Oh, now I have your full attention, don’t I? Hello white and blue belts, welcome to the manual for grappling with more experienced training partners. Or, in your case, just training partners. Jokes aside, there’s always going to be someone with more experience in Jiu-Jitsu than you. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train with those people, though. It also doesn’t mean you should get beat up and smashed every time you face them. there are some things you can do, say and communicate that will make these rolls a lot more meaningful to both you, and your more experienced BJJ training partner.
Training partners can sometimes make life miserable for you in the gym. We’ve all had that one training partner that either destroys us technically, physically, mentally, or all of the above. That’s how you grow in BJJ, and even if you’re aware of it, you’re not thinking much about growth when you’re squealing from the wrong side of a cradle. And that’s before I even mention black belts and all the “superpowers” they possess. Rolling with more experienced BJJ Training Partners doesn’t have to be a hassle, though, if you know how to approach them and the roll itself.
How To Train With Experienced BJJ Training Partners (And Not Feel Like Crap)
Before we go into the how and why of training with higher-level BJJ training partners, it would be prudent to try and understand how they approach things in general. For one, most upper belts won’t be on a mission to kill you or torture you, unless you present yourself in a way that they seem deserving of such actions. The thing to understand about upper, and especially black belts, is that they roll based on experience rather than a set of techniques. In other words, they don’t go in a roll with expectations of what they will do. They just let things play out and adopt any situation that arises.
Higher belts have their own styles and work on their own things. If you end up rolling with a BJJ training partner that is currently developing some evil-type thing, like the dreaded heel hook or wristlocks, you’ll be in a world of pain regardless of how you approach them. The key here is not taking things personally and trying to learn even if you get tapped 15 times in a round. Most experienced grapplers focus on just one or two aspects of BJJ for the most part, rolling quite freely until they get there.
Which brings us to the things you are doing that might prompt different responses from more experienced BJJ training partners. In most cases, expect higher belts to adapt to you, regretless of what they’re working on. If you roll as if you’ve never rolled before, though, just because they’re more experienced than you, you’re just prodding the beast. For the most part, how a roll with a more experienced training partner goes has to do more with the lower-ranked person, rather than the higher belt.
Let’s face it, we’ve all thought “I’ll get that higher belt today” once or twice in our BJJ journey. Well, speaking from the other side now, guess what? the higher belts know what you’re about to do. They can sense it, and, as you know it won’t bide well for you. Your body language says more than you think. Looking to get a piece of someone in training is never smart, but it is something lower belts try to do. A very common scenario is for the white or blue belt competitor to look and get a piece of that high brown belt, trying to prove how good they are.
The truth is, most upper belts like to roll for fun and games. There’s no point in acting like they’re in the final of the Mundials. Moreover, they have a bunch of injuries and aches that they don’t want to aggravate just because a bleu belt is “feeling it” that day. If you want a roll with an experienced BJJ training partner to make sense, try and avoid going after them as your life depends on it.
Along those lines, you always need to factor in at what pace you’ll roll with more experienced training partners. Rammer that they have a feeling for things and most of them will let you set the pace of roll. If you want to learn, or actually achieve something, make sure you pick a pace that will help you achieve your goal. Going as hard as you can, or having panicky reactions once you get stuck, will only mean the higher belt adopt s to your pace and still beats you at it.
Turing the pace on a higher belt will most likely send them into defensive mode, one that you can’t breakthrough. Inevitably, you’ll tire out achieving nothing, and they’ll use an opening to turn the tables and then won’t let you move until they submit you or the round ends. All of that when you could’ve had a roll where you actually achieved something technical or learned a thing or two about tactics.
All About The Balance
In a roll, it is all about the delicate balance of two people getting to learn from the exchange. It will only be possible if you let the higher belt actually roll with you. The thing with more experienced BJJ training partners si that they’re usually suspicious of lower belts until they “prove” to be reliable training partners. Look to earn yourself such a name, so that more experienced training partners can not just learn from you, but help teach you things as you roll. There are many things you can learn in a roll, and double the amount in a few minute chat after one.
Don’t Be “Star-struck”
A key thing to also remember and that has to do with the balance in a roll with a higher belt is respect. It is one thing to show someone respect, and an entirely different thing to be star-struck. If you approach a roll with a senior training partner with the mindset “I’m going to lose this, he’s a brown/black belt” you’ll get nothing out of the roll, simply because you’re too scared to participate. The same things go for your training partner, who’ll get very little from, someone, too scared to engage and enter grappling exchanges.
There’s no need to panic! You’ll still halve your peers to go all out Spaz with. However, when it comes to rolling with the most experienced BJJ training partners in the gym, do your best to make those rolls count. One roll with a highly seasoned black belt will teach you more than all the rolls you do on that day with people near your level. Take every chance you have to learn and make rolls with higher belts about learning, rather than about winning. You’ll lose anyway, why not get a lesson out of it?