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My Trip: Advanced Rolling

In all functional martial arts there are no beginner or advanced techniques. There are only fundamentals and their variations. Some variations maybe more difficult or have a higher or lower probability of success. But I’m not writing about technique.

What I’m going to share is a training method. Advanced rolling is a way to train that I’ve picked up from all my coaches, but if particular I will be referencing ideas from Lily Pagle, Matt Thornton, John Frankl and Steve Whittier

First some basics – As advanced rolling is a training method the primary goal must be to learn. However if you lose sight of how you can ‘win or lose’ by tapping then the training loses much of its value. Learning in this case means winning a certain way. Coach Steve refers to this as having a certain “ethic”, that is you should get the tap “without resorting to power, strength or explosiveness”. Another point Coach Steve makes is that it “takes two to tango”. Unless you’re way better than your partner it is difficult to stick to advanced rolling if your partner is just bent on winning by any means necessary.

Coach Matt has passed on a few guidelines that are helpful as they give some concrete do’s and dont’s:

#1 You should be able to roll straight for an hour without ever breathing heavy.

You don’t have to be in super shape to do this – you just have to be super relaxed.

#2 No keeping score

Leave your ego out of it. Don’t be the guy in the changing room or at the tournament talking about who you tapped in training. Every time you train you create/contribute to the culture of your gym. Train with the right attitude all the time, on and off the mat.

#3 Don’t be goofy

Coach Steve said it right “don’t start trying to pull off weird, goofy technique that you would never do normally in a competitive roll. Remember — this should be competitive, but it’s relaxed and without any mental urgency”.

One idea I stole from Coach Lily is simply the way she has had to train all her life. If you don’t know, Lily is about 115lbs in a soaking wet gi. This means she has always been one of, if not the smallest person on the mat. She always had to advance roll. She conserves her strength, builds great frames, moves her body (not her bigger opponent’s) and uses technique. So what I do is really try to picture myself as smaller and weaker than my opponent – sort of a WWCLD?

The other thing to keep in mind is that if your goal is to improve and eliminate holes in your game you’re going to improve faster when you’re losing. Essentially you want to fail forward. Correcting mistakes means letting things happen and not always pushing your A game in the roll.

Somethings Coach John said to me awhile back after we rolled, “be softer” and “trust your jiu jitsu”. Those really hit home. I think what helps me keep these in mind when I’m rolling is that they’re DO’s. Be soft, trust not – “don;t use strength”. So when these words flash in my mind when I’m rolling I know what I must do, there is no “well then what?” The other thing Coach John shared with me was that these are goals, objectives. You won’t also achieve them perfectly, but if they remain your objectives – you will get closer to them and your jiu jitsu will improve.

Consider Fully, Act Decisively


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