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BJJ Training Tips – How to Choose A Rolling Partner in BJJ

BJJ Training Tips – How to Choose A Rolling Partner in BJJ

Time to roll, mat full of people. Use these BJJ training tips to improve your arsenal!

Yeah, there’s that funny list of like 100 different rolling partners that you might get paired up with at BJJ class. This is not that list. The post below will provide you with some BJJ training tips that you can implement quickly. It will also help explain the different types of people you will encounter as well as which you should choose based upon your goals.

Iron Sharpens Iron

I think before we get into the types of people, we should first talk about determining as well as reaching your goals. We’ve all heard the phrase “iron sharpens iron.” Right? What does that mean? I used to cheat. All the time, in wrestling. Mainly because I didn’t know any better. I thought I was working the system. But as it turns out, I was only working myself. This is the main difference between being a champion or not. Or reaching your goals. Or not.

To determine if you are made of championship material ask yourself this one question – how do you work out when no one is watching you?

Now back to how I cheated. I didn’t cheat to get an advantage and I didn’t cheat to win. I cheated myself by thinking I was “winning” by taking it easy in practice. When it came time to choose a partner, I usually went with someone that was not as much of a challenge. I didn’t want to work very hard.

In the end, who does that hurt? Me. Iron sharpens iron right? Well I was choosing soft aluminum to sharpen my “iron” which would have no positive effect.

I wasn’t going to hone any skills using a material that was less sharp than me.

And it’s funny because I was very hypocritical regarding this issue. A situation I’m sure you’ve seen goes like this. You are doing an extra hard conditioning or training session at your gym. Sometimes unfortunately at my gym, they’ll have us run suicides or shuttles up and down the mat. If you don’t win your heat, you’ll get extra push-ups plus another run. How many times out of the corner of your eye, have you seen someone not do all of their assigned push-ups? And does it bother you? Why?

It shouldn’t bother us but it does and it used to bother me a whole lot more. I would think to myself how they are cheating. Here I am doing every single rep I can and this joker is taking it easy. Two things: First, who are they cheating? Only themselves. If they don’t want to get stronger, that’s on them. And second, then I would turn right around and choose an easy partner. This is what I meant when I called myself hypocritical. So, iron sharpens iron. You won’t get any better training with people that are much worse than you. You just won’t.

BJJ Training Tips – set your BJJ goals

Before you choose a rolling partner (note I wrote rolling not drilling,) it is important to determine what your goals are.

For picking a BJJ rolling partner, I think it would be beneficial to set maybe a weekly goal as well as a monthly goal. This way you can track your progress after like a week rather than simply trying it out for one day, not seeing any results, and giving it up.

So set a goal. Let’s just say that you are a blue belt, one of your goals could be that when you roll against your black belt instructor, you want to keep him from passing your guard and if he does, you want to re-compose it as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that your goals can, will, and should change depending upon which type of partner you picked. And here is how they break down.

BJJ Rolling Partners

These are the actual 3 types of people that you can seek out to roll or spar with, all with advantages and disadvantages depending on your goals.

1) The dude way better than you – these are people way above your skill level such as your instructor and the like. They own you pretty much the entire time you’re rolling.

Disadvantages – you may become discouraged as you feel like you’re not getting better, nothing works!

Advantages – You are getting better! Your survival game will improve. Guard retention and recomposition should improve as should your submission defense and basic positioning.

Remember – iron sharpens iron!

2) The dude less skilled than you – these are people below your skill level like maybe a white belt or a new blue. You own them almost the entire time rolling.

Disadvantages – You may develop bad habits as most things work against people of this skill level. You are not being tested during the roll.

Advantages – You can experiment, adjust, and tweak your game because you basically have a guinea pig in your guard to play around with. These are the best partners to train with when you really want to work on or perfect a technique without getting smashed. Once you get it working at this level, take it up a notch.

3) The guy you’re even with – these are the maybe 3-5 people at your school that give you a run for your money and vice versa. You guys trade positions or submissions and whoever “wins” that night may not win tomorrow. Pretty much a toss-up.

Disadvantages – None I can think of.

Advantages – Rolling with this cat lets you know where your game is at. This will let you know if the stuff you’ve been experimenting with on the lower level guy works at this level. If not, you’ve got more practicing and adjusting to do before you try the moves out on the higher belts.

Now that we’ve seen the 3 classes of partners, can you see how your goals might change depending on who you are going against?

BJJ Training Tips – BJJ goal examples

I’m going to start by making some assumptions just so that my examples are standard.

1) You’re still a blue belt.

2) You have 2 black belts, 3 browns, 5 purples, 15 blues, and 25 whites.

3) You know their approximate skill levels.

One of your goals may be to get better at the flower sweep. You have never been able to hit this sweep.

If we look at the 3 choices for BJJ rolling partners, let’s make a pick. Since we’ve been unable to hit the flower sweep already, we probably won’t hit it on the dudes way better than us, the black belts. We probably won’t hit it regularly on the dudes at our skill level. So that leaves us with the people beneath us.

Choose a person below your skill level and only work on that for like 2 rolls a night for a week. Choose two white belts or new blues and focus on getting guard and setting up the flower sweep. Perfect your technique. When you hit it, let them sweep you somehow so that you can work it again during the roll.

After a week, take your technique to the next level. See if it works against guys at or near your skill level.

No? Back to the drawing board. Yes? Excellent! Try it out on higher skill levels.

I used this method to seriously up my success rate with triangles. I used to think that triangles just wouldn’t work for me. But I kept playing around with them on people that I could hit it on relatively easily. I mean if you don’t even get it locked in on a black belt, how will you know what adjustments to make? So I kept working on them against whites and blues and I saw what mistakes I was making, and what worked and didn’t.

If your technique isn’t working on a new white belt you probably should come up with a new technique right?

Another example of setting a goal and using this method could be to improve your submission defense. Who better to try that out on than someone who already owns you?

Set a goal of surviving one round against someone much better than you, every night for a week. Once you’ve mastered that, keep that goal and add in say, no guard passes. So now you’re trying to master submission defense as well as maintaining guard against someone who is much more advanced than you.

Now see how iron sharpens iron?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Do you have any BJJ training tips you’d like to share? Let me know.