Should Rolling with Students be a Necessity For Every Jiu-Jitsu Instructor?

Should Rolling with Students be a Necessity For Every Jiu-Jitsu Instructor?

Photo by Daria Kochetkova Photography. IG: Tebezvonu.

The idea that a belt ranking would be assigned to a student that doesn’t roll is almost universally frowned upon. But what can be said of the instructors that don’t roll? Are there any advantages to instructors that sit on the sidelines?


The truth of the matter is that by the time most have reached the black belt level they’re heavily digging into their 30s. And life as an aging grappler is no picnic.

Source: bjjsurveys.com

Source: bjjsurveys.com

So what is more beneficial, an instructor who rolls or an instructor who watches you from the sidelines when you roll and gives you pointers?

This is exactly what BJJEE editor in chief asked himself several days ago.

Jason Scully of the Grapplers Guide believes grappling is like most other sports – to improve you don’t need to be sparring against your student:


Behar Dijana Abdulah raised another interesting point:


Patrick De Caro had an elaborate response of his own.


Much like all bjj questions, this one is open ended as well. It depends on your perspective, your particular situations and many other nuances.

One other person to answer this dilemma in a particularly memorable way was Firas Zahabi.

He talked about Warrior philosophy a while back and on the very end of his segment he was asked an interesting question:

What would you do if you got paralyzed later this afternoon? Would you still train other people?

After answering the part about his intellect Firas turns to the part relevant for this discussion:

“I don’t think I would be able to do it as good as other people would, so I would cultivate my intellect more. Because to teach competitors I would feel I’m not giving them the best. Some other guy can take over and now do better than I did. So probably put my eggs in another basket. “

The key to answering this question might be contained in all of these replies.

We can also take this question on from an entirely different paradigm. Many people consider bjj their therapy and this is a metaphor that lends itself particularly well to vast majority of the lifestyle.

BJJ as a sport  lends itself to the diseases of ego and ill fated ambitions perhaps better then any other venue – notably better than basketball and wrestling (mentioned above in the Jason Scully response). So giving students the opportunity to undermine the authority of the person in charge might be the worst possible thing in some situations…

Would you respect a therapist that had his life less together then, you – the patient in this hypothetical situation? 

Why provide them the opportunity to submit you? Especially so given that the authority in a jiu-jitsu academy comes with the baggage of more than a decade of experience and accumulated injuries? If you add on the huge size disadvantage many instructors face is it really worth it?


Every situation has a tailor made response in the end, the truth is in the eye of the beholder. While it’s easy enough to ask which would you prefer the active instruction given in live combat or sparse observations of an experienced bystander the answer couldn’t be more complicated.

The factors to be considered are the overall level of academy members, their competitive ambitions, their talent but also their ego and the respect they have for the instructor..

The same could be said about the instructor in question – is he/she a high level competitor? Is he in competition preparation mode most of the time? If so, are your attributes playing into what they want to prepare for or not?  How fragile is his or her ego? Does he command the respect he believes he deserves?

All of these factors and even more tailor the attitudes of both sides in this conundrum. In the end there’s always the freedom to seek out the environment you believe compliments you the most or to create it if you yourself are the person in authority. It’s needless to say that any given combination can result in success, ultimately like many of these multi factor equations it’s all about finding the setup that works for you.

So we turn to you and ask: Which of these approaches has been more helpful in your experience thus far?


Is Rolling With Students A Necessity For Every Instructor?





 Written by Iva Djokovic, Psychology graduate and BJJ practitioner.