Break this rule, but do it in this way.

Almost everyone says not to talk about gym rolls, almost everyone does it anyway. Talking about a roll makes us better. The ability to recall precisely what happened and try to improve based on it is a higher level skill. What we are doing is largely about pattern recognition.

Ask questions immediately after the roll. Begin by asking the person who kicked your ass. ‘What was that?’ ‘What can I do to give you a better challenge?’ ‘What happened when____?’ After some time, we can remember specific details about an exchange and ask others for technical advice. ‘How do I stop Nick from passing my guard so easily?’ ‘He is grabbing my pants in this way and pushing them to my left.’ The more information we can recall, the better questions we can ask.

We are learning how to communicate about Jiu Jitsu. We can ask questions with increasing precision and get exactly the answers we need more quickly if we develop this skill. Are you trying to stop from being submitted? Are you trying to prevent someone from using their best game on you? Are you trying to find a position that you practiced? When multiple White Belts come to me asking how to stop your game, you are making serious progress. Take it as a compliment.

Now, bragging about gym rolls. We don’t start out trying to brag. We start out excited that we finally did something. Then we realize that they might not have been trying as hard as we thought they were. The only way we know that we are getting an accurate look is when we are competing. In the gym, we can test ideas and take risks so we have an idea about what works. It’s not that we aren’t trying, it’s the selection of positions we are working. For example, I will give people my back regularly to see if I can work out of it. It doesn’t always work. On social media, certain feeds have been ruthless with White Belts who talk about beating upper ranks. It definitely happens, but it’s clearly frowned upon everywhere to get a big head about it.

What’s it like to roll with _____? There are limitless ways to express yourself in Jiu Jitsu. Asking about rolling with high level people. It gives us important clues about how we can build our own games. These are some of my favorite descriptions I’ve heard over the years. Some are famous, others are friends who I trained with for many years:

1) Every single finger and toe was active and working towards the same purpose. Nothing was wasted. -Renato Tavares

2) It was like rolling with an empty jacket. -Pedro Sauer

3) He took my grips off, and they were never available again. -Rafael Mendes

4) It was like rolling with a machine. -Jason Bircher

5) He was so smooth and relaxed, he knew all of the answers to his positions. -Justin Fabac

Obviously these could go on for a while, but those descriptions had a big impact on me when I heard them. They can give us something to aspire to, or give us insight about a specific way to play the game.

What about friendly shit talk? Trash talk varies widely in what people accept culturally. If you want to do this, you must be clear that you are friendly and know when to stop. We also need to carefully evaluate the public visibility of this talk. I am not personally a big fan of the trends in MMA and Pro Grappling using disrespectful language to hype fights. I understand, it puts eyes on you. We all have our own opinions, but we are also representing our home gyms and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a martial art in these situations.

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