At one point or another in your jiu-jitsu journey, we have all had that one training partner or competitor (or more than one) who draws out levels of frustration that nobody else does and sometimes builds to full on anger.
Maybe it’s because you can’t pass their guard to save your life; maybe you have trouble holding your best position; or maybe you literally go blank and forget everything when they are smashing every breath out of you. No matter what the position, I have found that if I let that level of frustration creep into my mind, I lose technique and ultimately take a step back in that roll and get defensive for the rest of the round. By allowing this to happen, I am getting no further in my skill level, and I feel awful for the next day thinking of what I should have done but couldn’t.
After seeing a few of our competition team kids go through this rainbow of emotions from a light orange to bright red roll rage, I saw a lot of myself in what they were dealing with. I meditated on it and talked with a few of them to see what they were having struggles with emotionally. I learned a lot about myself as well as how to help them. It comes back to the basics of breathing and keeping your head. There are a few drills and thought processes I’ve tried and worked with these few kids on that may help you, so I wanted to pay it forward and pass them onto the community, especially new players who have frustrations levels they never dealt with and possibly anger issues, like myself.
The first step is to remember your breathing techniques, just like one would need to work through an anxiety or panic attack. We need to treat the emotion of frustration the same way sometimes. Once you focus on your breaths one at a time, your mind will become clear enough in which to recall a few basics. It will then refocus your energy on the techniques instead of letting the frustration cloud your mind or worse, let it build up into anger. This has always happened to me, as my training partners will attest to, as well as a few of my training partners, from forearms in the face to transitioning a little rougher than needed for the technique.
I have also had times when my issues with frustration escalate into anger, which is never good for your training partners. For lack of a better term, let’s call it “roll rage.” You may have seen this with our “newbies” who come into the gym and may have had a background in wrestling or another martial art. This gives them a bit of an ego. As we all know, ego will be their ultimate demise during their first roll with an upper belt.
Although roll rage is most commonly seen at academies in this form, it can take on the same form after a longer roll with your most frustrating training partner. Luckily (but not lucky for him, I guess) my most frustrating training partner is my husband, who has decades of wrestling experience and is currently a skilled purple belt who knows how to contain my roll rage. Because I trust him and he knows he frustrates me, I ask him to do drills with me that put me in the situations that frustrate me the most. Then, I work out of it, first by breathing, then by reviewing the basics in my head over and over until I find a window or an opening to capitalize on and transition. After that happens, even if it takes a day to collect my thoughts, I discuss the roll with him, what happened, and how I can stay technique-minded.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “I would never ask my nemesis to purposely frustrate me!”. And you’re right, if this person is a close competitor to you and doesn’t train at your gym, it may be a good idea for them to not know you have a roll rage issue. What many people fail to remember is your training partners are there to help make you better, which in turn makes them better. So, although you may feel that you would never ask your biggest, most frustrating competitor to drill their most advantageous positions with you, you can ask a more trusted training partner to use those same techniques and difficult positions against you and not let you do what you do best for you to work through the roller coaster that comes with them for you.
If you choose the right person, you can have a conversation after the drills to brainstorm ways around the roll rage. You can then drill or even train your brain specific thought processes to start instinctively thinking about when you feel your blood pressure rising and you know the frustration waves are about to devour your mind. By no means am I saying this is a fix for everyone, but speaking as a work in progress for my own roll rage, it’s working for me and could work for you, too. You can see your pot of gold at the end of your rainbow of emotions, too!