When It’s Okay — And Not Okay — To Roll Hard In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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“You’re going too hard!”

Have you ever heard or felt this sentiment in your Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy? I’ll wager that all of you reading this article can relate.

But it is not always justified to be annoyed with a training partner who is going full on intensity. Why? Let me present both sides of the argument.

When It Is Not Okay

Obviously, there is a greater risk of physical injury to both parties during full on rolling. This can have the negative effect of causing injuries and keeping you off the mats completely. Anyone who has absorbed a head butt to the nose during friendly sparring will identify with this point.

It is extremely difficult to exchange positions and work on specific parts of your game when your opponent is going 100 percent. Instead of being more movement oriented, you must clamp down and hold tightly to match the intensity of your opponent. Now you aren’t trying anything new; you’re just hanging on in defensive mode.

New students especially have a tendency to forget about the techniques they just learned and revert to survival instincts. Thrashing wildly, using their elbows and knees, and clutching desperately, they fail to achieve the primary goal of training jiu-jitsu — to improve!

When It Is Okay

When you’re training for a competition, there must be high intensity rolling to prepare you for the conditions that you will encounter when the adrenaline kicks in and your opponent is coming full on. Easy flow rolling is not going to prepare you psychologically to deal with that intensity. The grips, muscle tension, stiffness and speed are all going to be at their highest level.

I sometimes hear first year students complain that another student is going too hard, and they may be right. But I feel they may also be overlooking the reality that you need to learn to use your jiu-jitsu to deal with the frantic, ballistic energy of an untrained opponent. If you find yourself in an aggressive situation outside the BJJ school, you had better believe that the other person is going to be going full speed and power!

I recall some first year students being overwhelmed when a former rugby player with no experience in BJJ showed up to try a class. He rolled with a lot of explosiveness and hard movements. The new students had not yet learned to deflect and withstand that type of aggressive energy and were unprepared.

To newer students who see the value of trying to relax during rolling and utilizing technique, I say great! But also understand that an important part of your jiu-jitsu skill is being able to use your technique to deal with an untrained opponent who is coming at you with the only thing they have: brute force and intensity. This is an ability that you need to develop before your training can be focused on lighter, flow type of rolling.


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