How Should Men Roll With Women?

How Should Men Roll With Women?

pictured above BJJEE.com editor Gile Huni rolling with 8x World Champion Michelle Nicolini


Brazilian jiu-jitsu cannot be separated from the live application for it. So by definition there’s bound to be plenty of interactions that would make a casual passer-by uncomfortable. But as a grappler there are certain common courtesies to adhere to!

Before we continue on this road it’s worth mentioning this is written by a female grappler and that most of the article is based on personal experiences.

First major thing that deserves discussion is ego. The really interesting part is that it goes both ways in an roll between male and female gender. When we say leave the ego at the door we might consider it self explanatory but much too often people keep score. Losing might be healthy for you but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The obvious issue is that for a man, especially for someone who has limited experience with bjj it’s often a huge issue to submit to a woman.

This is why many females in the academy stay away from fresh new white belt. In addition to the possibility of unwanted nasal surgery, there’s always that tiny moment where a guy – typically someone much larger in size will try to rip themselves out of a submission. This is something that should be generally frowned upon. If you’re already rolling with someone whose weight you surpass by a good 20 kilograms perhaps it’s time to think instead of just try to survive. Of course this isn’t an experience limited to rolling with a fresh new grappler – as my luck would have me learn. So whether you’re a woman, man or a child – when sparring with a much smaller opponent focus on technical escapes. 

There’s a misguided belief that if a technique isn’t working you just need more strength. Truthfully, most of the time you need to do something different i.e. better. There’s no other way to put it. Try to adapt. If you take away bjj’s ability to be the ultimate equalizer you’ve pretty much lost the identity of the martial art you’re practicing.

Sadly ego goes both ways. This is why I found myself being choked out during a roll with a male friend. And it was all on me! The incident in question happened while I was berating myself in my head for letting someone newer get me in a certain position. Tapping, it saves lives. And and from the angst of being choked out. So get over yourself. 

Once you’re over the ego hump, pun intended, there’s other things to consider. One such event is the internet grappler who is over the top determined to pull of move x, y or z he’s seen on the internet. All of us seek out slightly less experienced or less strong opponents to test out new moves or implement a new game play but this shouldn’t be done at all costs. Just because you’re determined to push something through doesn’t mean you should at that particular moment. Accept that some rolls aren’t meant to go your way and don’t compensate for the lack of good setup with gross strength overuse just to pull off the berimbolo to omoplata clip you were bragging about to your friends earlier.

Going up against someone smaller I like to feel the flow and to try and counter their counters as opposed to just being blindly determined to do a certain thing. There’s a huge value in flow. Flow is also the feeling you get when everything else lapses from your mind, time slows and you really feel present in the moment. To enjoy this feeling a submission isn’t required. Sometimes you can benefit from the transitions drilling and other roll aspects. If you don’t let yourself feel the flow you most certainly won’t be doing bjj in 10 years.

And finally, if something is often referred to as a douche move in the bjj community – maybe don’t try it on someone who is clearly not your equal. An example? Hmm.. wristlocks, banana splits, knee on neck choke and in general anything you’re not sure is legal at your belt level.. This last bit is more of a personal compass!


Oh and neck cranks. This should be obvious but apparently it’s not. Don’t neck crank a tiny person and you’ll sleep just fine!

Written by Iva Djokovic, Psychology graduate and BJJ practitioner at Kimura Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Serbia.