The Importance of Friends in BJJ

In a recent podcast with Grappling Central, my coach, Sam, mentioned that if you aren’t enjoying your jiu jitsu school or if you’re thinking about trying a new school – try changing your social group at your current school first.  While I’m pretty happy with my jiu jitsu friends right now, I have experienced a few different social groups in jiu jitsu.  Also, our jiu jitsu holiday party was last night, which got me thinking about the importance of jiu jitsu friends.

You can talk about theory together

I can talk about jiu jitsu for hours on end.  And its fun!  I like thinking back on how my conversations about jiu jitsu theory have changed since I was a white belt talking to other white belts to now being a blue belt talking with purple belts.  From how moves flow together to the heritage of jiu jitsu, I just love talking with friends about jiu jitsu.

You have someone to drill with

Evan used to go over to our friend’s house every Sunday just to drill.  Our friend had enough mats for drilling pretty extensively but not enough for effective (or safe) rolling.  They would plan which moves they wanted to drill over the week, drill on Sunday morning, then review what worked, what didn’t, and how to integrate the new moves into their games.

My coach Derek had to wait about a year after returning to jiu jitsu to roll.  Sam and Derek are really close friends so during this time, Derek and Sam would drill together.  Both of them say drilling improved their games immensely.  Having a friend who is willing to drill moves with you is fun, helps you practice jiu jitsu without as much wear and tear as rolling, and will help improve both of your games.

You have someone you trust while you’re injured

Two days before my shoulder surgery, I rolled.  It probably wasn’t the best choice but I hadn’t rolled in 3 months and I knew it would be another 6 months before I could roll again.  I started rolling with the black belts because I knew they wouldn’t hurt me and – since I was rolling with my hand in my belt and I am prone to clumsiness – they wouldn’t let me hurt myself either.  Once I realized I was pretty safe rolling, I started rolling with my friends as well.  My friends were really gentle with me and avoided moves they felt were ‘unfair’ because I had my left hand in my belt.  One friend even tried rolling with her hand in her belt too, which resulted in a very silly roll.

Having someone you trust to roll with can allow you to train when you’re injured or coming back from an injury.  I know I would have to take much more time off for my surgery if I didn’t have people who are willing to go light with me while I get through the last stages of recovery from surgery.

Talk about goals

I’ve talked about the importance of goals in a previous post.  Evan and I frequently talk about our jiu jitsu goals together and check in with each other about those goals.  By checking in with each other regularly, we hold each other accountable, help each other reevaluate and modify goals as needed, and celebrate successes together.

You can also work with a friend to evaluate your jiu jitsu game and determine what your goals should be.  Chances are, if you roll with your friends regularly, they will be able to see where you can improve and notice if you are making improvements.


You shouldn’t nag your friends to show up to class, but its nice knowing that you are missed when you can’t come.  My coach, Sam, always checks in with people he hasn’t seen in a while.  If someone has a friend or significant other who normally trains but hasn’t been in for a while, Sam always makes an effort to ask about them.  There have been times recently where Evan has gone to class even if he didn’t feel like it because he told someone he would be there – and he always comes back saying he was happy he trained.

 Realize other people have been through what you are going through

Jiu jitsu can be rough sometimes – both physically and mentally.  I was fortunate that I had two friends that had been training longer than me to help me get through being a white belt with no training partners my size and few women to roll with.  Sometimes just hearing that another person has been in the same spot as you and made it through is encouraging.

Making friends in jiu jitsu is important.  They keep you training, help you improve, and make the game more fun.  So, like Sam says – if you aren’t enjoying jiu jitsu – go try to make some new friends 🙂

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