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So imagine you are with your partner. And for about seven minutes or so he just moves you around, climbs on top of you, flips you over and basically just does his thing, without any thought for your needs, other than to occasionally ask you if you are ok. At no point does he let you take control or get on top, or do anything that would benefit you in any way. And then, after the 7 minutes, he thanks you for your time and moves on.

Sounds pretty awful doesn't it? Like a very insensitive partner. 

Don't worry, I am not talking about my sex life. This is a jiu-jitsu story. So get your minds out of the gutter, you perverts!

The other day I had a really frustrating round with another blue belt. He is actually a really nice guy (ie: not a selfish jerk), but he is one of those grapplers who seems to only have one gear. You know the type; all speed and aggression, very little finesse. I am pretty sure he was not even aware that he was doing anything wrong. In fact at one point he even asked if I was ok, which I was, just not having much fun. 

After the round I was really annoyed and at first I thought it was because he went too hard. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wasn't the level of the round. Some guys do go too hard, it happens all the time, and I usually don't care. The thing with this guy is that he just kept submitting me with stuff, I kept tapping, and at no point did he ease off a bit to let me work. The whole time it was just he does his move, I tap, reset, over and over. 

There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, how much could this guy possibly be learning in this round? It was basically the grappling equivalent of a boxer punching the heavy bag. Sure, he got to work his arm bar. But I might as well have been a stuffed dummy for all the interaction he was receiving. (Unless you count instatap as a response.) Second, what about me? Other than asking me if I was ok, which was nice of him, he basically gave no indication that he was even aware he had a partner. At no point did he slow down long enough to let me work on defense, or position, or anything.

Now I am not saying my partner is supposed to care only about me. On the contrary, him coming after me allowed me the opportunity to really work on defending myself. Which was useful, to a point. But beyond that, the experience was completely one sided. 

It is possible that he was just excited to be in a dominant position. In my first year of training, I got about one submission every 3-4 months. I am not exaggerating, it was that bad. So yes, when I finally got a new white belt inside my guard, I was thrilled to finally tap someone. Once. Twice. But any more than two submissions in a row and I start to feel icky, embarrassed. Like I am being mean or taking advantage of my partner. In general, when I am training with someone who I am clearly better than, I will tap them a few times, but then I will back off a little and make sure they are getting a chance to try out some things. I may defend them, but slower, or I may just work position for awhile. Most of the more advanced guys I roll with do this as well. In my opinion, unless it is a competition, it is important for both people in the round to feel some element of success, even if it is only something small like "hey I passed her guard". 

This guy didn't do that at all and I came out of the round basically feeling like dog poop that had been run over by a car.

Again, he is not a douchbag. I feel the need to emphasize this because some people actually roll selfishly on purpose. They honestly couldn't care less about their partner's development, it is all about them, all the time. This guy is not one of those. He is friendly, helpful. He asks questions in class and seems like he genuinely wants to learn. It just seems that when it comes to rolling, he doesn't know any better. Perhaps someone needs to teach him about give and take. About how to make sure both people are learning something. 

Perhaps he needs to just look at the woman's face every so often to see if she is enjoying herself.
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

How do you explain to a really nice guy, that when he rolls like a selfish jerk, it makes him seem like a selfish jerk? That there is more to BJJ than how many submissions you can pull off in 7 minutes. That if he slowed down just a bit, not only could he still finish the armbar, but he would have the pride of knowing that he finished it with me actually trying to stop him, instead of instantly tapping the second he grabbed me.

Or I suppose a simple, "was that good for you?" would suffice.
(Insert mischievous grin here.) 


  1. A postscript: This topic generated a lot of discussion on one of my women's grappling boards, which made me give it some more thought. I have only been doing BJJ for about 3 years. But I come from a traditional karate background and over the years I have had many rounds with guys who did not let up. Sometimes I found myself just standing by the wall with my hands up and waiting for the round to end. While those rounds sucked at the time, in retrospect I gained a ton out of going through them. I guess I wasn't really thinking of BJJ through that same lens. Was I afraid this guy was going to hurt me or was I just annoyed that I was "losing"? In truth it was probably a bit of both. There is certainly something to be gained from those tough rolls. On the other hand, if this guy only rolls hard, he is missing something and needs to be taught about the other side of BJJ. In other words, there is something to be gained from both kinds of rounds.

  2. I've encountered this a lot in BJJ training -the aggressive guy who just submits you over and over and there's no point in the roll for either you or him. Worse are the wrestlers who come in and submit you countless times during the roll with the same submission. They are so determined to win, that they don't even want to try a different submission -or perhaps work from a position like the guard that they might not be strong at.

    I think the real problem lies in lack of proper instruction about why we are rolling. In most BJJ classes you just roll. No one really explains why we are doing this, so everyone just assumes the point is to tape the other person. It's interesting to hear Ryron Gracie from the Gracie Academy in Torrance talk about how you should be helping your partner learn, during the roll. That isn't a philosophy shared by most BJJ instructors... One of my favorite instructors, Eddie Bravo, actually says you should prey on the weaker students like a Lion attacking Antelope. This is how you build your offense, he explains.

    For someone like me, who comes from the same karate background as you -Seido to Kenshi, that philosophy is wrong and actually wastes both my time and my partner's time. It's frustrating and pointless. When I get rolls like that I just count the time until it is over and I eagerly move on to a more worthwhile roll.


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