A Gracie Barra Blog reader messaged me and had the following question : “Hi, I’ve been training a little over a year. I heard that the best way to get really good at jiu-jitsu is to train mostly with higher belts and get smashed all the time. Is that the best way to get better fast?”
I’ve heard this philosophy before and while you certainly will gain experience rolling with training partners who are better than you, but i would not say it is the BEST way.
I have found it helpful to look at it this way : You need 3 types of training partners for optimal training:
1) Training partners who are lower level than you.
2) Training partners who are of a similar level to you.
3) Training partners who have a higher level than you.
1) Lower level training partners will allow you to control the roll and work your offense. Against the higher belts you are unlikely to be able to get any dominant positions and have any chance at all to try your attacks.
TIP : Pick an attack that you would like to improve in your game and limit your attack to ONLY that submission against your less experienced opponent. This will give you a focus for your training. Secondly, when your opponent catches on to your tactics, they will defend strongly and challenge your skill in.setting it up.
The greatest jiu-jitsu competitor of all time Roger Gracie moved from Gracie Barra in Rio de Janeiro to London, England to teach jiu-jitsu – leaving behind his black belt training partners. Yet, he found a way to stay sharp and develop his jiu-jitsu by training primarily with his less experienced students.
2) Similar level
These training partners will provide the best workout for your rolls. Since you are so evenly matched, neither person will be able to maintain dominant position for long. There will be many exchanges of positions.
Top and bottom, attacking and escaping, these rolls are a dog fight for every inch or advantage. Unless your your technique is precise, they will counter and your are back fighting for position. These rolls will tax your cardio and grip strength!
Rolling against someone of comprable level will provide a great workout.
3) Higher level
You are going to be on the defensive for much of the roll. Your reaction time will have to be much faster. You will have to rely on your counters and knowledge and escapes.
Your brain will have to identify situations much more quickly. Rolling with a higher belt is akin to learning to speak a new language and the other person is speaking rapidly. Got brain struggles to keep up.
Being tested in this way will make you sharper, but more concentrated on the defensive aspects. You need partners of more equal skill level to train the other positions.
So we see that we can improve our jiu-jitsu by rolling with everyone at the academy.
See also on Gracie Barra : Advice For White Belts
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam