After Ashton Kutcher’s promotion for the brown belt, you probably heard the voices of outrage and the name of Rigan Machado everywhere. However, let’s leave these discussions and focus on whom Rigan Machado is and what his training system without sparring “Flow Jiu-Jitsu” for celebrities is actually. This, in turn, will lead us to the question of what is the general meaning of sparring in BJJ.
Rigan Machado and nonsparring system “Flow jiu jitsu”
Rigan Machado is an eight-degree red and black belt in BJJ. He is a former Pan American Champion and a veteran medalist of the ADCC. Machado as of now instructs at his school, “The Academy Beverly Hills“, situated in Beverly Hills, California.Due to the location of his gym, many students in his gym are celebrities. He is an instructor to famous students as Ashton Kutcher, Vin Diesel, Wiz Khalifa, or Charlie Hunnam. He is the creator of the system without sparring for celebrities. Supposedly it has more than 700 techniques, which can be drilled and trained without risking injury. Just the fact that his famous students can’t get injured is the main idea behind this solution. He says about it this way:
“I created a new jiu-jitsu system for people who can’t get hurt. It’s technical training. They learn jiu-jitsu and technically train, but it’s all-safe. I created a type of jiu-jitsu for the Beverly Hills clientele. Competition, sparring… these guys can’t do that. I can’t even take a 1% chance of them getting hurt. I have 18 celebrities doing this program. Some guys have to sign disclosure agreements; others like Ashton Kutcher and Mickey Rourke come in regularly, while Usher comes in once and a while and Vin Diesel when he’s in town.”
In another interview he added:
“Just because a celebrity can’t spar with everyone in the class doesn’t mean he or she should not be allowed to practice or learn Jiu-Jitsu. I love watching my celebrity students train because they, along with their training partners, have to flow and transition smoothly to prevent injury, something many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners don’t do that. They actually learn the techniques very effectively because when they roll with their training partners, they do not try to overpower each other.”
This whole system has started a discussion in the BJJ world about the meaning of sparring. Avoiding injury can be important not only for celebrities. Damaged arm or leg could significantly harden the lives of not only famous people. Is this, however, a reason to give up sparring completely? According to many people, no.
Should You Spar in BJJ?
Advantages of sparring
Sparring brings a number of benefits. Only thanks to them we can really check our skills. Thanks to that, they are extremely developing for us. During sparring, you learn new nuances to techniques as your sparring partners resist and attempt to counter them. This, in turn, translates into the fact that you can feel and predict your training partner’s movements, his strategic patterns, etc. Rolling with others improves awareness for finding submission openings and timing its applications. It translates to enhance your ability to chain different submissions techniques together based on the teammate’s reactions.
Sparring also improves your defense. You learn how to stay calm in bad and uncomfortable positions and then how to escape from them. You improve your ability to create openings and scrambling opportunities. By rolling you learn how to observe adjustments needed for escaping submissions. Thanks to frequent sparring you also discover which situations are potentially injurious. After all, rolling with your friends and teammates are simply just an opportunity to experiment, learn and have fun.
In all this, we just have to be realistic about our goals. If you aim to get in shape and have fun learning, sparring is just perfect for that. However, if you want to compete you just must be rolling regularly. Much of BJJ’s power and effectiveness comes from realistic sparring, day-to-day. If you want to be able to realistically defend yourself, you need to put yourself in situations where you can test your technique.
Spar or not to spar
In summary, if we have no health contraindications etc. to not roll at all is bit overkill. Sparring brings a number of benefits. On the other hand, there is no point in exaggerating. Only you can decide what you’re trying to get out of jiu-jitsu, and what your comfort level is. You don’t have to do all the sparring in every training. It is completely OK to roll some times, but not other times. Everyone just has to decide for themselves how much sparring they want to do.