Here Are 4 Reasons You Might be Getting Tired During A Jiu-Jitsu Roll:
1) NOT being as efficient as possible. Josh Russell, head instructor of my BJJ academy teaches nearly every class (3 per night). He also attends all of the open mat sessions and, without fail, rolls with the toughest, most skilled grapplers at each session. That’s a lot of hard rolling in any given week. When I asked him how he managed to maintain that level of activity in a given week (and stay injury free) he said simply “I try to be as efficient as possible in every movement and position”. There are many instances in a roll where you can identify a more efficient method of advancing position or escaping
2) Flexibility. A few weeks ago I was teaching the Flower Sweep to a couple of beginners. These guys had spent a lot of time in the weight room: they were fit, but had little flexibility in their hamstrings and hips. The Flower Sweep requires a large sweeping motion of the leg to induce the pendulum momentum. However, their hamstrings were so tight and hips so immobile, that the simple movement was exhausting them; breath held and faces red and grimacing they battled the muscular tension in their hamstrings: every muscle tensed and inhibiting the antagonistic.
Anyone who has ever been to a Yoga class and found it shockingly exhausting will attest to how fatiguing some movements can be when you lack the requisite flexibility.
3) Be explosive and work in bursts! I read a recent discussion on a BJJ Forum where one person recounted the scenario of the exhausted whitebelt who had come on with plenty of intensity and speed but soon gassed out. “As he caught his breath I asked him what he figured would happen if instead of talking quietly or loudly depending on the situation – he always went around screaming at the top of his lungs? Well, if you picture jiu-jitsu as a conversation (as Dave Camarillo put it), there will be times when it is appropriate to “yell,” but you’ll lose your voice if that’s the only level at which you talk.”
Several years ago a Japanese Pride fighter was a guest at a friend’s academy and trained there for a period. I asked my buddy how the experience was of rolling with the professional fighter. “He is super relaxed – uses very little strength until you are attempting to submit him or he submit you and then he escapes / explodes in a burst.”
4) Bracing (being tense)
“…the primary cause of fatigue. When the organism is in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or unpredicted orientation there is a psychophysiological mechanism called “bracing.” Bracing is the irradiation of muscular recruitment – meaning that all of the muscles are ‘tensed’ in response to the ‘perceived threat’ of the unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or unpredicted orientation. If you’ve ever flexed your muscles (ala bodybuilding), you know that this exertion is extreme… and can result in as little as fatigue, to passing unconscious, to migraines and even fatalities.” To defray the defensive mechanism, you must place yourself in that position in training, to become kinesthetically and more important – psychophysiologically, with the orientation… once acquainted, and RELAXED (read here poised, not catatonic), you will gain energy from the confidence of knowing you are in no (immediate) danger.”
What do you do when you feel that you’re in over your head. Unconsciously you tense up, arms stiffened, holding your breath and preparing for his attack. When you are rigid, tensed and not breathing, your gas tank empties at an accelerated rate. This even happens at the highest level of competition when a competitor feels they are overmatched – observe the posture and tenseness of the MMA fighter when he realizes that his next takedown is likely to be thwarted.
Cardio conditioning IS super important – that is beyond debate. I go for runs to augment my own jiu-jitsu practice. However when you see elite level athletes with the best coaching, conditioning and diet completely gas out in the first round of a fight there HAVE to be other factors at play!
So the next time you find your lungs burning after a roll – before booking additional time on the treadmill – ask yourself “am I being efficient? Am I flexible enough? Am I yelling? Am I bracing?”