Sparrings are one of the most important parts of BJJ practice. Thanks to them you can test your skills in practice. They can provide tremendous benefits and growth to your Brazilian JiuJitsu skills. For a lot of people, they are also just a lot of fun. Sometimes it can be even the best part of Brazilian JiuJitsu training. Below you can check all you need to know when it comes to BJJ sparring.
BJJ Sparring – all you need to know
Why you should spar in BJJ?
Rolling has many advantages. They are a real test for our skills. Thanks to them we can check our strengths and weaknesses and by that, they are extremely developing for us. You can even say that sparring equals learning. During rolling, you see nuances of the techniques as your opponent resist and try to counter them. By sparring, you also learn how to observe adjustments needed for escaping submissions. Thanks to frequent rolling you are also more aware which situations can be potentially dangerous. After all, BJJ sparring is simply just an opportunity to experiment, learn and have fun. Also if you thinking about competing at some point you just must be rolling. Most of BJJ’s power and effectiveness comes from realistic sparring, day-to-day. If you want to be able to realistically defend yourself, you just need to put yourself in situations where you can test your technique. Summarizing, if you don’t have some health contraindications, etc. to not roll at all is a bit overkill, that will stop your growth.
When you should start?
The problem of when is the best time for the new student to start BJJ sparring is a common topic of debate among Brazilian JiuJitsu practitioners. You can find a few opinions here. Some are saying that the first training is the best time to start rolling. Others argue that it depends on the student. It’s his decision and he should start rolling when he feels like it. Yet other people say it should be delayed in time. New BJJ practitioners should start sparring only after a few months of learning techniques etc. because thanks to that they will be safer. However, there is no one universal rule and all these opinions have their pros and cons.
Supporters of this solution say it is just the best way to learn. They are comparing it to jumping right into the deep water and starting swimming. Just sink or swim. They also add that your first BJJ sparring will never be pleasant so why to postpone it. It is simple thinking; the earlier you start the better.
However, rolling at your first practice, especially if you never trained martial arts/combat sports before, might be problematic. Some people just might be afraid of it and the pressure of sparring on their first training can be too stressful for them. It can be also dangerous for them. Newbies just don’t know all the moves, when to tap, etc. yet.
People who are in favor of such a solution say it’s an individual decision. Like you just need to feel ready to start BJJ sparring. For someone, it could be at the first training, for others after a few classes and for someone else after a few months. There is no rule, no pressure; everyone goes at his or her own pace.
Supporters of this solution got a fair point. It’s can be good to not put so much pressure about rolling on newbies. However, we just sometimes don’t know what’s best for us. Some people might be so afraid of sparring, that they will avoid it for months. Even despite the fact being physically and technically ready for it. And by that, they will be just stopping their growth in BJJ. Leaving them alone with their decision may, therefore, be more harmful to them.
After a few months
People advocating this option says it’s the safest way of introducing newbies to BJJ sparring. Everything is clear here. You know that for the first few months you will just learn basics: techniques and moves, and find out what can be dangerous to you, etc. Later you know after 3 or 6 months of practice in this safe environment you will start to roll for real. You have the whole action plan drawn, you know what, when and how.
However, this solution is not elastic at all. It’s one for all and we are all different, so sometimes it just might not work for everyone. Ok, someone new to martial arts/combat sport may feel safe thanks to it. But for someone with some previous experience in, for example, judo or wrestling coming to practice without sparring will be just extremely boring and discouraging.
Just listen to your coach
As I stated above all of these solutions got their pros and cons. For someone, one option will be better, for others another will be better suited. In general, you can say someone with previous experience with martial arts/combat sports can roll on the first day and for a total newbie it will be better to wait.
However, if the academy you are attending doesn’t have some strict policy about it and you are still wondering when you should start sparring just ask your coach. He will know the best, can advise you and choose the right sparring partner.
BJJ Sparring Tips for beginners
Rolling might seems a bit terrifying at the beginning, especially if you are a newbie. But actually, there is nothing to fear, you shouldn’t be afraid to roll. It should be a totally opposite way because thanks to sparring you can learn a lot and there are just fun. To help you start, below you can find some BJJ sparring tips for the beginners.
Tell your sparring partner you are new
If you are still a bit afraid of rolling, not knowing what exactly is going on, but knowing you are missing few techniques just tell your partner that. Telling him or her that you are new may prevent them from going really hard on you.
Don’t avoid sparrings
However, when you are still stressed about sparrings the worst thing you can do is avoiding them. Thanks to rolling you are learning and testing your skills. If you do not have any contraindications to sparring by avoiding them you only harm yourself.
Don’t be afraid of higher belts
Just because someone got a higher belt doesn’t mean that he or she will smash you. Higher belts most of the times take it easier on white belts, than the white belts on other white belts. People with colored belts mostly are very careful, especially when it comes to newbies that just started sparring. They are more aware and understanding. You can also learn a lot from them.
If you don’t understand how something happened in a roll or why there are points for some things, etc. don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s a great way of learning. You can ask the person with whom you were sparring or just go to the coach. For sure they will answer you and for your trainer, it will be also a good sign that you are also using your head in sparring and not only muscles.
Especially when you are a newbie you don’t know all of the situations that might be dangerous for you. You don’t know yet how to defend yourself against some submissions, etc. So, just remember it’s better to tap earlier than risk some injury. If something doesn’t feel right, really just tap.
Ways To Improve In BJJ Sparring
If you want to improve your BJJ game and not only roll for fun you really need to include thinking in your sparrings. You won’t go too far without it. This “thinking” before and during rolls refers to several things such as having a goal, game plan, etc. See below for details about this and check also other ways of improving your rolling.
Have a plan and a goal
If you approach the sparring consciously with a desire for self-improvement you need to have a specific goal and plan to achieve it. It doesn’t have to be winning. It could be working on some of your weak points. In that case, your plan could be to start from a slightly worse position for you and a goal will be escaping from it. At the end of the roll, it’s good to make a quick resume to check if you acted as planned and accomplished your goal. By that, you will see on which point you need to work on.
Technique over strength
Like the previous point, this one is also connected with thinking while sparring. You use strength to cover your lack of techniques. It might seem to work, especially while fighting among lower belts. However, by doing that you are just stopping your BJJ growth. When you turn on thinking instead of strength and start focusing on the proper use of techniques you will see a big improvement in your technical game.
Practice makes perfect
You will not improve in BJJ sparring if you are skipping them. The best way to get better with rolling it’s just by doing it as much as you can. It’s simple, attentive practice just makes perfect. So, when it’s time for sparring, you need to get in as many rounds as you can. Thanks to that you will improve your technical skills and at the same time conditioning.
Try new things
To improve you have to leave your comfort zone. If you want to be better you just can’t do all the time the same things. By doing only techniques in which you feel good, you will never grow. To improve your BJJ game you need to stop being afraid and start doing new things. It’s ok if you won’t be successful at first; it’s a part of the learning process.
Being passive it’s the worst you can do if you want to improve. This point is connected to the previous one; here you also have to stop being afraid. You can’t hang on to one position because you’re afraid of someone sweeping you. By fighting like a stone you are stopping not only your growth but also your sparring partner. Best way to improve it’s just by constantly moving, changing positions without fear, etc. If you want to be better keep moving while rolling, don’t stop, don’t hesitate and be afraid.
Don’t be picky
When you start your journey with Brazilian JiuJitsu you can be a bit afraid of sparring with bigger opponents, etc. Also, sometimes we just like some people more and want to spar only with them. However, by doing that we are not learning anything new. So, again to improve you need to leave your comfort zone and find yourself a variety of different sparring partners. Do not reject people because someone is too heavy or got a too high belt. You can learn something from everyone. For example, someone stronger than you will teach you how to work on your defenses and escapes. And with a smaller partner, you can work on your technical game, etc.
Don’ts in BJJ sparring
When it comes to rolling there are few things you shouldn’t do. Not doing forbidden things is obvious here. I mean more that we all need to remember that rolling just should be fun for all of us. Below you can find things that are better not to do if you do not want to ruin the pleasure of sparring for yourself and others.
- Don’t be overly aggressive and don’t do the techniques as if you wanted to rip someone’s arm or leg off. It’s not a fight for life; you’re not at the competition, it is supposed to be fun for both of you.
- Don’t forget to take care of hygiene, to cut your nails so as not to hurt anyone and such things.
- Don’t think you are the only one on the mat. Always be aware of your surroundings. Watch for other people, don’t kick or elbow someone else sparring in close vicinity, just because you wanted to go to that armbar so badly.
- Don’t let your ego fight for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself that you always have to win. It’s ok to lose sometimes. You can also learn a lot from failures.