Are you a new white belt who has been accused of spazzing? I know it is a shock since in your mind you are smooth like butter and your fluid movements should remind your coaches and training partners of a young Marcelo Garcia. The reality is if you did watch yourself roll you would see a herky-jerky robot with flailing limbs that squeezes anything remotely like a choke as hard as a 14-year old boy squeezes a pimple on his chin. Don’t worry, most BJJ practitioners spaz when then first started rolling. It is a nature reaction to spaz when you first start rolling since you are still developing your fundamentals and you are going to panic when you are placed in a very unfamiliar disadvantageous position or submission. Here are a few tips to help you grow out of the spazzing phase during your first few months of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Realize training is just training: Rolling is just a round to test out what you have learned, discover what you need to learn and have fun. Its not a life and death struggle. Yes, it will get uncomfortable at times and you will be the nail more than the hammer. Just know that your training partner is considerate of your safety and its just one of thousands of rolls you will do to practice and improve your game.
Rolls to learn, not win: Test out the moves you have recently learned and find out what you did right and what you need to refine. You will get stuck in really bad positions in mount and side control with no clue on how to escape. Make a mental note of what you have done right, what you need to work on, and what you need to learn after your rolls.
Relax: Again, its just a training round and nobody will judge you based on how you roll in the early stages of your BJJ journey. Rolling is both a mental and physical exercise. Focus on controlling your breathing and body movements. If you get placed into a bad position such as mount or side control, just take a moment to collect your thoughts and work through the situation. If you don’t know the next step, attempt to work on fundamental concepts you do know such as defending your neck and keeping your arms tight to your body to prevent arm lock set ups. If you get caught in a submission, just tap and restart.
Its alright to flow and go light: Flow training and training light where you and your training partner agree to let each other work and emphasize movement and technique is a great alternative to traditional rolling rounds. Practice a flow based on techniques learned that day or just allow each other to work through moves and positional advancements. Shawn Williams and John Danaher developed “S-training,” which is one method for a mutually beneficial flow roll.
Ask questions after rolling: After rolling with an upper belt, feel free to ask questions. Some questions to ask include:
“Was there anything that stood out that I need to work on?”
“I tried to do “x” to you, but it didn’t work. What did I do wrong?”
“What should I have done when I was stuck in this position”
“How do you defend this choke?”
Most upper belts will be happy to share their thoughts. Also, feel free to ask your coaches follow up questions concerning techniques and how to tighten up your game.
Watch how upper belts roll: If you are gassed after a round or two, sit back and watch some of the upper belts roll. Look at their movements, control, and how calm they are during rolls. Sometimes, training partners will be rolling hard to help prepare for competitions or to test themselves. In many cases, they are just out there having fun, testing out techniques, and trying to learn from their training partners. The upper belts in your school should be setting the examples for how the white belts should grow as martial artists.
Rolling and training in BJJ is one of the key advantages that separates BJJ from other forms of martial arts. We are able to train harder and practice techniques in a safe and collaborative live environment. While spazzing is natural during the initial months of training in BJJ, it does present an injury risk to both you and your training partners. Growing out of this stage is part of the process of learning about and controlling both your body and ego.