It’s not a competition. You can tap and not feel butt hurt. You can ask how he or she did that. Even if it was a competition do people who get a few points and don’t advance actually feel good about winning that way? I wouldn’t. Kill or be killed. Let’s be honest, the point camper wouldn’t advance because he was SCARED his opponent would recoup. OH NO! Not more Jiu Jitsu! Your ego can hurt your game. So the question remains, how do you roll? Are you sure? Would you roll differently with a guy who was wearing a white belt than one who was wearing a purple? How would it effect your game? Would you burn out your grips trying so hard not to have those magical two points awarded for your guard being passed when you’ve spent countless hours learning to RECOUP your passed guard, or would you flow with the go?

Don’t let your fear of being passed, subbed, or defeated stop your BJJ from growing. Open up your game and roll like you’re facing a white belt, but show every opponent the same respect you would a black belt. Trust your Jiu Jitsu and let it flow. OSS! ~ The Old Dirty BJJ Bastard

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