The Spider Ninja On Flow Rolling: Part 1

If you have watched a video of two highly-skilled jiu-jitsu black belts flow rolling, exchanging positions, and transitioning, you will have marveled at their smoothness, speed, and fluidity.

This week, the Jiu-Jitsu Times spoke with one of these masters of smoothness – the Spider Ninja himself, Mike Bidwell –  about flow rolling and how it develops your jiu-jitsu game.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: How do you define “flow” in your jiu-jitsu?

Mike Bidwell: For me “flow” isn’t just a physical act; it’s really a way of thinking and living.

From a philosophical standpoint, it’s the practice of being in the present moment, of being in the flow of life.

One of my favorite Greek philosophers, Heraclitus, said, “All is flux and nothing stands still.”

“Flux” means “flow.” All is flow.

He also stated that, “No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he’s not the same man.” What Heraclitus was stating is that life moves to a continuous rhythm and flow, and you are either a part of the flow or you resist and become a victim to it.

In jiu-jitsu terms, we see this all the time when we roll. The experience of rolling, like stepping into the river, can never be repeated again. That one experience . . . that one rhythm . . . can never be recreated; it can only be a memory.

That’s one of the things we all love about jiu-jitsu: we share this crazy, unique experience with our rolling partner that has its highs and lows but can never be repeated. This can also make it challenging because each rolling experience is so unique it can be difficult to understand precisely where we fail and where we are victorious, especially at the beginning stages.

So, for me, flow when you’re rolling means (especially the beginning stages) that you’re starting to mentally and emotionally relax into your grappling and breaking away from the “fight-or-flight” stage of existence. This is the “spazziness” you often see from beginners. Because they are operating in a primitive, fight-or-flight pattern, they over-exaggerate every movement.

So, the first step to relax is to focus on a good, controlled breathing pattern.  I never cared for the phrase, “catch your breath.” With good breathing you never have to catch your breath, as if your breath was something outside of you. Good breathing is monitored internally.  That means that you’re paying close attention to your own breathing pattern and your partner’s.

Are they getting tired?  Are they breathing heavier than me?

When you’re relaxed, calm, and clear, with no emotional highs or lows, you are in the flow.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: What does it mean to flow roll?

Mike Bidwell: What we discussed previously is the mental mindset of relaxing and being mentally and emotionally in the flow.  From a physical standpoint, flow means that you are not grappling from a one-dimensional mindset.

What I mean is that, say, for example, you are on your back and Joe Grappler is in your guard and you really want to flower sweep him.  So, you try to sweep him, it doesn’t work, so you’re like ‘Okay maybe next I’ll try an arm-bar and see if that works.’  That’s one dimension – one attack with one response.

Now, here’s another way of looking  at it.  I want to flower sweep Joe Grappler.  So, I try and sweep him and I notice that when I try the sweep he posts his hand on the floor for a brief second.  Now you try this same sweep on another person and the same thing happens.

And so it goes and you notice a pattern beginning to emerge.

That’s when you do certain things in jiu-jitsu your partners have a lot of the same predictable responses.   Now, this is how traps are set.  You do one one thing: generate a predictable response that forces them into a trap.  Of course, with good drilling you can improve your timing and technique.

What you will begin to notice is that you can create fairly predictable traps that all connect together like a continuous flow.  The better you get at understanding this concept, the more advanced and complicated your traps become.

What I’ve done in my Flow-Jitsu instructional is created a framework of moves that all connect together, seamlessly allowing you to create your own flow.  So flow rolling is the physical and mental mindset of operating in a continuous movement like the current of a stream.

By understanding how to connect your moves together you create a stream of attacks . . . which is flow!

Mike is available for seminars and private lessons at:
Check out his Flow-Jitsu Instructional at:

Read also on Jiu-Jitsu Times: The Spider Ninja On Flow Rolling: Part 2


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here