How Important Is Sparring In Jiu Jitsu?

Jiu Jitsu is a grappling style of martial arts known for its ground techniques and submission holds. A typical class structure for Jiu Jitsu consists of warm ups, the technique(s) of the day and, last but not least, sparring. Drilling techniques is necessary to refine and become more efficient with them. However, performing a technique against a willing partner is entirely different than applying it in sparring sessions, where it is typical for teammates to resist against your submission attempts like they are fighting for their life. This article describes the advantages and importance of sparring in Jiu Jitsu.

Advantages of Sparring Sessions

Live sparring sessions provide tremendous benefits and growth to your Jiu Jitsu skills. As a white belt, the struggles from sparring with a black belt or even a blue belt could be frustrating. You feel like they have magical powers that allows them to predict your movements and flow flawlessly between techniques. But truth be told, it is due to the years of sharpening their technique, broadening their skills and discovering the finer details in sparring sessions that allows them this capability.

General Benefits

  • Learn new nuances to techniques as your sparring partners resists and attempts to counter them.
  • Know how to distribute your weight and apply pressure at different angles.
  • Be able to feel and predict your training partner's movements.
  • Learn how to recognize people’s strategic patterns.
  • Increase your ability to grapple in a calm and controlled manner instead of being reckless. As a result, this will allow you to spar for longer periods of time and exchange techniques with fluid movements.

Offense

  • Improves awareness for finding submission openings and timing its applications.
  • Allows you to experiment on resisting partners.
  • Enhance your ability to chain different submission techniques together based on the teammate’s reactions.

Defense

  • Be able to stay calm in bad and uncomfortable positions.
  • Get better at tapping to submissions before unnecessary injuries occur. Know when you are caught and be able to understand that you should concede to your opponent rather than letting a joint lock attempt go pass the threshold dictated by the human body.
  • Learn how to find pattern in your teammates game and how they chain submission techniques together.
  • Improve your ability to create openings and scrambling opportunities.
  • Observe adjustments needed for escaping submissions.

How to Deal with People of Different Size and Skills

It is extremely beneficial to spar with people that contrast in size and skill levels. Not only will this increase your overall Jiu Jitsu skills, it allows you to observe and strategize on the different adjustments needed to deal with these varying attributes.

Bigger and Taller Grapplers

Here are lessons learned when you spar with bigger and/or taller partners.

  • The importance of using leverage and creating frames to counter against the weight of those heavier than you.
  • Know how to change the angle of your body position as well as maneuver the placement of their arms instead of fighting their strength head on.
  • Learn to rely more on technique than the application of muscles that might work on weaker partners.
  • Figure out how to deal with scenarios like passing guard against people with longer limbs.
  • Become better at obtaining back control and minimizing the need to fight their arms altogether.
  • Learn to move yourself away instead of trying to push them off you. This is relevant in situations where you are trying to create space and shrimp away from your sparring partner.
  • Discover how to use your quickness and scrambling ability to your advantage.

Smaller and Faster Teammates

Learn how to deal with smaller and quicker grapplers.

  • Learn to counter their speed and scrambling ability with your size advantage. Use this knowledge and focus on controlling them instead of trying to chase and match their speed.
  • Reduce the space you create as you move between submissions or positions. Smaller grapplers require smaller spaces to escape from either situations.
  • Get into top positions and apply pressure at specific contact points to make them uncomfortable.

Higher Level Practitioners

Sparring with higher level teammates usually mean trying to desperately survive the onslaught that is coming. However, a lot could still be learned from them.

  • Stay calm and be able to survive in bad positions.
  • Observe how they control your balance and sweep you.
  • Pay attention to the intricacy in how they move and utilize their timing to pass your guard.
  • Keep an eye out for subtle movements and openings they create before attempting a submission.

More Inexperienced Partners

There will be moments in your Jiu Jitsu journey where you will feel like your skills has plateaued. This grief is commonly a result of continuing to grapple with higher level teammates. Until you spar with less experienced grapplers or someone new, you tend to overlook the amount of growth that has occurred.

  • Continually improve specific techniques with lower level grapplers and work your way up the ladder.
  • Practice positions that you are uncomfortable or unsuccessful in live sparring situations. For example, you might have great success in side control, but continually feel like people are escaping your back control or are reversing your mount position. This is an opportunity to force yourself in these positions and continue to polish your ability to maintain them.
  • More chance to practice submissions and sweeps.

Conclusion

Even though “winning” or submitting your training partners feels amazing, there are greater lessons that could be learned from these sparring sessions.

  • First, it provides the ability to simulate real-life scenarios that cannot be replicated by simply drilling Jiu Jitsu techniques.
  • Forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations will grow your game.
  • Gaining the respects from higher level partners normally results in them giving you tips on particular techniques or adjustments that are not discussed in class.
  • Sparring with your friends and teammates is an opportunity to experiment, learn and have fun. Save the nerve racking behavior and stubbornness to tap for the competition tournaments.

I truly believe that sparring is must, if you are physically capable and are not injured, because of the positive impacts it has on your learning curve. At the end of the day, we all share the common goal of being better at Jiu Jitsu every time we step on the mats.

Remember if you are going to spar, you should always have a mouthguard. Accidents happen quite a bit during jiu jitsu sparring. We recommend the Shock Doctor mouthguard but there are other good ones out there.​

(Last Updated On: November 8, 2017)
About the author

MMA Fan