Hey bro, let’s roll light.
There’s a reason that’s a bit of a meme in BJJ. The cliche of someone suggesting a light roll and then going into full on comp mode.
“Going light’ is easier said than done. Often what people mean by that is “don’t smash me bro, while I play my A game”. There’s lots of benefits to light rolling. You get to do more transitions and as a result get to spend more time in more of the BJJ landscape. It’s easier on the body. You can start to see linkages between different techniques and so learn to chain them together rather than doing each move in isolation.
So lots of reasons to go into a roll with the positive intention of going light. But then we realise that that means our partner is doing more transitions as well. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ramping up “just to get to the position we want”. Which means of course they ramp up. So we ramp up. And suddenly it looks like a death match.
As always it comes down to being really clear on your goals. If your goal is to test yourself in competition level rolls – find folks to go hard against. Just understand going 100% is where you do your testing, not your learning. Decide what percentage of your training time you want to be testing over learning. 100%?
That would mean you are only coming to training to prove something (to yourself, to others) and you’ll stagnate, both in terms of technical improvement and motivation and enjoyment.
For each roll decide where you want to be on the testing vs learning continuum. Start to notice that if you’ve made a conscious decision to be on the learning end, then being in bad positions, having your guard passed, being tapped – these things don’t bother you nearly so much. Because you know you haven’t “failed the test” because today was about the learning not the testing.
And then start to notice what your contribution is to the intensity of the roll. You wouldn’t believe how often I hear people complain that their partners are going too hard – and when I observe it’s because the person themselves is going hard.
Rolling out of fear. Fear of the tap, fear of looking inferior, fear of judgement, you name it. That’s why sometimes it’s useful to make “going light” your only goal in the round. If I am relaxing all the way through, how does that affect the intensity of my partner?
Sometime it won’t. Sometimes they are so wrapped up in their own stuff they wont’ even notice the change. But often, and more often than you think, when you go lighter, they’ll go lighter. Just like in everyday communication. How often have you seen parent yell at their kids “BE QUIET”. or “show some respect” as they are in the middle of refusing to listen to the needs of the other person.
In other words, on and off the mat – it’s easy to forget that the tone of our interactions with people is often a consequence of the tone we are unconsciously bringing to the interaction.
Sometimes I go hard. Sometimes I go light. Oftentimes I spend the first few seconds of the roll evaluating the intensity of my partner and looking to match. Which means it’s up to you – are we going light today?