The Spider Ninja On Flow Rolling: Part 2

This is the second part of our two-part interview with “The Spider Ninja” Mike Bidwell. 

You can read the first part here. 

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Some people say that you should always train hard, as “you fight how you train”. Other black belts are big advocates of flow rolling.

What is your philosophy on flow rolling to develop your jiu-jitsu?

Mike Bidwell: My first question I would ask is, what are you training for? Are you an MMA fighter, are you a high-level competitor, are you a hobbyist?

Most of the jiu-jitsu population in most schools is made largely of hobbyists, with of course some exceptions.

Even if you’re an MMA fighter or active high-level competitor, it makes no sense to train 100% all the time. I think we all know where that road leads.  When you train 100% all the time, you and everyone around you ends up injured.

I think of grappling to be more like a dimmer switch and not an ‘on and off’ switch. With an on / off switch, it’s one extreme or the other . . . light or dark. With a dimmer switch, you can work at different levels, making even more minute adjustments along the way.

I really believe that it is our responsibility to ourselves and each other to be wise enough to learn to roll at a variety of speeds and resistance levels. When I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I felt like I could roll hard every day with everyone.

In my current 47-year-old body, which by the way loves jiu-jitsu even more than I did then, I cannot roll like that every day. It’s not smart and it’s not practical.  Rolling hard every day beats your body into the ground, and even though it may not seem like that now, eventually you will be older and you will love jiu-jitsu even more than you do now.

By embracing the concept of flow rolling you expand your ability for growth on the days where you just can’t go 100% for whatever reason.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: What skills and abilities are we developing by flow rolling? How does it help our jiu-jitsu get to a higher level?

Mike Bidwell: When we learn to slow it down physically and mentally on the mats we begin to move away from a constant state of resistance.

By relaxing and being able to work at a variety of speeds and resistance levels, we strengthen the three most important areas of jiu-jitsu: leverage, timing and technique.

To me, these are the core developmental areas in jiu-jitsu. By slowing down your grappling, you simply begin to see more of what is really happening.

I always think of the metaphor of going for a Sunday sightseeing drive but you’re driving your car 150 miles an hour.  It’s pretty hard to see what’s happening on your left and right if you’re moving at that speed of light.

By slowing down, you begin to understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and what they’re actually creating.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Many students try to flow roll but it quickly escalates into 100%. What specific tips can you give for students to flow roll effectively? What rules will help them find the correct pace and flow?

Mike Bidwell: First, jiu-jitsu is a practice and it’s important that we hold each other accountable to being able to grapple at more than one speed.  It’s not always easy to dial it down with a partner because yes, it often escalates.

But the greater question is why is it escalating? Is it an ego flare? Is it that we are not able to exercise enough self-control and discipline when we roll?

Or is it that we have partners who cannot grasp the concept of flow?  These are all important questions to consider.

If it’s a partner situation and you have someone who just goes crazy. In this case you have two options: you can decide they’re not a good partner and avoid them altogether, or you can deal with it.

The strategy I employ against younger, more wild partners is to be smarter than them.  This means that instead of getting into a cardio war, I try to control and isolate their movements.

This generally means controlling the head and hips.  By doing so, I don’t have to exert nearly the same energy.

It’s kind of like catching a rabbit.  If you chase it around your yard, eventually one of you will get tired. But if you lure it into a corner and trap it, you effectively disable it’s ability to escape.

That’s for dealing with an unwilling partner.  But if you have a partner who’s open to flow rolling but just can’t seem to figure out the speed and resistance levels, I recommend the following strategies. Come up with different ways to force you and your partner to slow everything down. You can try grappling with your eyes closed, legs only, one hand, no hands, hands holding onto tennis balls, using the walls for leverage, etc.

You can do these individually or you can combine them, like grappling with your eyes closed while holding onto a tennis ball with your dominant hand. By playing with these variables you begin to create a more manageable rhythm and pace.

This will only keep you and your partners on the mat longer.  At the end of the day for me, it’s about longevity and not the short sprint.

Today I’m 47, but I plan on being on the mats until the day I die.

Sometimes slow and steady does win the race!

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


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