Joe Rogan is a famous UFC color commentator, a host of the largest podcast channel in the world, and a 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu black belt under Eddie Bravo.
Let’s see what he has to say about rolling with lower belts:
One of the very important lessons in jiu jitsu, is that some people have this crazy idea that you have to go against the hardest guys in your gym, get your ass kicked, and that’s the way you learn.
Actually, that’s the wrong way of learning.
“The best way to get good at jiu jitsu is to strangle blue belts.”
You go, you find people that are just learning, but they are not as good as you, and you choke the f#ck out of them. That’s how you become good at your techique. People may say, “Well, that’s bullying…”
But it is important for a blue belt at some point, to spar with black belts… because you need to know there is a higher level of proficiency, skill, and there is a shorter distance in points that these guys are hitting.
They are cutting the chase, they are capitalizing on very small openings, and they get submissions quicker. So you have to know there are guys that are better.
That’s important. But, the most important thing is drilling, and when you drill, you drill with someone of your level and just practice on each other, like “You choke me, you do it twice, and I’ll do it twice.” You just practice, and maybe you resist like 50%, you pretend you’ll be resisting, because that simulates real life – you’re supposed to be building your muscle memory.
But the real way to do it and to become really sharp, after you’ve done this, is to practice on people with little amount of proficiency. Just choke the shit out of them.
That’s the way to ultimately get better … to practice on people that aren’t quite as good as you. And then, eventually, you develop and get to the point where that seems impractical.
In addition, Firas Zahabi, renowned mixed martial arts (MMA) and grappling coach as well as a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under John Danaher, has some similar advice:
“Roll with beginners. That’s the best way to firing away.”
The processing speed is everything, and if you are not catching that armbar, it’s because everything is happening too fast. If we slow it down, then the submission would happen.
When I’m rolling with a blue belt, I’m like in matrix – everything is too slow. And when I roll with blue belts, I don’t use my whole arsenal. I try to practice stuff, for example I’ll pass his guard, and then I’ll let him out. Or, I’ll mount him, and then I will toy with him… maybe I’ll practice some kimuras, or pass his guard over and over again. He’s in my world, he’s in matrix with me.
This is a targeted practice. You practice by combining your moves.
Think of it like this: if I am rolling a whole week with blue belts, how
many submissions may I pull? 150 maybe… and if I roll with black belts, I may pull like 5. So, who is getting more submissions, more opportunities to practice submissions?
There is a time to fight, and a time to practice. When I roll with black
belts, I very often let the guy go to side control. Immediately.
Why? Because, if I escape side control, I think this guy has no chance of beating me. If I escape side control, in my mind you’re done – there’s just no way you can beat me. If you weren’t able to mount me or take my back from side control, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to do so when I’m playing guard.
So, when you’re going to practice – practice. Don’t fight. Roll with the blue belts to sharpen your offense, roll with the higher belts to sharpen your defence.
Don’t underestimate the value of working with lower belts.
Full video with Firas Zahabi talking about rolling with lower belts: