Andy & Lee training in Jiu Jitsu

Beginners Guide To Rolling

Sparring or Rolling as its know in the Jiu Jitsu circles is one of the most enjoyable aspects of BJJ training.

Rolling will also form a larger part of your Jiu Jitsu training and provide a few simple rules are followed beginners can start sparring faster than in almost any other martial art.

Before you start sparring, it’s important you understand a few basic principles and rules, and what the point of sparring is. Learning these rules will you make the most out of your time sparring and help you avoid injuries.

How Hard Should You Be Sparring

Sparring is a tool that can help you develop faster than anything else. It is not a competition or a fight and shouldn’t be treated as such.

The goal of every sparring session is to learn and work on the areas you need to develop.

Andy & Lee training in Jiu Jitsu

Consequently, the vast majority of the time there is no need to fight at 100%. You should a for 50 – 75% of your maximum effort as this will allow you to focus on proper execution of technique and learning.

How and When To Tap

The first and most important thing to learn before you start rolling is how to tap and what it means.

This will simple movement will protect you and your opponent from injury. However, it is often misunderstood.

Rolling isn’t a competition so Tapping or Submitting is NOT winning or losing. It simply gives you a way to restart and (hopefully) learn from your mistake. It can also be considered a sign of respect to your training partner for a technique well executed.

Here are a few IRONCLAD rules about how and when to tap.

  • Always make your tap OBVIOUS by tapping more than once and with enough force so your partner feels it.
  • Always tap your training partner NOT the floor. The floor doesn’t care about your wellbeing or if you break.
  • Always clearly SAY “tap” at the same time as you tap.
  • If your arms are tied up then repeatedly STAMP your feet on the floor.
  • NEVER yell out unless you’re in pain useless you intend to tap.
  • Always tap the moment you feel the effects of a submission. DO NOT hold on to the last second.
  • Always RELEASE a submission if you think you’re at risk of injuring your training partner or the moment you feel them tap.

Which Techniques Can I Use?

On the whole Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a safe martial art to practice, however, some of the techniques are more dangerous than other. Consequently, some techniques are banned at the lower levels but legal at high belts, and some techniques are banned entirely.

As a general rule of thumb, there are a few submissions that are always legal in competition and rolling. Here’s a rough breakdown:

  • Blood Chokes – putting pressure on the sides of your opponent’s neck (e.g. Rear Naked Choke, Cross Collar Choke)
  • Elbow Locks – applying pressure to your opponent’s elbow (e.g. Armbars)
  • Shoulder Locks – applying pressure to your opponents shoulder (e.g. Kimura, American)

There are also a few submissions that are illegal across all levels Jiu Jitsu and should NEVER be used. Here’s a rough breakdown:

  • Neck Cranks – bending the neck to put pressure on the spine.
  • Spine Locks – applying pressure to spine.
  • Slamming – picking your opponent up and throwing them to the ground
  • Small Joint Manipulation – directly attacking individual fingers and toes of your opponent
  • Attacking the Wind Pipe – applying direct pressure to the windpipe.

As stated before, some submissions are legal at higher grades but not others. The most commonly used structure for this comes from the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation or IBJJF.

The IBJJF’s rules are used across the majority of BJJ competitions, and by most instructors. Here is the current (August 2016) IBJJF illegal techniques:

IBJJF Illegal Techniques

IBJJF Illegal Techniques Photos 1

IBJJF Illegal Techniques Photos 2

IBJJF Illegal Techniques Photos 3

To stay up to date with the IBJJF rules you should regularly check the IBJJF rules page available at

How To Avoid Becoming To Tired During Sparring

It’s very common for beginner BJJ students to become tired quickly during sparring, even if you’re in excellent physical shape. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, you may be anxious. It’s very easy to become over-excited when you first start sparring. Being over-excited will make it hard to relax and maintain an effective breathing pattern. This will mean your muscles will be tense the entire time you’re sparring.

The second reason is inexperience. Most beginners will use far too much energy and strength to achieve their objectives rather than positioning, leverage, and technique.

Whenever either of these things happens, you simply need to relax, and focus on your breathing and using correct technique.

The more you spar, the easier it will become and the more you will develop.

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