Unproductive to roll against vastly superior BJJ players?

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    I’ve trained BJJ for about 1.5 years, 1-2 times pr week. 

    When sparring, I sometimes pick lesser experienced students in order to practice attacks, and sometimes I pick partners that are stronger/more skilled than myself to practice defense and to challenge myself.

    However I occasionally meet a purple, brown or black belt and am utterly destroyed and I get the feeling that these sessions are very unproductive.

    I am immediately pulled into positions/guards that I have no idea on how to defend, and just do random stuff in order to not get submitted. These random movements are never remembered should they by some miracle work, as they are not in any context or related to any position that I’m familiar with. (Exaggerating a bit to make a point.)

    Any offensive moves that I try are immediately negated, normally before I am close to finishing a technique. Passing guard or getting into sidemount or mount never happens.

    Some of the high belts, put themselves in vulnerable positions and destroy me from there, this I don’t mind as I get to practice the stuff I’ve already learned like passing and maintaining mount and so on. 

    But as explained above, other high belts just leave me with the impression that I’ve learned/practiced nothing after a roll. This leads to the initial question, was the roll unproductive or even a waste of time? If so, should these partners be avoided in order to learn more/improve faster?

    Not sure if it’s the best example, but how much would a novice chess player learn from playing a world champion? 
    Another: When beginning to learn to throw a tennis ball with accuracy, do you learn more from throwing at an object at 5 meters or the same object at 30 meters?



    You’re right that youre probably not getting a lot out of those rolls because they are just too far ahead of you.  Try to make them better by ASKING THEM how you could have done better every time you get submitted.

    I always do this with early belts, even when they dont ask.  I identify their overall issue and coach them on how to improve in that area.
    So try getting feedback from them moving forward.


    I would say it isn’t as beneficial for someone very new (read:white belts/maybe early blue) before you’re familiar with all positions and submissions and situations, but for someone at mid blue belt up through black belt you can learn a ton by rolling with people much better than you.



    I think it’s important to build on your knowledge of jiu-jitsu and make sure you have a solid grasp of the basic fundamentals.  You would be surprised at how many people with your level of experience don’t know how to do a simple hip escape from the mount.  This is usually the fault of the instructor in not providing an easy to follow curriculum for his student to follow.  The instructor also needs to make sure his students actually know and can perform such techniques even if only in demonstration.

    It’s funny that at my last school where I trained we had a morning and evening class.  The morning class had like 3 black belts and a few browns and purples.  The evening class was mostly whites and blues.  Some white belts could only attend the morning class so they were constantly rolling with higher ranks.  We used to joke about how there was definitely a difference in rolling with morning white belts as opposed to evening white belts.  That being said regardless of how tough you get rolling with higher rank, it’s better to have the knowledge rather than struggling in vain making every mistake in the book.  I suppose it’s possible to learn that way but why not take the guess work and frustration out of it?


    Keep in mind that upper belt is training too.  Sometimes I beat the crap out of lower belts, but GENERALLY I let them work and use it as opportunity for me to work certain things (like guard retention or back escapes).  So if for example they are using correct technique on a guard pass I may let them pass…then work restoring guard.

    Said different remember sometimes you will be the hammer and sometimes the nail.  It depends on what both parties are doing.
    You can learn from EVERY roll.


    I agree with Jackjitsu — use your words and ask what to do. when I roll with people much better than me, I go into with a learning mentality, see if I can survive their attacks and Ask when I get stuck.



    You don’t realize what you are learning subconsciously. If you keep at it, you will get better but it won’t be overnight. Just keep training. Is normal.



    If you’re just catching random purple, brown and black belts once in a while and they’re just destroying you you’re right, it can be hard to find the value in it. However, if you don’t shy away from the upper belts and roll with them every chance you get, chances are you’ll earn their respect and develop a rolling relationship with them and they will start to roll with you in a way that is beneficial to you and them. 



    I know the feeling well being just a 2 year white belt.  But like others have already said once you change your mindset into a learning type mindset.  At first it was frustrating because you seem like just a grappling dummy for them.  Once I started asking questions however every higher belt I roll with is eager to offer suggestions/guidance.  Sometimes during the roll sometimes after.  I have found it to be very valuable for my type of learning.  It especially helps me to pay attention to what they are doing to me to understand what I should be doing should to others. 



    While it can be extremely painful to have the shit smashed out of you, there is a value to rolling with those who have technical superiority. One of the reasons I got good was that I constantly challenged my teachers. They warned be to cool off and back down into “my spot”, but I wouldn’t listen. 



    I think its important you do but its all about balance you need to roll with all levels.



     if somebody is that much better than you they should be taking their foot off the gas at certain points for both parties benefit. 



    You will get better rolling with the best people. The phrase “small victories” should pop up in your head after every roll. Every roll try to gain an inch.

    You have to ask yourself the right questions though, it’s not “why can’t I beat him” it’s “why can’t I undue his left handed grip” etc. Ask, research, try again, fail, repeat, possibility succeed.



    Sometimes upper belts are douchey. Sometimes they are responding to your douchiness. In general, if I’m rolling against someone who is vastly inexperienced and is reasonably cool, I’ll give them room to work and play a lot nicer. If the person comes in super aggressively, I won’t GIVE them anything and instead will work hard to frustrate and thwart everything.

    I’m wondering if maybe they aren’t responding to how you’re approaching the roll. It might be worth a talk. Perhaps they have the philosophy that it’s their chance to shut everything down or really do crazy stuff, or perhaps they simply aren’t aware, or perhaps they honestly don’t want to roll with you and are trying to stop you asking? All are possible, so it’s impossible to know without actually seeing what’s going on.

    I don’t hesitate to roll with black belts, or anyone higher ranked than me. The brown belt coach goes hard against me (possible I actually bruised my diaphragm from his KOB) but I know why – it’s because my black belt coach wants me to be more aggressive and try harder, and prior to this, it was more akin to just hanging out and lightly training. For me, it’s productive. However, he doesn’t roll that way with most other people. He tailors it to them, as does our black belt. That’s what makes me think either they are responding to something you’re doing or they don’t want to roll with you or they are just being thoughtless.



    If nothing else you have learned you have a LONG way to go.

    Victory against someone vastly superior is measured differently – it took 2 minutes instead of 40 seconds for them to submit me – that’s a victory for your progress.

    Never be afraid to ask what should you have done. Some people are douches and won’t ever be helpful, others may be the nicest people but are having an off day and you did something unintentional and they took it wrong (happened to me).

    Anyway keep showing up and roll with higher belts when you can.

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