When you’re new to jiu-jitsu, chances are you’ve already had some exposure to it. Whether that’s from watching the UFC, talking to friends about it, or just going to a few classes and marveling at just how easily anyone with a single piece of tape on their white belt, let alone a colored belt can do whatever they want when they roll with you. Soon enough you may start to have thoughts of “maybe I’m just not good at this.” 

For me, it was my friends who are casual MMA fans. After every class, some version of this conversation would happen via text:

Friend: How many people did you tap in class today?

Me: Nobody, not even close. 

Friend: Seriously? What happened?

Me: I got arm-barred or choked every 42 seconds for an hour and then went home. 

Friend: Oh, did you try sweeping them? It seems pretty easy.

It wasn’t until I started looking at rolling with people as data collection that I really started to have fun. 

Why Data?

Think about data on an Excel spreadsheet. It’s not organized, it’s not in a graph, it’s just numbers and decimals on a page. It’s boring. The numbers aren’t good or bad, or improving or getting worse, they are just numbers. That’s the kind of data I am talking about and how I started to think of rolling with people. Instead of ‘ah I got arm-barred again, that was really dumb,’ it became ‘this happened to me, so I did this and this was the result.’ 

Crunching The Numbers

The more you roll, the more data you collect. The more you are in positions that seem odd and result in you having to tap out, the more data you collect. Over the weeks and months you go to class you’ll notice that your brain starts making split-second decisions that don’t turn out as poorly as they used to. What used to definitely end in an armbar, now ends with someone sweeping you and taking your back. 

Everyone Is Doing It

Regardless of where you are in your jiu-jitsu progression, everyone at their core is just collecting data. When you try a new sweep or new submission or trying a new variation on a move you pull off frequently it’s all data collection. None of it good, none of it bad, it’s just numbers.