Not every Jiujiteiro trains at a big academy, with loads of different people and different belt ranks. Some train at smaller gyms, with just a handful of training partners, where they may be on top of the food chain. In other words – they don’t have a lot of partners that are on the same level of skill as they are… And how are you supposed to keep improving if you’re the most highly skilled grappler in the room?
That is, how are you going to progress if you can only roll with lower belts?
CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE – IMPROVEMENT IS EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK
You first need to realize that the chances for improvement are everywhere around you.
Jiu Jitsu is full of opportunities for growth, for friendships, for self-esteem and for health and energy. Additionally, BJJ carries opportunities within itself as well! And not just when things are going well, but also when you’re in front of a roadblock or two.
This is easiest (although not easy) to apply in competitions. The „win or learn“ saying encapsulates the mindset rather well: you either come back from the competition with the feeling of success… Or with lessons to learn from.
But this is more difficult to do in training. The training sessions aren’t pumped up with an emotional charge in the same way that BJJ competitions are, so the silver lining ends up being much more difficult to find.
However, no matter how negative your initial attitude may be, you need to change it. Realize that you can still improve, even if you’re only rolling with lower belts. And not just that – but that you could improve much more than when training with those on the same skill level.
GIVE UP POSITION FOR LOWER BELTS – AND FIND YOUR WAY OUT OF IT
The first way to improve when rolling with lower belts is the defensive one. In this case, you’ll give up positions for them, with a goal of finding your way out afterwards.
The point of this approach is to learn how to escape better and defend yourself more effectively. And why do this against the lower belts? Well, just think back to the times when a training partner on the same skill level – or above – mounted you… How good were you in your escape attempts? At best, you were around a 50% success rate.
So when a lower belt mounts you or gets you into an Armbar, a choke or anything else, you can work on your technique with more finesse than you can with same-rank training partners. As you get better and better in escaping these positions against lower belts, you’ll gain the skills and the muscle memory necessary to execute the same escapes against upper belts alike.
TRY OUT NEW SETUPS AND SUBMISSIONS
In the similar light to the defensive approach, you’ll improve your submission setups and techniques against lower belts simply by having more opportunities to work on them.
That is, if you’re rolling against a person who’s on the same level as you are, you won’t see many opportunities to work on your submissions and sweeps; especially on the ones that aren’t a part of your A game. But with the lower belts, it’s a whole different story! As they aren’t too skilled defensively, you will be able to try out moves much more easily and much more frequently. These repetitions and your attempts to perfect the techniques will then translate into skills very rapidly!
And that’s why rolling with the lower belts is not only beneficial… But why it’s something that you should actively look for!