Improving your game when teammates mostly lower grades

In most Jiu-Jitsu gyms the majority of people in the gym will usually be blue belt or lower. This is because only a small percentage of people that begin BJJ ever make it to purple belt or higher.

This is especially the case in smaller gyms that may only be a few years old. If you are in a gym like this and are a higher belt you may only have a handful of training partners at the same level as you. This means that majority of the time spent rolling and drilling is done with people that are of a lower grade than you.

When rolling with lower grades it is often hard to challenge yourself and you may find that your level of progression slows. Lower grades do not offer the same resistance as more experienced players and as a result it can be more difficult to sharpen your technique. When drilling they can sometimes find it hard to understand the position and movement which can also impact your ability to effectively learn a technique.

However it is still possible to improve your game using strategy and and a smarter approach to training with lower grades. Try the following tips when rolling with those white and blue belts in order to get the most out of your sessions.

Focus on applying the correct technique

This one can be difficult and can take a lot of discipline to do consistently. Often you may be tempted to transition or move into a position because you can. Likewise you may be able to complete a submission that is not fully on as the white belt will tap early.

Try to avoid these situations if possible and instead work harder to ensure that you are applying the correct technique. Keep notes on your technique and get videos if possible. This will help you to see your mistake and will make it easier to work on.

Tommy Langaker Espen Mathiesen: The Norwegien blackbelts and Worlds medalists who developed their games without world class teammates

Don’t go straight to A game

Try to avoid the temptation to go straight to your favourite position and submissions. Without thinking you may find yourself automatically doing this but try to resist the urge by having other positons and subs in your head that you want to work on.

For example if you like closed guard and triangle set ups, why not work from half guard and pick 1-2 sweeps or guard passes to work on for the whole session. Strictly only allow yourself to use these moves. By doing this your brain will have to work harder and you are more likely to learn something new.

Don’t try to muscle out of bad positions.

If you make a mistake and get your guard pass it is ok to accept the position instead of muscling your way out. If you made the mistake against a more experienced BJJ player you would definitely have your guard passed so work hard on the correct counter instead of getting annoyed and forcing an escape.

This takes some practice and can be tricky to master but as you become more confident in your game you should be able to find it easier.

If most of your training time is spent with lower grades then you should make an extra effort to train with higher grades whenever you get the chance. If you have a visitor at the gym or if you are travelling always ensure that you get to roll or work with the higher grade if possible.