If you don\’t play to win, why play at all?

Choosing Your Partner
February 7, 2010, 6:19 pm
Filed under: BJJ Brazilian Jiu-jitsu | Tags: , , , ,

In BJJ, just like in life, you have to choose your partners wisely.  I have rolled with a lot of people last week, as long as my cardio allowed me.

BOY #1 is a new guy who have trained for a couple of months.  It was my first time to roll with him, and boy was I surprised with his utter use of strength on me!  I was stalling most of the time, tiring him out.  I was too scared that if I let my arm loose, he’d yank it off my elbow.  So I kept all my limbs as tight as possible, but kept my base strong so I won’t get swept.  I waited for an opportunity for me to have some space so that I could insert my right knee in between his legs.  When that happened, I immediately went for a knee-through pass, but my left leg got caught in half-guard.  I didn’t want to lose the opportunity, so I drove my shoulder to his neck to loosen his legs.  Then I just felt a violent tap on my back.  He tapped from my drive-shoulder-to-neck move!

✖ The only thing I learned from the roll is to wait patiently for my turn.  Personally, I didn’t think it was a good roll.  The guy was using all his strength to try to topple me over, so I just hunched and made sure my arms were tight.  So I was stalling to get him tired, but what if he didn’t get tired at all?  I would have been penalized if it were in a tourney.

BOYS #2 & #3 are blue belts, and I did some flow-roll with them.  It was good.  They were giving me just enough resistance to tire me out, blocking my techniques and not easily allowing me to apply whatever move I wanted to do.  They made me work hard, and in the end, I was very tired but happy.

✔ Rolling with people with more advanced skills makes me feel stupid sometimes, because no matter what I do, they are always able to block it off.  But it definitely gives me a lot of thoughts to ponder on.  What pass was he doing to counter my sweep?  How was he able to do the same sweep twice?  How do I get out of a triangle from turtle?  Why was my cutting armbar not working?  These thoughts then lead me to discovering more techniques and working on the loopholes in my game.  That is also one of the good benefits you get from a competition — with just one match (it doesn’t matter if you win or lose), you get a lot of pointers and realizations that will probably direct your training for the next couple of months.

BOY #4 has been training for almost a year.  He’s about my size but about 10kgs heavier.  He played guard, and he was able to sweep me in less than a minute.  While working my guard, I tried a few sweep attempts but was not able to finish.  I even got the opportunity to get the back, but I was too slow to pull it off.  Finally, I managed to slip a half-triangle.  I was trying to put on a triangle choke, but in a split-second I saw an opportunity for an armbar and went for it.  He tapped.  After our roll, he told me he was happy he lasted that long against me.  I couldn’t remember, but he said we rolled during his first few sessions, and I was tapping him every 30 seconds or so.  I was flabbergasted, in a good way.  It was funny to submit him from guard, because before we rolled, I just told my coach casually that I want to start playing on top.

✔ It’s good to be able to roll with people you haven’t rolled with for a long time, and be pleasantly surprised at how much progress they have had since they joined the club.  They also have their favored positions, submissions and techniques now, so it’s good to meet different people on the mat with different favorite moves.  It definitely makes you work harder being faced with something you are not used to dealing with.

BOY #5 is a white belt I met during an open mat.  He definitely moves very fast!  I wasn’t able to do anything — I just tried to survive.  He has good skills, very tight positions and tricky sweeps.  And very good guard game.  And oh, did I say he’s fast?

✔ I got my ass kicked nicely by this guy.  He was very technical, and a gentleman, too, so I had nothing to complain about.  I would like to meet him in the next open mat to try to survive another 5 minutes with him.

GIRL #1 is totally new in BJJ but has some Muay Thai and grappling background.  I was surprised at how rough she plays.  I ended up having a mouth sore from an elbow strike and a few scratches on my arm.  I was able to pull off an armbar from a triangle choke, and did a few sweeps as well.

✔ It is refreshing to finally meet a girl who plays it rough!  With the limited number of girls in our camp, we all are nice little ones who are a bit too girly when we roll with each other.  I can’t remember the time when I really went all out against them, maybe because I hold a higher belt and I sort of have that “mother instinct” to care for them, being less experienced than I am.  Somehow, I have developed that habit to play it nicely and sweetly on the mat when I am pitted against a girl that it doesn’t come in handy in competitions.  Girl #1 can help me train to become more fierce and aggressive, and the fact that she is a lot stronger than I am is a great plus!

So how do you choose your partner on the mat?

Find someone who brings out the best in you. This someone can be that person wearing a colored belt duller than yours (which means he/she spent a lot of time on the mat with that belt), or the small guy at the corner with superior skills, or the big sweaty guy who is working on something you are not good at.  The more people you roll with, the more choices you have.  But take note of the ones who are not worth your effort next time.  We girls know how to politely reject guys who hit on us once in a while, so I don’t see any point why we can’t use that on the mat.  Always remember that you are there to learn, progress and enjoy your time, and not to prove who is stronger and better between the two sexes — so avoid the guys who use too much power to compensate for their lack of technique.  In the end, safety is the most important thing.  Make sure your limbs survive to live another training day.

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Really great post. I’m gonna show this to my female training partner who has similar issues as you described. Well done on so many submissions tho!

Comment by Meerkatsu

Thanks! Sometimes, I wonder what I am doing in a man’s sport, but once I get back on the mat, I feel totally ecstatic — like a kid given his favorite candy! 🙂

Comment by jonna

Nice post! Some people don’t understand the point of sparring is to train…not win.


Comment by bjj4life

I agree — the point of sparring is to train, measure your progress, try a few techniques and see if they work, but always remember that the guy you are rolling with is your teammate and probably a friend off the mat! So take care of him/her 🙂

Comment by jonna

Interesting! Our instructor always discourages me from sparring against guys who are fresh whites- just like one of your partners, they rely on brute strength to beat you! He also explained how damaging it is for a newbie guy’s ego to be beaten by someone much smaller and lighter, hence the roughness. According to some blogs, you add a belt level to a weight difference of 50 lbs (not sure).
I’ve only sparred with 3 girls ever.. one was a fresh white and reacted similarly to the girl you mentioned. I was like that when I first started (gigil.. haha) but as I progressed, I became more calm and collected and realized that I had wasted so much energy by being very aggressive.

Comment by jana

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