GB Student Question on Difficult Training Partners

A Gracie Barra student asks “There is another student at my school who rolls really hard and explosively and sometimes I catch an elbow or knee in the face. I don’t like rolling with this person because I’m afraid to get injured. What should I do?”
This is a tricky one. Because, in the spirit of Jiu-Jitsu, we like to train with many different training partners. We want to have an open and friendly attitude with our classmates. The vast majority of the students in the class are good training partners to work with. Unfortunately…there are some who lack the control to avoid “incidental contact” or just have a really intense rolling style. You may have encountered what is known in the Jiu-Jitsu world as a “spaz” – someone who thrashes about in a ballistic fashion and endangers both themselves and their training partners.
There are a few ways that you can address this situation.
Ideally, you would like to turn this person into a good and valuable training partner. If their movements become too uncontrolled or the intensity starts creeping up too high as to become a hazard, it is ok to pause and say “Hey, can we turn the intensity down a bit? I can’t show up for work tomorrow with a black eye.” Most often, the person didn’t even realize the effect of their rolling and will pause and dial back the intensity to a more reasonable level. This is probably the best approach and as long as you say it diplomatically, the caution should be well received by the other person. “Sorry, I didn’t realize that I was going so hard. My bad.”
If this doesn’t work and you are still apprehensive about the possibility of injury, you may wish to avoid rolling with that partner. Most often we get to choose who our rolling partners are and you are free to pick someone who you prefer to roll with. For your “spaz” classmate, there are likely other members of the class who are more inclined to roll at that intensity. Those members make a better match for a student who is looking to roll at high intensity.
Now in some situations in training, your instructor will match you with a training partner. You don’t have the choice to choose who you want to roll with.
An attentive instructor will know the experience levels and personalities of most of the students and match people up accordingly. It is better to match up 2 young competitors who are preparing for an upcoming tournament and then match up 2 over 35 aged students who want to work on technique and get in a fun roll. In this way, the instructor manages the rolling, minimizes risk and the rolling is most productive for all involved.
Most often, your Gracie Barra instructor is observing the training and can identify when rolling has the potential to become injurious and call on the students to take the proper precautions.
This leaves us with the last and least desirable scenario: the instructor is not aware of the possibility of injury (because of the way in which one or more of the students is training). In this case, as a student you should ask the instructor if you can speak to them privately after class and explain that you feel that training with the other student is placing you in a position where you fear getting injured. That you would prefer not to roll with that specific student.
The number 1 consideration in the Gracie Barra school is student safety. The instructor will take your feedback very seriously and handle it in the best way possible. Your instructor is now aware not to match you with that other student. The instructor may decide to discreetly take that other student aside and remind them that they are responsible to keep their training partners safe and that they need to pay attention to their movements while rolling.
Don’t allow this situation to progress to the point where you become discouraged about going to bjj class. There are solutions to this problem.
Above all, stay safe on the mats and have fun training Jiu-Jitsu!
See also on Gracie Barra : The 3 Types Of Training Partners We Need
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia