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How To Roll With Different Types of People In BJJ

In a previous article, we went over how important it is to spar/roll in jiu jitsu. Sparring is vital, and you should force yourself to spar with different types of opponents.

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.

In this article, we go over tips for how to deal with people of different sizes and skill levels.

Bigger and Taller Opponents

Here is what you should do 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 Opponents 

For dealing with smaller opponents, take these tips to heart:

  • 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 Opponents

Sparring with higher level people usually mean trying to desperately survive the onslaught that is coming. As Sam Harris would put it, it is like drowning over and over again. However, a lot could still be learned from these lessons in drowning. Here is what you can do when rolling with high level practitioners to get the most out of your sessions with 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.
  • Some really high level guys will let you work and get into dominant positions. Do not use this opportunity to be an a-hole to them when they are letting you work---like putting all your weight on their sternum for knee-on-belly or cranking the kimura. Instead, use this position to flow and work through your progressions.

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. So rolling with inexperienced grapplers is a must. Here are some tips for grappling with more inexperienced grapplers.

  • Use technique, not strength to get your way into submissions and dominant positions. In fact, use as little strength as necessary.
  • 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 improve your overall game.


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