The Importance of Communicating with Training Partners Before, During and After Rolling

Ever end a roll angry and frustrated? You went into the roll thinking you and your training partner were only about to go 50%, but by the end of the round your training partner is cranking on an arm bar while making heaving and grunting noises. Rather than confront your training partner about your issue with the roll, you will likely let the tension build up until the next time you train together, air your frustrations with a confidante you are close to at the gym or a significant other that still doesn’t comprehend why you enjoy getting beat up multiple times a week.

One of the biggest sources of conflict and issues in our lives is a lack of communication. Whether it is with family, coworkers, or training partners, we all must all do a better job of communicating to ensure everybody is on the same page and has a positive experience in all aspects of life. So what is holding us back from communicating with training partners while we are drilling or rolling? Some of it is fear of offending a training partner who might be a higher belt or hurting someone’s feelings. Part of it is ego. Although everybody likes to say BJJ is egoless, it really isn’t. Most of us are competitive in some shape or form or don’t want to appear weak to our training partners. This will lead us to dial it up during a light roll or not say anything when the roll becomes too intense. Rather than suffer in silence, all of have the right and obligation to communicate with our training partners while we are on the mats.

Here are a few steps to help improve the rolling experiences for both you and your training partners during drilling and rolling sessions.

Communicate before you start drilling or rolling. Before the drilling or rolling even starts, just do a quick Q&A with your training partner

  • Disclose any injuries: How else will your training partner know to not hit a kimura on your bad elbow?
  • Anything you want to work on during this session?: If your training partner is training for a tournament and wants to work on specific moves or positions, help your partner out.
  • How hard do you want to go?: Let your training partner know if you just want to flow or if you want to pretend you guys are fighting in the finals of the Mundials.
  • Rules of engagement: Discuss any rules or etiquette with your training partner as well. For example, “If you get me in heel hook position don’t crank it, I will tap to it.”
  • Which position do you want to start in?: Just so you guys don’t waste time deciding where to start after the round already started.

Communicate during the roll. Yes, you can communicate during a roll. If you are an upper belt working with a new white belt, verbally telling someone they are not following rolling etiquette is far more effective than saying nothing and smashing your shoulder into their jawline. Don’t be afraid to communicate and talk to a training partner while roling.

  • Dial it down the intensity: Let your training partner know if the pace exceeded what you two agreed to before the roll. For example, say “I would only like to go 50%. Can we both dial it down to that level.”
  • Tap if you are uncomfortable: Don’t be ashamed to tap to pressure or an uncomfortable position. With all the movements and transitions in BJJ, there could be an injury from rolling an ankle, landing awkwardly, or getting hit in the groin area. It’s just a roll and there is nothing wrong with tapping if you are uncomfortable or in pain.
  • Tell someone to relax: Many white belts are excited to roll and will tend to spaz at times. Rather than put your inexperienced training partner in his or her place with pressure or a submission, talk to them and remind your novice partner to be technical and relax.

Hopefully, after the round, you will be able to simply say “thanks for the roll” or “Great roll” to your training partner. If there was anything left to be said, just thank your training partner and then let them know one final time if they could do anything different the next to you guys roll or train together. After letting your partner know about what needs to be done differently, thank your partner one more time to let him or her know how much you appreciate their time.

Hopefully, communicating more with your training partners before, during, and after rolls will help create a more positive training environment for you and prevent any miscommunications on the mats.


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