Adjusting your roll expectations to your partner’s experience

Oops:  I forgot to mention that a comment made by Allie gave me the idea for this post 🙂

Like it or not, the best way for you to test your bjj knowledge is during the live roll. However, not every roll should be approached with the same mentality. There are three major factors that are outside your control that will affect your roll:

Your partner’s:

Height and weight
Sex (male or female)
Experience level

Since I’m not trying to write a book, I’m going to specifically talk about experience level here and save the others for another day.

The possible scenarios you may find yourself in when you face off with your partner are the following:

1. You have less experience then your partner

2. You have about the same experience as your partner

3. You have more experience then your partner

In order for you to have the most successful roll possible in each of these scenarios, it is important that you understand what your goals and expectations will be for the roll before you slap and bump hands–this will help avoid frustrations, injuries, and ego inflation or demolishing in the long run.

1. You have less experience then your partner

This is probably the paring where you wil LEARN the most information. First, you can observe the way your partner rolls–how they react to you and what you do, their breathing, and the amount of energy they expend (or don’t, whichever the case may be!)

Your partner (whether they believe it or not) is a fountain of knowledge. There’s a catch–you probably are going to have to ask. It is OK in the middle of a roll if they have some cool sweep or defense for you to say “Hey, how’d you do that? Do you mind showing me?” You learn a cool technique, and they get the benefit of teaching it to you–which helps them remember the technique as well.

Don’t let your ego get ahead of you, however–If it seems like there is magically room for you to pull guard from side control (or whatever the case may be), they are probably giving you some space so you don’t become a permanent part of the mat.

2. You have about the same experience as your partner.

About the same shouldn’t be equal.  Usually, your strong and weak points will not be the same as your partner’s.  Here is your chance to find out where those points are and correct them.

If your strong and weak points ARE the same as your partner, you may want to agree to roll at 75% or so…that way you can get out of that side mount when they have you totally squished to the mat, and you don’t get super frustrated. 

3.  You have more experience then  your partner

Your job is NOT to prove that you can submit/choke your partner in 60 seconds or less!

And no, rolling with someone who is less experienced then you is NOT a waste of your time.

Here’s why:

Usually, when a technique is taught, there’s a couple of versions–we’ll call them beginning, intermediate, and advanced, for lack of better terminology.  If you are rolling with someone who is more experienced then you, you are unlikely to try a technique that is new or advanced for you, because if you don’t do it exactly right, you are likely to end up somewhere you REALLY don’t want to be.

ON THE OTHER HAND *waves hand*  when you are rolling with a less experienced person, you can try these techniques out–if you don’t complete it correctly, it is much less likely that they are going to be able to completely defend it.  They may even think it’s totally cool and ask you to show them–TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY!  In explaining the technique to your partner, it will help ingrain the technique into your resources of cool bjj moves.

Please do not completely crush your partner.  You know that it isn’t fun when your partner just completely dominates the game and doesn’t let you do anything–remember, it’s not a tounament–give them some breathing room, and some time to be able to defend, sweep, pass the guard–so forth and so on.  I’m not saying “let them win” but do give them the opportunity to practice their bjj too.  They aren’t there JUST for you.

So, these are my thoughts on the subject–What about all of you?  We’ve all had “good” and “not so good” rolls–what qualities about your partner make a good roll for you?  What things do you dislike your partner to do when you roll?


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