Rolling is the best part of Jiu-Jitsu, it is also the part that truly makes us good at the Gentle Art. As much as we can learn technique, do drills or even position sparring, we all need to live rolling in order to test things out. Rolling teaches us timing, sharpens our reflexes and helps us create and recognize patterns. It is the ritual of battle, or as close as we can get, without truly fighting. However, even live rolling is not just a simple scramble of who gets there first. It has ordered to all the chaos and has levels to it, just like everything in BJJ. Each and every Jiu-jitsu roll can teach us lots of different new things. However, there’s a very cool method to take rolling to a whole new level! You just need to close your eyes.
Going through a Jiu-Jitsu roll with your eyes closed is a great learning tool. However, not everyone can do it, and you also can’t’ do it with just anyone. You need a willing partner or otherwise, you’re very likely to be deemed a douche. For some reason, some people seem to take it very personally when you roll with them and your eyes are closed. It has to be an ego thing, but you can often find it listed among annoying things partners do. Personally, I never found it offensive as a lower belt. As I started implementing the method myself, I only developed an admiration for it. So, make sure you have a willing partner when you try this method out. Furthermore, do not give it a try in live rolling straight away.
Also, a bit of experience, like a blue belt, at least, is absolutely mandatory. Otherwise, you and your partner, or people near you, might end up with injuries. The closed eyes Jiu-Jitsu roll is the best tool to develop invisible Jiu-Jitsu. Yes, you can, and need to, train invisible Jiu-Jitsu in order to develop it. it is all about the finest details of movement and timing, as opposed to purely technical work. However, you need both solid technique and lots of rolling experience to truly reap the benefits. In this article, I’ll provide you with an experiment you can do in order to estimate if you’re ready or not to roll with your eyes closed.
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The Blind Jiu-Jitsu Roll
Rolling with a high-level black belt is always a humbling experience. Rolling with them is like rolling with someone that can read your mind. You know what I mean, no matter how elaborate you attacking schemes are, they seem to know them long before you do. It is a Wiley Coyote kind of thing, where you always end up paying for your efforts. The trick, or better said, the reason behind this is the experience.
Seasoned black belts base their reactions on the way their opponent’s body moves. They have som any hours of rolling that they act instinctively when certain opportunities arise. In both a defensive or an offensive manner, an efficient and properly timed movement is behind the success of many top-level grapplers. Nothing can make up for experience, so you’ll have to go through it all in order to obtain such abilities yourself, However, mastering the “blind” Jiu-Jitsu roll is a great way of consciously starting to develop these essential skills.
Rolling with your eyes closed means that you’re taking away a key sense. This, in turn, requires you to base your decisions on your remaining senses. In terms of rolling, this means using your sense of touch to determine your position in regards to your opponent. This brings a whole new level of demands to your reaction time. Without sufficient experience, you’ll end up making stupid mistakes and might even end up injured. However, if you know your way around rolling, you’ll soon discover how taking one sense away opens up new ways of learning BJJ!
A few years back, the instructor at my academy asked us all to bring a blindfold to class. Knowing that he is keen on jokes, I didn’t take him seriously. Others did, though, brought with them the required equipment. Luckily for me, I found some piece of cloth to do the trick, at least for that class. And it was worth it.
The approach we took was rolling very very slowly, starting with specific positions only. Furthermore, only one partner had a blindfold on, so that the other could watch out for other rolling couples. Starting with position sparring was the right decision. The moment you remove the sight from the equation, you tend to slow down extremely significantly. And this is exactly why rolling with closed eyes is so beneficial.
In the experiment we did, the partner that had no blindfold on could dictate the pace. This gave the blindfolded partner the opportunity to learn how to react and adjust based on other senses. It is an absolutely irreplaceable tool in developing a truly high level of Jiu-Jitsu. It is also the only way to go safely go for a Jiu-Jitsu roll without using your eyes. If you’ve never given closed eyes rolling a try, make sure your first time is via the methodology described above.
So what did I learn from our week-long, experiment of rolling with a blindfold on? I was a fresh purple belt at the time, and I gained valuable experience from that. Actually, I kept repeating it from time to time, in order to further sharpen my skill.
That first blindfolded Jiu-Jitsu roll was probably the slowest one I’ve had in all my years of training. I rolled with a solid blue belt and had my hands full. OF course, ti was just positional sparring but I messed everything up during my first few attempts. Later on, I discovered what I need to focus on. The movement of your opponent, distancing, space management and timing, all come to the forefront when you can’t see. Grips, frames, and hooks become so much more important than during regular rolling. Also, you tend to reduce risks and move very technically and in a very simple fashion. No berimbolos or tornado stuff, just your basic, simple grappling patterns.
As you grow accustomed to rolling without looking, you can slowly start implementing it during regular rolls as well. Get the right partner, and make sure that they are using all their senses. Never do a blind roll with a person that also has their arms closed. ti is a recipe for disaster, as one of you should always control outside factors.
And no, it is not a douche move at all. It is a very valuable tool in learning BJJ and one that even those that hate it now, are going to grow to love as they progress through the ranks.