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  • Writer's pictureBJJ Report | Matthew Tropp

Warning! NEVER ask a Blackbelt to spar?

As a general rule, it is usually not considered good practice for lower belts to ask a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) blackbelt to spar. This is a death sentence in most gyms...(joking)

I honestly do not know why this is the case nor do I agree with it whatsoever. Maybe there is a chain of command that stems from the old "brazilian days".

Where I train (and my professor is brazilian) it’s okay to ask any of the blackbelts to roll. At other academies, I have heard from people that it is not okay to ask a BJJ Blackbelt to roll (spar).

Here is an example of what happens in this situation... A blue belt looks at a blackbelt and says, "do you want to roll"? All of a sudden a few students grab him and pull him to the side and save his life by yelling at him "you never ask a blackbelt to roll". Sounds like suicide, right I can hear the ambulance drivers gossip during the ride to the morgue "he asked a blackbelt to free train, what a stupid blue belt."

  • FIRST OF ALL, there is no OFFICIAL RULE saying you cannot ask a higher belt to roll!

WHY? Why is this even a thing?

When visiting a different martial arts academy, it's important to be mindful of certain etiquette. If you are not a black belt, it's best to avoid asking higher belts to engage in a sparring session. This shows respect for their training and the rules of their academy. In the worst-case scenario, simply inquire if it is appropriate to ask. If it is, great! If not, be patient and wait for the opportunity to roll with the higher belts. It's much safer and more effective to learn this way, rather than risking the frustration of a black belt eager to submit you repeatedly until you learn your lesson.

How To Ask a BJJ Blackbelt to Roll

Experience the time of your life with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts! But first, approach it from the right perspective.

Contrary to popular belief, 99% of black belts won't overpower you. They don't need to prove anything. While they may work on their offense or defense, they won't go all out against you.

However, there's a catch. If you challenge them with an uncontrolled, aggressive approach, they will respond in kind.

But here's the better approach: communicate with the black belt. Ask them what kind of roll they prefer. Then, focus on learning and applying proper techniques. If they allow you to attack, do it with finesse. And if you defend, use your skills while keeping their safety in mind.

By following this approach, you'll have an incredible learning experience with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts.

My answer about this urban myth is at one time it was considered a form of "respect" (and poor leadership in my opinion)! It is the same reason we bow before we walk on the mat (if you do at your academy). So, what happens if you don't bow before walking on the mat? Nothing happens! It’s an older custom and/or tradition.

We do not have to bow before walking on the mats at the academy I train at. In fact, we rarely line up. When the class starts, we get straight to business. We warm up for a few minutes, we learn techniques and sequences to better our game. We practice those sequences. Then we do situational sparring for about 20 or 30 minutes and after that we free train (spar). I have never had a blackbelt tell me I should not ask another blackbelt to spar. This happens with Blue and Purple belts most of the time.

Ultimately, it may be best to respect BJJ blackbelts and refrain from asking them to spar at certain gyms until you (or them) pass the vibe check. It is important to remember that not all blackbelts are unapproachable.

Can you ask a blackbelt to roll in BJJ?

Absolutely! A black belt is one of the best people to learn from and sparring with them can help shar your skills. It's important to remember that they are experienced martial artists with a lot of knowledge so going in with respect and humility is key. Make sure you have good protective gear, such as a mouthguard and headgear, to prevent potential injuries. When training with a black belt, remember to be open to feedback and instruction. They might offer pointers or advice that could help you in the long run, so it's important to listen and take their advice seriously. Sparring is an integral part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and having a blackbelt as a sparring partner can really help improve your technique. It's also important to remember that the goal of sparring is not to win every time or prove yourself, but rather to learn and improve your skills as a martial artist.

It's also a good idea to get on the mat and practice with different people so you can gain different perspectives. This can help you become a better martial artist in the long run. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a great way to learn self-defense, improve your physical conditioning and gain confidence. Sparring with experienced practitioners, such as black belts, can help you refine your skills and get more out of the art.

My Final Thoughts? I have None really. Just show up as often as you can and train safely, have fun and consume plenty of Acai!

Matthew Tropp | BJJ Report

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