The Right Sparring Partner

After having been injured and out of the game for about 12 months I really took my selection of training partners seriously. I became very picky about who I rolled with and when. There are some underground games at play when you roll with a higher belt after you’ve rolled with the heaviest most muscular guy in the gym. Also being goaded into rolling with individuals who aren’t really training but rather feeding their egos is factor to consider…..

Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve kinda of not being practicing my principles – rather I’ve (incorrectly) felt the need to have high intensity rolls to push my cardio and my game – I thought this would help me improve… I was wrong this has not been the case and in fact I’m facing more aches and pains because of it. Where I was improving well I now feel rolling with ego-centric partners stagnates my development. I’m going to revert back to my principles…. to help me stay on the mat !!!

The underlying criteria for my selection of rolling partners has to be to create a high learning curve and keep me training – getting injured sucks ( currently suffering from pulled up neck / upper back pain ). My principles are simple and are based on a risk reward system – the rewards need to out weight the risks !!!

The most important question I ask myself is – By rolling with this person will I get injured ? Am I able to protect myself and / or dominate him to avoid injury? Or is he a good training partner who is able to submit me without causing injury?

Being injured is the worst thing ever – you can learn a lot through injury but a lot more on the mat …. If I say I beat him or he didn’t beat me or I survived is pointless … what I need to do is look at the strategic objectives I have.

Rolling with someone just to beat them is also no point – you don’t risk anything which is a kinda of waste of time – these situations require you to set your own objectives like trying for a very specific submission or setup which you can then try against a harder opponent.

Many guys put winning over and above safety – yours in particular ! They’ll attack your injury – throw you off the mat or simply submit you even though you’ve stopped rolling due to rolling into your other team mates…. now myself I’m the complete opposite I let go of a choke because I think you might crank your neck, or stop mid roll when I see danger… I want my training partners to be safe and hope they want the same. (fat chance)

As BJJers we let each other learn from each other and hope we all will be sensible when using this gift – now nobody would purposely give a convicted drink driver their car – so why do we do it in BJJ? I put it down to the fact we want to prove our metal – we know we might get hurt we see the risk but hope we’ve improved enough to deal with it and control / submit the culprit…. this is just as much an ego thing as the guy who holds onto the submission too long even after your tap.

I force myself to roll with newbies and larger guys…. I believe we need to be able to fight not just compete and although many watch the newbie roll before they jump in to ensure they’re not outgunned physically and believe BJJ is about determining this from the outset and in a real world scenario you won’t get the privilege.

Their is no point rolling with psychos especially if they are close or beyond your tech level – you’ll learn nothing and they’ll be out to hurt you. Become strategic with your rolling to move forward rather than backward. What will you gain from rolling with this guy? BJJ is not a team sport but it is played with others and requires you to understand where your maximum benefit lies.

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