Rolling with Different Belt Levels
Live training or rolling can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the study and practice of BJJ. This is the time where you put what you know to the test and see if you can execute the moves you've been practicing during class time. Having a live person, especially one that has some experience, to test your technique out upon is the single best ways to ensure that you have understood a technique. Trying to pull off your first triangle choke in live training, can be a very eye opening experience when you have an opponent actively fighting the placement of their arms, ripping away from you creating strong posture and all of those fun things that training partners tend to do to make our jiu jitsu look bad.
There are many different approaches to live training and first and foremost it depends on your goals at the time of training. If you are prepping for a competition, you will approach live training very differently than the casual practitioner who is simply trying to sharpen their skills. There are also some different approaches to consider depending on the belt level of your training partners.
First and foremost, you should approach live training respectfully. As a good teammate, your goals should not only be to sharpen your own game, but also to help your teammates get better, as this will ultimately help you as well.
Secondly, the majority of your success during live trai
ning is not in how many times you tap your training partners. Instead, true BJJ success is setting realistic expectations for what you want to get out of the live roll. If I am rolling with one my peers who is at a similar belt level and has similar goals as me, I will roll totally different than I will with a person rolling for the 2nd or 3rd time ever. Conversely, that brand new person who is rolling with me should also understand that they can set expectations that allow them to be successful in the roll, even without the length of experience I have.
Here are some thoughts on rolling with different belt levels.
If you are the lower belt
Here you are, a beginner or intermediate player of this jiu jitsu stuff and you get the opportunity to roll with that seasoned purple belt competitor or brown belt student. How should you approach the next 5-10 minutes of your life to get the most out of it?
First off, have fun and keep your eyes open. Now I don't mean that normally you are someone that rolls with your eyes closed or blindfolded like that Dan O'Brien guy, but try to observe what is happening as it happens. If you set realistic expectations to do your absolute best and try to learn something in the process, you will grow much more as a jiu jiteiro.
Secondly, fight what they are giving you. Don't get caught trying to anticipate what you think they are doing. Chances are the higher belt may be a step or two ahead of you and if you try to surprise them by addressing something that hasn't happened, it will already be too late.
Lastly, don't get greedy. Don't go or submissions too early, before you've secured the control and positioning needed to land the submission. Just because you see the endzone, doesn't mean you're going to get there.
Don't be afraid to ask questions when the opportunity presents itself. Don't be that person that stops mid-roll to ask a question. Save your questions for after live training, so that everyone has had an opportunity to get their rounds in. Find the higher belt you got to roll with and ask them about the technique or position they used against you. Pick their brains. Most people will be glad to discuss if you time your questions right.
If you are the higher belt
If you are the higher belt getting an opportunity to roll with the newer student, make sure in the back of your mind, you remember what it felt like to be that lower belt. Treat the new student with the utmost respect as they are always the most important people in class and on the mats.
Find a way to challenge yourself regardless of their level. Maybe they are brand new, but come from a wrestling background and are highly athletic. Perhaps for the round you decide to only work your closed guard attacks with this student. Every time they escape your closed guard, regardless of where you end up, you quickly reestablish guard and work your techniques. This will give you practice securing and maintaining guard, while strengthening your attacks. It will also give that student the opportunity to fight out of closed guard multiple times and begin to develop their submission defense skills.
In the video below, world champion, Bernardo Faria gives his thoughts and advice on the appropriate way for lower belts to approach higher belts and request to be able to train with them. All schools and academies are different, so make sure you follow the protocol set forth by your instructor and coaches.
You can also get lots of extra live training in by visiting other schools. If you want to explore some good tips on how to go about training at other schools, check out the BJJ Fanatics article on the topic here.
Some of the most valuable lessons in jiu jitsu can come during live training. If you go into the experience understanding that live training is just that, live TRAINING, you will have a much better experience and learn more. Training is not competition. In live training, you should be getting yourself lost in bad spots which require you to work escapes that you may be unfamiliar with. If you approach live training as an opportunity to simply dominate and smash everyone using only your best moves, you will not progress as far or as quickly as you could.
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