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10 ESSENTIAL Tips For First Time Rollers

first time roller bjj jiu jitsu gi

Are you a first time roller? Rolling, or sparring, can be very daunting, especially if you have never participated in martial arts before.  

At my academy, we give you about two weeks worth of classes before you start rolling.  That way you can be familiar with positions and movement of your body.

This may vary from place to place, but I think it’s a great way to feel a little more comfortable with sparring for the first time.  In addition, here are 10 tips that can help you.

1. Just keep moving.

If you get in a bad position, don’t give up & don’t settle. Bridge, Hip Escape, until you get to a neutral position/ dominant position.

2. But don’t flail.

Do try to be cognizant of your body. It can be difficult at first, but the more you drill & roll, the better you understand your body. You will start to recognize scramble positions and where to go from such chaotic positions the more you roll. But try to be aware of elbows and knees, accidents happen and bumps and bruises are guaranteed, but consciously knowing what you’re doing can help reduce these accidents and foreseeable injuries.  And be aware of walls, concrete, & other people rolling.

3. If you have a question, take a mental note during the roll and ask later.

I was once told that you should be able to replay your roll after it ends. If you can’t, you are moving too fast. Asking questions during a roll can lead to 5 minute conversations & the roll is over. Ask quickly if you must, or ask afterwards when there is more time. But this leads to the next…

4. Don’t second guess yourself.

Just do it. If you end up in a bad spot, learn from it. Don’t be afraid to try something new you’ve never done before. You can always tap and reset.

5. Training is training.

If you are rolling with a higher belt, don’t belittle yourself and think they aren’t getting anything out of it.  We are all here to learn.  You never know, they may learn something from you!

6. Get to a position you are familiar with.

Don’t wait for the other person to do something first.  You will always be a step behind if you do that.  If you feel comfortable and know a submission in mount, then get to mount. If you have an aggressive guard game then play it. (Don’t just squeeze your legs and hold them there.)

7. Don’t come into a roll with the mindset of “I don’t know what I am doing.”

You have been around enough now to know something or the instructors would not let you roll.  Or, maybe this is your first day, work the technique that was shown in class. Focus on what you do know. Positions you have seen before. Make little goals like I will get mount. I will work scissor sweep.

8. Roll with everyone.

Guys & gals. Roll with the less experienced. Roll with the more experienced. You will learn something from each one. Don’t be afraid of the upper ranks, they are there to help you and inevitably smash you with a smile.

9. Tap early, tap often.

Lose the ego & don’t be stubborn about letting a submission go too far. You will only hurt yourself.

10. Lose the ego.

Don’t hurt your training partner. Let go when they tap. You do not get a gold medal for tapping out your teammate. We are all here to learn.

Overall, the only way you can get used to sparring and rolling, is to roll. The way to stop being a first time roller is to do it the first time, and then do it again. This is the opportunity to work techniques live and see how the both drilling and rolling work to improve the execution and timing of them.

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