How Flow Rolling Improves Your Jiu Jitsu
Rolling in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu typically entails intervals of short to medium length time in which grapplers engage at a relatively high level of intensity. There is a popular notion that by rolling at the academy at higher intensities, we are simulating our combat to be like that in a competition or self-defense situation. This would naturally result in increased comfortability and success in those niche circumstances. I do not necessarily disagree with that train of thought at all and encourage it to most students. I do also, however, promote the use of flow rolling alongside the typical form.
For the uninformed, flow rolling differs from traditional high intensity rolling in some major ways. First, to flow roll, the intensity of our combat must be reduced to around 20-30%. The second way it differs, or at least should, is that we must concede to our partners attacks quite willingly with little resistance other than that needed to ensure that the attacker is performing the techniques correctly. Another way that flow rolling is different, and this is optional, is that submissions need not to be finished; this will allow our partners to practice submission defenses in a safe manner.
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I find that flow rolling is very beneficial to improving our overall game and sparring abilities. Flowing allows us to explore options and try techniques that we would not normally use when rolling intensely. We often avoid various techniques when rolling due to a lack of confidence that we will succeed in those attacks. Another major benefit is that flow rolling allows for the practice of submission defense. We often hesitate to attempt submission defenses due to the fear that we might get hurt, enabling us to tap early. Flowing is also a great asset for injured practitioners who wish to roll without exacerbating their various injuries.
So how often should we flow roll? I think the answer lies in the unique circumstance each practitioner is in. If a student is preparing for a competition, they might want to flow only rarely so as to maintain a steady level of high intensity training simulating competition. An injured student should never roll at high intensity and should focus exclusively on flowing only if possible. For all others, I would recommend flowing at least once in each open mat session as your first round to warm up and be reminded of all the options you have when grappling. Flow rolling only works when both students are doing it, so when trying to flow, ensure that your partner understands and will do the same with you.