An unspoken rule of BJJ that needs to go away is the one on lower belts must never ask higher belts for a roll.
Most BJJ schools and practitioners today are pretty chill about lower belts asking higher belts to roll.
Nevertheless, some "old school" practitioners, or those who think they are, still apply this rule to heart for whatever reason.
As a purple belt who has been training for nearly five years, I always thought that this rule is kind of bullshit.
In this post, I'll take a closer look at the unspoken rule and share my perspective as a BJJ practitioner.
An unspoken rule of BJJ or just ego protecting?
This unspoken rule; that lower belts should never ask higher belts for a roll, has been floating around for as long as BJJ has existed.
It is 2023 and it's time, I believe, to question the legitimacy of one of this unspoken rules of BJJ.
First, let's address the elephant in the room.
This rule is based on nothing but assumptions and outdated beliefs.
There is no official regulation or rulebook that states that lower belts cannot ask higher belts for a roll.
It's just one of those unspoken rules of BJJ that's been passed down from generation to generation.
I believe that this rule is completely baseless and irrelevant in the current era.
The idea that lower belts are somehow "disrespectful" for asking higher belts for a roll is nothing more than a myth.
If a lower belt approaches a higher belt with respect and the intention of learning and improving, then there is nothing wrong with asking for a roll.
In fact, I think that this rule is often exploited by higher belts as a means of protecting their egos and maintaining the legitimacy of their ranks.
The rule gives them a convenient way to avoid rolling with lower belts who are actually good and can potentially submit them.
Higher belts may view rolling with lower belts as a risk to their reputation, and the unspoken rule allows them to avoid this situation.
BJJ is about growing together
Rolling with partners of different belts and skill levels is crucial for growth and improvement for everyone in the gym.
In fact, lower belts can learn just as much from higher belts as higher belts can learn from lower belts.
The dynamic of each roll brings new challenges and perspectives, which is essential for progress in BJJ.
Rolling with a variety of opponents, regardless of belt rank, helps keep your BJJ game fresh and unpredictable.
You never know when a lower belt might surprise you with a move you've never seen before, or when a higher belt might be able to exploit a weakness in your game.
This is why it's important to expose yourself to different styles and levels of opponents.
The more rolls you have under your belt (pun intended), the better you'll become.
In BJJ, growth and improvement are everything.
Every time you step onto the mat, you should have the mindset of wanting to learn something new, whether it's a new move, a new strategy, or simply a new perspective.
This mindset is what drives progress and helps you reach your goals in BJJ.
But if you limit yourself to only rolling with partners of the same belt rank or refusing a roll with a good lower belt just because you are afraid to get tapped, you'll miss out on opportunities to learn and grow.
Basically, when higher belts are protected from rolling with lower belts, they miss out on opportunities to learn and grow.
Meanwhile, lower belts are missing out on opportunities to learn from the more experienced higher belts.
This rule is not only holding back progress, but it's also perpetuating the idea that higher belts are above lower belts and that lower belts should never question the rank hierarchy.
This is simply not the case in modern BJJ, and it's time to move past this outdated rule.
Breaking down the roll barrier
Rolling is how we improve and learn in this sport.
So, why the fuck should rank determine who we can learn from?
A white belt with a killer arm bar is just as valuable a training partner as a black belt, if not more so.
Let's start breaking down this barrier and creating a more open and growth-oriented BJJ community.
For starters, lower belts can show their respect for higher belts by approaching them respectfully and asking for a roll with a clear goal in mind, like working on a specific technique.
Higher belts, on the other hand, can play their part by being open and encouraging to lower belts.
Instead of brushing them off with a "maybe when you're a higher belt," why not seize the opportunity to help a fellow practitioner grow and improve?
If you pull the guys below you to improve, they will, in turn, push you to reach a higher level as well.
Not to mention, rolling with lower belts can also be a great way for higher belts to stay humble and review their basics.
The reality is, there's no one right way to progress in BJJ.
Some folks blaze through the ranks, while others take a more winding path.
But the common denominator for all of us should be a desire to learn and improve.
By breaking down the roll barrier and embracing an open and inclusive approach, we can all tap into the full potential of BJJ for growth and self-improvement.
To wrap it up....
In conclusion, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is much more than just grappling and submitting opponents.
It's a journey of growth, improvement, and breaking down barriers, both physically and mentally.
The BJJ community should embrace the opportunity to learn from one another, regardless of skill level or belt color.
By rolling with a variety of opponents, we can all benefit from new perspectives, challenge ourselves, and ultimately become better practitioners.
It's time for us to break down the "roll barrier" and move past the limiting beliefs that restrict us from truly growing in this amazing martial art.
Let's stop being afraid to ask for rolls, and let's start being proactive in helping lower belts feel comfortable seeking out those opportunities.
It's all about attitude and perspective.
That's my final thought on the matter, folks.
It's time to make BJJ the inclusive and supportive community it was always meant to be.
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