Different Rolls for Different Souls

Published on by Dan Dufur

Photos By: Mike Kalika


Class just finished, time to partner up and roll. The timer sounds and your off. You and your partner are trying to tap each other. Whoever gets more submissions wins, right? This is exactly what you are supposed to be doing, right? In the big scheme of things, yes. But, that is only one small aspect of your training. There are so many things that you can do to maximize your potential and improve your jiu-jitsu. During your time spent rolling you can implement some of these concepts to improve your game. You can experiment with Flow rolling, focus on a certain technique. Try to perfect or improve a certain position that you feel needs work. You could do a marathon roll. Or you could set up a shark tank scenario. You could also train in a points mindset to prepare you for a competition. These are just a few examples to use to help you improve.

Flow rolling is an amazing tool to have in your jiu-jitsu training. In my opinion, you should never need to finish a submission in a flow roll. If your partner doesn’t know the escape, either show them or abandon your move.  It is all about the movement. The setups, the escapes, and the positional exchanges. It is a good time to try that tricky setup without risk of being submitted. I’ve heard Professor Roy Dean talk about the “spirals” of jiu-jitsu. To me the “spirals” are different pathways to a move.  Maybe attempting a submission from a different set up or angle. In flow rolling, everything slows down and becomes clearer. Your mind and body work at the same speed. You are more relaxed and have a better awareness.


Say you want to improve your triangle choke. Do it up. Only drill that move during rolling. You can try to hit them from only one position. Or, you can try to hit every variation of it you can think of. You could try them from off your back, from mount, side control, north south, knee on belly, bottom side, or the back. Being able to get a certain submission from many different places will make your game much more effective. Your submission rate will increase and your game will become more dangerous.

You can also just focus on a certain position while rolling. To up the difficulty level, you can let your partner know what move you will do. See if they can stop it. This will make it much harder for you. You may or may not get it to work. Be it butterfly guard, De La Riva, x- guard, spider guard, or open guard. You can work on mount offense or defense. You can work top or bottom side. Same with turtle. Play an open guard and try your best to not let them pass. Having a singular focus sometimes is a great tool to help you improve.

Marathon rolling is also a good method to try to help you improve your game. It is exactly what it sounds like. Roll for as long as you can. Music is good for background noise during a marathon roll. It can help control the tempo and energy. You can take a thirty second break between rounds to rehydrate, or you can simply go nonstop until you can’t anymore. This will test your mind your, body, heart, and technique. This will improve your conditioning greatly. In turn it will also make your game much more efficient. You will find where you use too much energy and strength. Training marathon rolls will help you correct it. In my opinion, you should be able to have the same technique and efficiency after the first hour that you do after the first minute.

Doing a shark tank scenario is another good way to sharpen up your skills. Set a timer and change to a fresh partner after an allotted time period. This will test you physically and mentally. You will be seeing different styles constantly. This drill helps you adapt. You have to think quickly and adjust accordingly. To ramp up this drill you can also put the person in the shark tank in a bad position at the start of each round. You could have them start with someone on their back, or in mount. Also, you could mix the shark tank with the marathon roll to make things even more interesting. There are always ways to take a drill and make it more effective and exciting.

Train for a points based competition by focusing on the main criteria needed to win.  Drill your takedowns, sweeps, and passes. Make sure you hold your positions for the allotted times to get your points.  Train for quick burst during that short time period. Or if you are training for a sub only or no time limit match stick to that type of training. Don’t worry about being in a bad position. Focus on the submission. Train the skills needed to get the finish.

To me, BJJ is a sport and a martial art. Some people do both the sport and art. Some do not. If you want to be the best you can, you have to put in the extra work. To me, training in the academy is practice, the competition is the game. Train hard, fight easy. The more you know, the more you know.  The better you are equipped for war, the better outcome you will have. Train in the gym to learn, not to win. Don’t be afraid of losing or getting tapped. If you do not endure the bad, you will not know what good feels like.  Learn. You cannot spell learn without earn. Earn your skills, talent, and rank. It is not about the end result. It is about what it takes to reach it. Try some of those styles of rolling. You will see many benefits to your growth in BJJ.