The Correct Attitude to Roll (Especially with your Instructor!)

One of the universal complaints among more experienced students of bjj is of the mythical “spaz”. Aka known as: “Let’s just go easy Guy” until the roll starts and he leaps at your arm like a man trying to save himself from drowning. Elbows and knees flying everywhere…
read also: The 6 worst white belt rolling mistakes

You would be well advised to wear your mouth guard and groin protector training with this type. But, if we think about back to our earliest days in bjj, we were probably all “that guy” at one point. Short on technique, but high on enthusiasm and adrenaline, we used 100% of our energy and muscle tension all the time. We rolled that way because that was all we had.

As one gains experience in learning bjj, one learns to relax, use technique, breath and try not to force moves using muscle. However, even at highre belts, some students persist in that all out – intense rolling with their training partners and unfortunately account for a share of training injuries.

When you are preparing for the intensity of a competition, fine. You NEED to experience that degree of speed, pressure and pace. But we must look at rolling as TRAINING – NOT PROVING how long we can go without tapping or trying to wreck our opponents. Training = trying to improve our bjj techniques.

When the mind set of your rolling is: “Win!” or “Don’t tap!” it is tempting to rely on athleticism and strength and speed. This is a tough one as we all have competitive egos and want to win. We look for not tapping as a means of measuring our progress in bjj. However, it leads to stagnation.

Here are 3 easy tips for your rolling attitude:
1) It is just training – the purpose is to get better NOT TO PROVE how good you are
2) Use your techniques, not your athletic attributes to WIN at the expense of technique
3) Tapping just means “Ok you got me. Now let’s try again!”


Even as an upper belt, when I rolled with my instructor I felt that I needed to roll hard so that I could prove that I deserved my belt. I wanted my professor to see that I was a good representative of his school. What would happen was I could manage to go a few minutes before getting submitted.  But then get submitted 3-4 more times before the end of the round because of complete exhaustion!

He explained very gently to “..not try to BEAT him” as he had much higher skill level and would be able to dominate the match.  To just work my techniques as best I could. Using techniques was the true measure of my skill level.

After that chat, I resolved to change my rolling style and ease back on the explosive movements and just try to use my techniques in the rolls.

Get in a bad position? Ask yourself: What is my best technical solution to this situation?

I still got tapped. But I was not utterly exhausted and the instructor enjoyed rolling with me more. More rolls with my instructor = better progress and more fun at bjj.

read also: 4 Ways to be a Good Partner in Bjj Class

Credits: Mark Mullen 
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ