After your first BJJ class or free trial, the instructor usually asks whether you want to try rolling (sparring) or not.

Most of the time, people are reluctant to roll right away after their first class but some want to see how it feels.

For those of you who want to start rolling, here are a few tips of things you should avoid so that you and your partner can roll safely with minimal injury risks:

Do not slam

Unless you and your partner agree to go under MMA rule set, do not attempt to slam anyone during a BJJ roll. Throws and takedowns are legal in BJJ but not full blown powerbombs and slams. This type of “strategy” is typically done by a strong guy who is completely green in BJJ and when they are trapped in the closed guard or in a bottom submission attempt (armbars and triangles).

Usually, other students will try to stop anyone who is about to slam someone during a roll. They will tolerate this if it is a new guy and will inform him about the no slamming rule. Attempting a slam once is tolerable, but if you still do it after being given a heads up, then you are probably just a douche and soon, senior high ranking students will show you what’s up if you do not respect the rules.

Do not push your forearm into the throat (it is not illegal but a dick move nevertheless….)

Another “technique” often used by a big strong guy is pushing their big forearms into the throats, especially when they are trapped in a closed guard. The forearm into the throat is not a choke nor a crank. Nobody who has taken BJJ for a month will ever tap out to this. It only sores the neck and this is why it is considered as a “dick move”.

Usually, students and instructors expect you to smarten up by yourself. Every time you push your forearm into their throats, they will punish you repeatedly with submissions and sweeps to show how useless this technique is to break their guards.

Do not spaz

“Spaz” means going crazy. Not only attempting to slam or forcing your forearm to the throat, you will also go full blown “street fight mode” during a BJJ roll. A spazzy person does everything from headbutts, eye gouges, scratches, elbows, slaps, punches, knees and even bites.

A spaz typically happens on someone who is completely new and has their first ever roll. As always, other students who have been training longer are very tolerant to the new guy, including with his spaz tendencies. For the spazzy guy, the only way to stop being spazzy is to roll more with high ranking students because they know how to deal with it safely.

Do not inflate your ego; tap quick, tap often

Big, strong dudes, especially who already earned a black belt or experience in other martial arts, tend to have ego problem when it comes to tapping out. They refuse to tap out even when the submission has been fully locked in by their much smaller and physically weaker partner. Having a big ego is a huge problem in BJJ.

By having a big ego, you are risking your own well being by refusing to tap out. All submissions are dangerous if they are fully executed simply because you tap out far too late. Chokes can put you to sleep or even kill you, while joint locks can break your bones and fucks up your ligaments and nerve system.

Your big ego can also harm your partner. Nobody likes to injure anyone in a BJJ class. If you are injured because you have to big of an ego to tap out, your partner will feel the guilt even if it is your own fault. Some people even become so traumatized in injuring someone that they hold back on their submissions. This means that your ego has stopped both you and your partner from progressing.

Do not hesitate to ask questions during a roll

Rolling is a good learning experience and it is even better if you are willing to ask questions in the midst of it. New guys will always be paired up with senior students during a roll and here is your chance to ask questions about what you should do or how to escape.

The senior students usually are willing to pause a roll in a position to teach you on what to do, when is a submission becomes critical, how to escape and what you do wrong that put you in a bad spot.

There are plenty more of the unwritten rules of BJJ rolling but I guess these are enough to cover the basics of rolling safely. Once you get comfortable enough to roll, you can also read on how to roll longer against high ranking students based on my experience.

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Hans David

A lifestyle journalist and a student of the gentle art with Alliance Jiu Jitsu Indonesia. Subscribe to my blog for more BJJ stuffs and occasionally, some rants.
Hans David
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