Tips On How To Roll With Higher Belts

Rolling is a huge part (and maybe the most fun part!) of learning jiu-jitsu. There are ways of rolling safely and productively and there are different approaches that are…err…less effective as a learning method and compromise the safety of both training partners.

I’ve heard from many of the more advanced belts that they are sometimes reluctant to train with newer students or lower belts for a few reasons. Often times, the less experienced student could use some advice on how to roll both more effectively and safely and not annoy your training partners. If you commit some if these common rolling errors, you may find yourself with fewer training partners and no one wants that.

Jiu-jitsu Inspiration:

Dare To Be Great – Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Here are 3 tips for you on how to roll safely and effectively with higher belts (and all if your training partners).

1) Don’t just try to “win” the roll

What does this mean? Isn’t the purpose of rolling to try to get dominant positions and submit your opponent. Yes.

But there is more to rolling effectively than just seeing who can tap who. Effective training is about trying out the techniques that you are learning in class and trying to get better.

The mistake many lower belts make is just trying to “win” the roll or tighten up defensively just to see if they can avoid getting tapped. Instead of focusing on working their techniques, they try to measure themselves by just avoiding not tapping. “That blue belt couldn’t tap me!”

No one wants to get tapped in a roll, but with this mentality, some students will abandon using technique and try to explode out of positions and use all of their athlete attributes just to avoid getting tapped. This is often what is meant when a less experienced student is cautioned that they are using too much strength.

Here is something to keep in mind when you are rolling with a more experienced training partner: when you are in a tough position, resist the urge to spaz out and look to use the correct technique for the situation. Perhaps “spazzing out” might avoid you getting submitted in that moment, but ask yourself if that is helping your technical progress?

2) Tap

The desire to not lose and prove yourself to your instructor and training partners has led to many unnecessary training injuries in the school. Most of us have witnessed some lesser experienced student with arm fully extended, thrashing desperately to avoid tapping to the arm bar. Unfortunately that scenario often leads to a sore elbow as a lesson to tap when you are caught.

There is a well known saying in jiu-jitsu: “In jiu-jitsu there is no losing, only learning.” Look, there will always be someone better than you and there is no shame in getting caught in a submission. Don’t get injured by refusing to tap and not be able to train next class.

Instead, tap when you are caught and after the roll, ask the higher belt “What mistake did I make that caused me to get caught? What should I do differently next time?”

3) Be aware of the rules in the school

Every school has its house rules as far as what techniques are allowed in training and which are not. For example, most gi classes will follow the IBJJF rules as far as leg locks go. Primarily no-gi focused schools may allow all heel hooks, calf crushes, neck cranks and so on. It varies between schools.

Please don’t be the guy who cranks on a heel hook because you saw it in a professional grappling match and want to catch your opponent by surprise. Not only is this unsafe but it creates ill will with the other students in the class.

Outside of the common IBJJF rules standard, it is best to inform yourself what techniques are legal and which are not. This goes for things like slamming, twisting leg locks and hazardous takedowns like leg scissors or “Kami basami” takedowns.

Hope these tips help you roll more effectively and productively.


See also on Gracie Barra : Applying Principles To Your Jiu-jitsu

Applying Principles To Your Jiu-jitsu


Credits: Mark Mullen 

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia