Is Rolling The Same As Sparring In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? (Differences Explained)

If you attend a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class there will most likely be a rolling-focused section.

This may also be referred to as sparring because rolling is a term used to cover rolling, drilling, and sparring.

Is rolling the same as sparring in Brazillian Jui Jitsu

There are different types of rolls and drills done within Jiu Jitsu and depending on the type practitioners will use a certain level of strength.

In this piece, we look at what you can expect in a rolling section of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu session and more.

Types Of Rolling In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

There are two main types of rolling in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) session, these are rolling to get warm and rolling to submission.

Below we look at what you can expect from both types and what they may entail when taking part in such a session.

Rolling To Get Warm

Rolling to get warm in different gyms and it is always worth clarifying what a Sensei is expecting from you during a roll to get warm.

Below are the two most common types of rolls to get warm you may engage in.

Flow Rolling

Flow rolling requires a very low intensity and they can feel very fluid as you and your partner transition into different positions. Here you are not looking to pin and tap your partner.

Partners are fair here and there may be a sense of giving and taking.

The more advanced your BJJ skills become the more fluid your flow rolling will become.

Watching advanced BJJ practitioners can be very visually pleasing as they roll from one position to the next.

Positional Rolling

Positional rolling differs slightly from flow rolling, it is not as free-flowing as the aim is to roll into a position and then maintain that position.

How intense a positional roll is depends on the context, for example, competitive sparring sessions would require a higher intensity than a simple warm-up.

Positional rolling is also common during drills where partners are specifically going through specific positions.

In some BJJ gyms, you may also encounter catch-and-release submissions but these are not always allowed to reduce the possibility of injury during a roll to get warm.

Rolling To Submission

When instructed to roll to submission everyone has one goal, to get their rolling partner to submit.

Below are the different types of rolls to submission you can expect to encounter.

Live Rolling

In live rolling, you are focusing on resisting your partner until you ultimately get a submission. It is this rolling with resistance that differentiates BJJ from other martial arts.

Students have the opportunity to react to moves in real-time against someone who ultimately has the same goal as they do.

Hard Rolling

A hard roll can either be in reference to the difficulty or the intensity opponents should be exerting during such a roll.

You can refer to a partner as a hard roll, meaning they are hard to dominate or you can ask someone to engage in a hard roll.

Competitive Rolling

With competitive rolling, partners are matched so that they have a similar level of intensity, speed, and skill as well as being similar in size.

These rolling matches often end with one opponent winning with a very slight advantage or may end in a stalemate alternatively.

Dealing With Uncomfortable Situations

When getting used to rolling in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you can find that you may feel uncomfortable being so close to a stranger, this is a completely normal feeling and something that will be worked through as you begin to become more focused on what you are doing any sense of discomfort will not be as prominent anymore for you.

Is rolling the same as sparring in Brazillian Jui Jitsu

You may be requested to roll with a partner from the opposite gender and when this happens you must remain appropriate and respectful.

Anyone who is seen to be purposefully inappropriate during a rolling session will be disciplined by the Sensei or alternatively be asked to leave for some time or to not return.

If you ever find yourself in an uncomfortable situation and your Sensei is unaware of what has happened it is best to speak with them immediately after the session in private.

If you are unhappy with how the situation is dealt with it may be time to move to a new club.

Training spaces are meant to be comfortable, equal spaces for everyone and it is of the utmost importance that all members of a club work to create a welcoming and safe atmosphere in their club so that everyone feels comfortable.

Trying free trials at multiple gyms can be useful to find one that you feel most comfortable in so that you do not end up paying a membership to a club that makes you feel unsupported or uncomfortable.

Gi And Rolling In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Different clubs and Sensei will sometimes hold sessions where students are asked not to wear a Gi, which is an official uniform.

When asked not to wear a Gi students are advised to wear compression shorts and a rashguard.

When rolling wearing a Gi you can resort to using your opponent’s Gi as a way of grappling them or moving into a dominant position.

Rolling wearing no Gi is a great way of checking in on your skills to make sure you are just as strong at rolling in the absence of a Gi to hold onto and pull.

There are strict rules as to what can be worn to a no Gi session as loose clothing would pose a risk as limbs could get tangled in loose sleeves and cause serious injury to both people involved in a roll together.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this piece has enlightened you and that you now understand what you should expect if you are a part of a rolling session in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu session.

Being prepared will put you in a good position to prepare your body for what different types of rolling drills may entail and how much force you should exert.

Christopher Anderson
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