This month we have special guest blogger in our own Kevin Reed. Kevin is a purple belt and has been tearing it up on the competition scene from coast to coast over the past year, usually competing up in skill level against some of the biggest names out there. He knows that if he wants to earn his brown belt, he needs to be consistently beating them.
In this blog he breaks down how he approaches different training scenarios depending on what he is trying to accomplish.
It's important before you roll, that you have an idea of what you want to accomplish during the roll. This will ensure that you can grade yourself and review your rolls properly after the practice. It's very easy to say "oh I was letting the white belt work on his attacks" when really you were just resting in bottom side because you were exhausted and you're currently out of shape. If you know your objective beforehand you are forced to assess how you did honestly and you can't lie to yourself.
Here's a guide to different types of scenarios of rolls I have encountered and continue to use in my development.
If you're rolling with a higher belt, you may want to attack, but attack safely. Play a precision game and adapt to the higher level of sensitivity of this individual. Of course your goal is to submit your opponent, however, you may quickly find yourself headed down a path of bad positions that you just can't seem to get off of. So with the time left on the clock you're looking to escape, and while you are trying to escape, most importantly, survive. If you make it out of the round without being tapped, or being tapped only a small number of times, maybe that's a victory for you. Your defense is getting better, and that's important.
Ex: Blue belt vs Black belt
Your goal may be to submit your partner, and submit them as much as you can without getting submitted yourself. This roll will be intense, and you might compare it to a tournament style match with a high pace. The only thing that matters here is the tap. This roll is often used against someone of equal, slightly higher, or slightly lower level as you. Be sure to still look out for your partners safety. This style of round is crucial for tournament training, however, you must be careful with your training friends.
Ex: Competition Brown belt vs competition Purple belt
Your goal maybe to work on your control. Going from dominant position to dominant position, transitioning smoothly while always maintaining a strong clinch. You're still seeing the submissions but you're not over committing to anything. Instead you're focused on keeping the powerful position and coming out on top. This roll is often used against someone a solid belt lower than you.
Ex: a competition Purple belt against a new Blue belt
How do you get better at escaping bad positions? By being there more. Your goal in this round to always be escaping. Not surviving, but ESCAPING. This is the kind of roll where you start with yourself in bad positions, and you must never stop working to get yourself out. Constant movement until you are in a dominant position again. This can include bottom side, being mounted, having your back taken, bottom north south, as well as being inside the spider web of any submission attempt. I recommend doing these types of rolls with belts of all levels. Surviving is not winning, escaping is winning! Escape the position, gain a dominant position, and then go back and do it over again.
Ex: blue belt vs blue belt
When rolling with someone of much less skill, your goal maybe to experiment as well as work on your weak points. New techniques and new concepts. Maybe it's a submission you know but rarely try, and when you do try you're rarely successful. It's here that you refine and polish movements that aren't established in your game yet. Just make sure you practice these same ideas and techniques on the upper belts as well to ensure proper counter attacks and reactions.
Ex: purple belt vs white belt
Hopefully this gives you an idea into how I've started to think going into every practice. If you treat each roll the same, you will always get the same results. When I was a white belt and I was hungry for my blue, it was always just about getting taps. I had something to prove, just tap them and don't get tapped. I would let people maneuver my bones and joints in ways they shouldn't go. I wouldn't even know the proper escapes. Just laying there refusing to tap. Hard headed white belt, big ego.
As a blue belt I started to understand the concept of learning more, because now I had one level below me. I still wanted to destroy every blue belt, but now I had some white belts that I could work stuff on. Yet, the stuff I worked was mostly still my strong techniques. Just getting better at my bread and butter. Refining it, becoming smoother and faster. Polishing my finishes. I still hated being tapped. Every roll I had I was usually playing for taps.
As a purple belt, I have very little ego about getting tapped anymore. I was messing around with a white belt the other day and he put me in a triangle. And guess what, I got tapped. Very glad, because if I cannot escape a white belts triangle, then I have some serious work to do on my triangle defense and escape. As a purple belt now I am the one who sees the guys with the big egos. And it's not necessarily ego. Just misunderstanding... not understanding. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen a partner I'm rolling with be in a submission and refuse to tap. But they do nothing to escape. Instead they lay there and raise their hand in anticipation just waiting for the second where you take their joints too far and they must give up. Now, anytime I see this raised hand, I stop. Because I know it's over. And they know it to. They just don't quite understand it yet. They need that extra ounce of joint manipulation. Until it just makes more sense to them. Jiu jitsu is a never ending journey of self improvement, mind and body. I can only imagine how much more there is to understand.
Stand Tall, Create Your Reality, and Now We Go.
Written by Kevin Reed