Mar 24

BJJ – Nature vs. Nurture: Rolling to Win vs. Rolling to Learn

BJJ – Breakthrough

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BJJ – Nature vs. Nurture: Rolling to Win vs. Rolling to Learn

BJJ jiu jitsu

As an instructor I see the path of a new student develop before my eyes as the seasons pass. It’s a slow process. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the all-encompassing, multidimensional martial art that involves far more brain power than muscle power.

But try telling this to a white belt… students naturally become nervous and therefore aggressive in the beginning. The feeling to defend one’s self is the foremost thought in someone’s mind their first time one the mat.

They slap hands with a partner who more than likely is far more comfortable and skilled than them. The new student begins to feel alone in the deep end of the pool. It’s like a weight is attached to their feet and they’re trying to keep their head above water.

This poor white belt felt lost from the minute they walked in the door. They are led around by the hand, told where to stand, how to tie their belt, when to bow “Call this guy Coach, this guy Professor… NO shoes or socks on the mat, line up here, not there!”

The direction is endless at first. This poor white belt has to put a grip on another person on a mat with testosterone and adrenaline in the air. Honestly this doesn’t seem like the model for tranquility and calm. But that is exactly the goal! Inner peace during a fight is the strongest asset a fighter can have.

Possessing the ability to assess the situation and make logical, calculated moves during a hostile and imminently dangerous few seconds is the goal of every martial artist.

It’s kinetic chess with the human body. Think about the approach to attacking techniques for a moment. They involve degrees of angle to achieve submission. Ninety degrees off your opponent for the armbar, a forty five degree pivot helps vice a triangle, etc. Passing the guard involves varying degrees of angle to negotiate hip movement, grips and posts.

If you’re an avid grappler, think about how much thought in proper movement you have been taking for granted.

BJJ – Rolling to learn…

BJJ Jiu Jitsu

The next time you roll with that white belt, think about how scared they must be about you tearing their head off. This poor person is a puppy drowning in a pool of sharks. It’s your responsibility to help him have a positive start on their Jiu Jitsu journey.

Understand that it’s not about talking them through technique or a “move” but rather moving with your partner to help them achieve the technique. Be a good partner; don’t start framing or tightening up your defense at first.

Let them feel a calmness about you, inviting them to get comfortable in such an intimate space with you. This will help calm their nerves. Breathe deep with relaxation when they settle into the finishing position so your partner knows that’s the spot to settle in.

Once the details of the technique are established; posture, leverage, grips, pressure, then begin to help them understand the transition based around the position and the overall goal that needs to be achieved.

Now is the time to make proper frames, basic posture and pressure to let them know this is what will typically happen throughout the transition from one position to another. Allow them to “shut down” those counter attacks and defenses gently. It’s necessary to execute the technique and hold positions with the least amount of effort possible.

BJJ – Rolling to win…

During a fight, may it be in a MMA fight, rolling at your academy or in a Jiu Jitsu tournament, all the adrenaline and strength are at your disposal. You do not need to think about being strong. Think about your technique. The technique you’ve drilled a thousand times or more. Some fights may last longer than you would like so it’s necessary to think calm and composed to control yourself and outlast the war of attrition. If you strain through your technique in training, you will blow yourself out in a fight. Be calm on the mat.

The key is in those details: hand positioning, a solid grip, slight changes in posture and proper breathing.

You have to feel the position and the movement and be able to make slight adjustments in response to how your partner moves. Do not think about point A to point B.  Keep the mind on the details in the middle. Breathe through your movements to stay relaxed but assertive and to keep the blood oxygenated.

BJJ – Rolling mindset…

Keep your partner safe and willing to train with you again. Your reputation on the mat as a good partner goes a long way and shortens your learning curve. More people will be willing to work with you, which equals better partners and a better Jiu Jitsu game!

So don’t be out there in the shark tank trying to have the biggest teeth. Resist the natural urge to put the hurt locker on your partners and work to make the details in the techniques second nature and with little effort.

Work through your moves with your partners and help them work through theirs. A new age is dawning in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is a thinking man’s game. An art form through movement and manipulation of your body and your partners body, this is “The Arte Suave”… play it smooth my friends.


Levi LaLonde


BJJ – Breakthrough

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