Student Question : “Is the best way to get really good to get smashed by higher belts?”

A number of students have asked this honest question. They have heard about competitors traveling to train at a big city bjj school and rolling with highly skilled training partners and getting smashed and tapped.

“The training was awesome!” they say “Getting squashed is the best way to get better!”

I encountered a white belt student on a training trip to Brazil who declared boldly “I only want to roll with black belts when I’m here!” While I admire his bravado, his focus was misplaced.

While training really hard with ONLY higher level opponents can help make your jiu-jitsu better – especially for the more serious competitors – it isn’t entirely true.


Rolling with higher level opponents will benefit you in several specific ways:

– You will experience what a higher level feels like. The pressure, the fluidity, certain grips, advanced games.

– Your timing of execution and reaction time to your opponents attacks will be forced to improve to keep up

– Your defense will get a lot of practice and you will quickly become aware of your defensive deficiencies

– Your conditioning will get better having to battle from inferior positions for most of the matches

Those are all positives. But this is not the complete picture of your jiu-jitsu game.

Getting smashed and tapped all the time is not going to much for your offensive game. You will seldom find yourself in a dominant position where you can even think about trying a submission.

When you are merely trying to survive a roll, there is not much opportunity to try new techniques that you are adding to your game. You will be forced to tighten up and play conservatively. Forget about trying anything risky that is only going to get you in a bad position and submitted.

Your physical and mental qualities if toughness will improve if you can still keep coming back after repeated hard rounds…but your technical development may be stunted.

A professional MMA coach shared a bit of wisdom with me that I never forgot. “You need 3 types of training partners:

Those better than you so you can train your defense.

The same level as you so you can get the best workout in back and forth matches.

Those lower level than you so you can work your offense and experiment with new techniques.”

See also on Gracie Barra : Gracie Barra Training Etiquette

Gracie Barra Training Etiquette

Credits: Mark Mullen 

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia

Instagram: @markmullen.bjj