How To Be a Good Training Partner While Live Rolling (Coach Don's general advice)

Coach Don’s Tips on How To Be a Good Training Partner While Live Rolling:


  1. Safety for our training partners and for ourselves is number one priority. This should be noticeable in your attitude and behavior while rolling.
  2. During live rolls, focus more on learning rather than winning.  Be deliberate about what you are learning.  Apply the techniques and concepts you are drilling and studying outside of live rolling. Be disciplined to stay calm and focus on self-control and strategy. Do not be too proud to tap.  When you focus more on technique, at first you will likely have to tap more. However, over time, the technique will make you magnitudes more skilled and you will see more success and less tapping.
  3. Orthodoxed or classical concepts and techniques will be the majority if not all of what you use/apply while training. One needs to remember that these are the concepts and techniques that are tried and tested more than any others and known to work in most situations.  These are therefore the first and most important to learn and improve upon.
  4. When applying submissions, always finish them slow. Submissions are far more about control than they are about speed or strength. One could capture a submission hold quickly and then finish the submission slowly.  Note that usually capturing a submission quickly is more about timing than speed.
  5. Rickson Gracie makes the argument that most training should be done in a way where one minimizes their natural talents.  (See Rickson's full quote by clicking here) Rickson argues that this creates far better technique and allows the mind to learn more.  The mind-body connections formed during this type of training will be superior and greater in quantity than that learned when one trains at 100%.  Rickson then makes the point that when the time comes for self-defense or competition combat, one then applies the optimum technique that was learned in proper training with 100% of their athleticism.  The mind-body connections, and perfect technique is applied with 100% athleticism making it exponentially more effective in the street-fighting/competition environment.  Keep in mind that Rickson is considered one of if not the most successful fighters of all time in no-holds-barred competition.
  6. Canadian mma/BJJ coach Faras Zahabi (coach of George Saint Pierre and many other high level fighters) makes a similar argument as Rickson does above. Coach Faras advocates that most of your training ought to be "consistency over intensity".  (A short video of Coach Faras explaining this can be found here.) Volume at a lighter pace is better than fewer practices at a harder pace. Make most of your practices a 7 out of 10 in intensity instead of 10 out of 10.  The “70% athlete” in the long run will not only train with a mind that is in a better condition for learning, but training will be more fun. Mentally this is more sustainable.  Training at this level allows you to train more often because of better recovery and less chance of injury.  The athlete who is going hard all the time and focusing mostly on winning instead of learning, will not learn as much during his training, but will also train less due to needing longer recovery or due to injuries sustained when training at a higher intensity.  Therefore the athlete that is training mostly at 70% gains more learning in each session combined with more sessions over all.
  7. Communication with your training partner is hugely important.  Do not hesitate to tell your training partner if they are going too hard.  Talk to your coach if you are unsure of how to talk to your training partner about it.  Do not hesitate to share your concern if you feel a technique they are using isn’t safe.  Feel free to tell them what you are working on.  Work together knowing that you are both human and no roll is going to be perfect.  Nobody is a perfect training partner who does everything right all the time. Communicate often as needed to help each other get better as training partners.
  8. Be careful to not create a positive feedback loop that blows up.  Sometimes two people start rolling and one goes a little harder than the other. The other then increases his intensity to match which causes the other guy to also increase which then feeds back again to create a perpetual loop that escalates to a high intensity from both guys.  In the mind of each athlete, they feel like they have to increase to keep up.  Many times it is better for one, usually the athlete with more experience/maturity to stop, tap, and ask your partner to slow down.  They may also ask you to slow down.  It’s not uncommon for the guy who complains about someone “rolling too hard”, is actually the guy that also “rolls too hard”.
  9. Listen to your training partners.  If people tell you to slow down often, then you probably need to slow down.
  10. It’s okay if someone says “No” to rolling with you.  Everyone has a right to say “No”.  There is no obligation for one person to roll with another.  If you find you are a person who people say “No” to often, then it may be you need to earn trust.  It may be you need to roll/train in a different way that will be better for you and your training partners. 
  11. Techniques should not require much strength at all. Leverage, timing, angles, and controlled weight distribution will make BJJ work with very little strength.  This allows control in applying submissions.
  12. Orthodox over Unorthodox:  At Emerge, 99% of what coaches show you is orthodox or classical jiu jitsu.  It is fine to learn techniques outside of what coaches are teaching you however, it ought to be orthodox primarily. If you are not sure if a technique is orthodox or fundamental jiu jitsu, ask a coach about it.
  13. Techniques should not only be efficient and require little strength to be effective, but they also need to be repeatable.  Repeatable means they work in a variety of situations, with a variety of opponents.  They work under conditions in which you may be significantly fatigued.  Repeatable also means they will work on black belts and those who are high level martial artists.
  14. Just like in relationships with friends, levels of trust are earned not necessarily granted. 
  15. If you feel like nobody wants to roll with you, it might be that you have to earn trust.  Do not fret, just work hard to focus on point number 1 and its sub-points above. Over time you will gain a reputation as someone who can be trusted and more people will want to roll with you. 
  16. For larger and stronger guys, trust takes more time and effort to be learned. Most athletes will naturally feel anxiety about the possibility of injury. People for better or for worse, will have preconceived notions about rolling with bigger stronger guys. So for the larger/stronger guys, be aware of this that people are naturally nervous about rolling with you. Earn their trust.
  17. For guys who are naturally more aggressive or “spazzy”, which is often the smaller guys,  trust is not granted to them and many will not want to roll with them.  Smaller guys often feel they have go harder and faster in order to make up for being smaller.  But when they go faster and harder, it comes out as dangerous and “spazzy”.  So instead, the more aggressive athlete can demonstrate that they have a goal to improve in self-control and modulating their strength, speed, and athleticism. This will go a long way in earning trust with their partners who are afraid they will get injured.
  18. As training partners, our attitude and effort for safety and proper technique will go a long way in earning trust with our training partners.  If someone has a sense that their training partner lacks concern in the area of safety and technique, trust can be lost.

Keep these points in mind as you continue your jiu jitsu training.  If you have any questions or even disagreement with the above points, please ask your coach about it. OSS!!!

-Coach Don


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