Jiu-Jitsu Spark Notes: Or What You Need to Know to Roll

I’ve already done a post on how to get the most out of rolling, and if you are looking for best practices, this isn’t that.  This post is the information that I believe to be the barest minimum necessary to get someone rolling.

Will they be good?  No.  Will they be as safe as they can be?  No.  But, sometimes you just have to work with sub-optimal conditions.  Maybe you’re at party and some friends want to see what this “jiu-jitsu” thing is about.  Maybe you’re at a college level club and someone without any experience shows up to an open mat.

So, when reality gets in the way of ideal, this is a way to stay safe and have fun.

The Minimum

Starting out

Never assume people know that they need to shake hands to begin.  Also don’t assume that they’ll make logical decisions about whether or not to go for takedowns from standing.  Tell them very directly “we are going to start on our knees, and the match begins after we slap hands and bump fists.”

I like doing the slap and bump versus just shaking hands, because sometimes people will do shady things like shake hands, and use that handshake grip to initiate an attack.  Is it lame?  Very.  Is it effective?  Not really.  Is it easy to avoid by just using a different handshake to start?  Yes.

Submissions and Tapping

Most people have never actually been put in a joint lock or been subjected to a blood-choke.  This means that they’ve never really had to tap.  Maybe when they were younger they played wrestling with friends, but unless they have had instruction on how to grapple they will not know how to tap.

So, I tell people:

  • Tap whenever there is pain.  No one ever listens to this, but its good for saying “I told you to tap if you were in pain” after the fact.
  • Joint locks will break whatever joint is being attacked to the point that you will probably need surgery if they do not tap.  Remember, you the experienced practitioner have an obligation to not injure your training partners.  However, reminding people how dangerous joint locks seems to make them more willing to tap.
  • Most of the chokes are blood chokes, and that they will have only a couple of seconds before they pass out.
  • Pressure on the larynx might not be an intended consequence of a choke, but is a perfectly good reason to tap.  No sense having a crushed trachea.
  • Tap your partner.  And not just once.  Keep tapping until they stop.  And don’t tap lightly, if the tap doesn’t make noise it probably wasn’t hard enough.
  • If you can’t tap your partner, say tap, loudly.  Alternatively you can tap the floor (even with your feet), but in this case it needs to be emphatic and repeated, and really should only be done as a last resort.
  • Stop when your partner taps.  IMMEDIATELY.  Its not funny to keep it going a little longer.


Illegal Techniques

I’ve never encountered someone who thought it was OK to punch, kick, or bite while grappling, but I always specify these just in case.

On top of these obvious faux pas, I explicitly tell people:

  • No slamming.  And then I show them what slamming looks like from the guard (because if you don’t have any experience with grappling how are you going to know what slamming looks like?)
  • No grabbing fingers.  You can grab all 4 fingers or none.  You can not grab the thumb.  No one wants broken fingers.

More than the minimum?

Its always good to give people as much knowledge as they’ll hold before rolling with them.  Other important details include:

  • Going through each position, naming them, and saying who is in a superior position
  • Explaining the guard, how the top player needs to pass and not go for submissions
  • Basic mount escape
  • Rear naked choke

Sometimes people will let you tell them all of this and more.  Usually it is because they aren’t actually that interested in rolling!  Don’t force people to play jiu-jitsu, it isn’t nice.  But do teach them, and once they’re comfortable they’ll ask you to roll.

Bonus Tip: Delegate the first roll

If there is someone else who knows enough jiu-jitsu to safely roll with the new guy, delegate the first roll to them!  That way you can watch the roll and correct mistakes as they arise.  I’m not talking about correcting their technique per se, but if they are trying to submit from inside the guard you can gently remind them that their partner has 4 limbs versus their two, and so they are not likely to succeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *