There is a serious epidemic sweeping the nation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It afflicts nearly every academy countrywide and greatly hinders student progress and advancement. It’s something that can be easily corrected, if we only accept that we need to change some things we’ve learned in life so far.
If I asked each and every Jiu-Jitsu instructor out there what they wish they could change about the guys they train, I bet a good chunk of that group would reply something like this – “I wish I could get my guys to loosen up. They rely far too much on using the muscle they’re born with instead of the techniques I try to teach them.”
It’s true and it’s why I mentioned that we need to “unlearn” what we’ve learned throughout our entire lives; if you’re strong, use your strength, if you’re big, use your weight, if you’re handsome, use your looks. In the world of Jiu-Jitsu, we’re all the same and it’s our instructor’s job to strip us of any advantage we think we have, in order to learn the beautiful art we’re there to learn.
I remember back when I first started taking classes with Jeff. I was in complete awe. From the very moment I began drilling techniques on the mat and was on the receiving end of pressure, I couldn’t believe how effective Jiu-Jitsu actually was. I also couldn’t believe I had never heard of the sport and that I hadn’t gotten into it earlier.
After that first class, I made a phone call to one of my good friends. I told him about the class and explained to him that Jiu-Jitsu was a sleeper sport. I said, “You never know who knows this stuff. It could be the nerdy guy who’s as thin as a rail. You never know who can take you down faster than you can imagine.”
Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, I realize that what I told my friend that afternoon is as true as it ever was. I’ve met some people whose talent I would never expect. I’ve met people who are a good sixty pounds lighter than I am, but have no problem dominating me from start to finish. And I’ve met people who rely far too much on their inherited muscular capability. It’s the strong who have the most to change.
I fell victim to this early on and have bouts of it today. I’m not a small guy. I’m tall and thin, but in no way weak. When I get in a jam, I still try to muscle my way through it. I know what I’m doing isn’t helping myself any and especially isn’t helping my partner, who’s trying to get some good training in as well. Why do I do it? I guess it’s because I’ve been doing it all my life. If the door doesn’t open, push harder. I suppose if a smart man were looking to open the same door, he would try a key.
Jiu-Jitsu is that key. The longer you train, the more you realize how vitally important it is that you learn how to rely less on your physical ability and more on the art. If you don’t, you’ll hit a ceiling that you can’t climb through until you give up what you’ve known forever.
So, what should we do? How do we teach our friends how to learn to learn? Well, there is a way and it involves flow rolling. But flow rolling alone won’t help if it’s not done correctly.
Let me ask all you instructors out there – how many times have you finished up the drilling portion of your class and suggested that your students only flow roll? And how many times have you looked out on that mat, not more than three minutes after you gave those instructions, to see many of your students locked up on each other like two vices sitting on a Home Depot shelf? I know, I’ve witnessed this a thousand times. Actually, I’ve witnessed it pretty much every time. Some of us are worse than others.
To help things out, I think I should offer some helpful tips on how to flow roll – based on my own experience. After that, I’m going to offer an idea I came up with just today. It just might work. But first, those tips:
How To Effectively Flow Roll In Jiu-Jitsu
1. Don’t submit. When flow rolling with your partner, come to an agreement that neither of you are allowed to submit. This will help strip away some of the competitiveness that naturally comes with something like this. It will also instantly evaporate the egos in the room. If they aren’t allow to be submitted, there is nothing to worry about. Whether we like to admit it or not, no one likes to get tapped.
2. Maintain position, but for not more than three seconds. Have you ever been rolling with someone and they get in that total lock down of a position? You can’t move, no matter what you try? What does this do to you? I know – it pisses you off. The natural reaction to something like this is to burst out with all your strength and try to reshuffle the deck. If you create an opening, perhaps you can gain some sort of an advantage. Well, if you succumb to this way of getting yourself out of a bad position, how on earth are you going to practice a proper Jiu-Jitsu escape? I can answer that question – you aren’t. And you’ll rely on poor form forever.
3. Look for submission chains. If you agree to submissions, and you probably should after a while if you have a good partner, look for chains and combos. If you are properly flow rolling, your partner shouldn’t be blocking you at every turn and should actually be encouraging you.
4. Look for position chains. Similar to what I’ve mentioned above, when getting a good position, look for a natural next position. If you get side control, look for the most natural and simplest way to take mount and then back.
5. Ask your partner to work with you. Ask them to be a cooperative partner and remind them when the’re not. Flow rolling quickly and oftentimes turns into a full-out sparring match. It’s the way we’re wired and it gets the best of all of us. Someone needs to be the grown-up and someone needs to keep the peace.
6. Breathe. Proper breathing relaxes the body. If you learn to properly breathe during your flow rolling, you’ll be sending your body a message.
7. Flow roll as a warm-up. Flow rolling is a great way to get the blood “flowing.” In the beginning of class, not many people are yet in the mood to go all out, so take advantage of this down time to get some valuable experience.
Now, I understand that some students may be more stubborn than others. That’s okay, it just means that they need a bit more attention. And I have an idea that just might chip away at their stubbornness.
Since flow rolling really is the essence of Jiu-Jitsu and since flow rolling is where much of the learning actually takes place, why not dedicate one class per week to it? If you think about all the techniques that are taught and quickly abandoned during sparring matches, why not look for another way? And here’s how I think it should go:
During each weekly flow rolling class, choose two people to roll in the middle of the room and have everyone else watch. Set the timer for three minute rounds and have them go a few. This will help in a couple of ways. First, if your most stubborn students are asked to perform in front of everyone, they will be less likely to act stubbornly. Second, if your stubborn students are on the sidelines watching other students performing well, they are more likely to learn by example. In both cases, the students who are watching should be encouraged to verbally critique and give suggestions while the students in the middle are rolling.
What do you think? Comments, questions? I would love some feedback on this.
Roy Dean Academy BJJ: Flow Roll