So much time in jiu-jitsu is spent rolling. Each roll is usually three minutes long. The last half hour of each class is spent rolling. If you go to an open-mat, the entire time is dedicated to rolling. This means if you go to one class and one open-mat per week, you have the opportunity to roll 30 times (probably more like 20 given changing partners and that is assuming you don’t rest and always have a partner).

I am by no means a seasoned jiu-jitsu practitioner but, I’ve found it helpful to go into each roll with an intention, or a goal. It’s incredibly likely you won’t achieve them, or they will change based on what your partner does, but having a focus is important to me before rolling with a partner. Here are some of the things I think about before deciding on my focus for an individual roll. 

My Partner

The person I am rolling with plays a big factor in my desired outcome for the next three minutes. Things I consider are:

  • Are they more experienced than me?
    • Do I know their preferred submissions to avoid traps?
  • What is their style?
    • Are they strong and controlling?
    • Do they flow well because they are flexible?
    • Will they be more aggressive to try and get slight advantages?
    • Are they more passive while waiting for me to make a mistake or leave something open?

Where Am I At?

Outside of my partner, I also do a quick run-through of me:

  • Have I learned anything I want to try?
  • Should I work on a submission I have been hitting recently?
  • Have I been getting caught in a submission, or by a particular sweep as of late?
  • Should I practice getting and maintaining dominant positions?
  • Am I gassed from previous rolls and this is going to be tough for me regardless of my partner’s skill? 

It Probably Won’t Work

Going through this thought process might give you a goal or desired outcome, but most likely won’t happen. Or you might change your mind once the roll starts. It’s important to not get discouraged as a roll is never ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Mike Tyson said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face,” which holds true in jiu-jitsu as well, but it has helped me in my practice if I have a focus before each roll. Even if I get nowhere close to achieving it.