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Is Flow Rolling A Waste Of Time?
Exploring flow rolling…
Certainly, there is a time for the death matches in Jiu Jitsu. Perhaps you are preparing for a competition. Beyond that, it is important that your technique is vetted against a fully resisting opponent. You need realistic looks from people and the understanding of what it is like to go against someone bigger and stronger using all they have to defeat you. However, is there a place in Jiu Jitsu for flow rolling?
What is flow rolling? There seems to be a variety of definitions of what flow rolling is. Some would assert that it is rolling with zero resistance. Submissions are not sought. Others would argue that a flow roll is done with light resistance. A submission can be caught and released allowing the roll to continue. In my estimation, it is basically a step between drilling a move in class and a normal roll. Gracie Barra’s website defines flow rolling as “a method of sparring that occurs at a lighter, less competitive / more cooperative pace than the regular rolling, involving a give and take in the match where your opponent is allowed to apply their techniques without your full defense and the emphasis is on movement and the exchange of positions.”
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With that definition in mind, is there a place for flow rolling in Jiu Jitsu? First, it is a great warm up. I have never seen the value of doing traditional strength and conditioning as a warm up. Pushups, burpees, jogging and whatever else is great. However, I can do them at home. My training time is limited and when I am at the academy I want to learn Jiu Jitsu. Flow rolling is a great way to warm up before the harder rolls. A second application of flow rolling is for the injured. Sure, I know positional drilling around an injury is also an option. However, why limit the options of the injured student to only one thing? A third option for flow rolling may be with someone where there is a significant size disparity. As we mentioned earlier, it is good to know what someone with a significant size advantage can do to you. However, not every roll needs to be like that. If I am rolling with someone who is at a size disadvantage, it is beneficial for me to roll in such a manner where I know how my technique compares to their technique. I can roll with little physical resistance but full technical resistance so that the roll is beneficial for both of us. Lastly, flow rolling is also beneficial when your training partner is significantly less experienced. How many times do I need to catch someone with a submission in a roll? If it is a 5 minute round, I can give my partner a minute of limited physical or technical resistance so they can work on their stuff.
We explored the scenarios where it might be appropriate to flow roll. What are the benefits? If flow rolling is a step between drilling a move in class and a regular roll then the first benefit is it allows us to get repetitions of techniques. For most of us, the movements of Jiu Jitsu are strange and the muscle memory is undeveloped. It facilitates learning by learning a move where there is no resistance, then light resistance and finally full resistance. Another value of flow rolling is experimentation. If the goal for a roll is to destroy my training partner, then that leaves little room for experimentation. Flow rolling gives the opportunity to explore submissions, transitions and other movements.
Some would argue that flow rolling is a waste of time. However, there are definitely scenarios and benefits for the Jiu Jitsu practitioner. If we draw comparisons to boxing, the boxer certainly garners valuable lessons from hard sparring, however bag work, shadow boxing and pad work are also invaluable assets to his training program. Like the boxer, it would be foolish for the Jiu Jitsu practitioner to overlook tools for his growth and development as a fighter.
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