Sparring has long been used in martial arts to develop one’s techniques. Although this is the intention of many martial arts students, many sparring matches turn out to be less constructive and more destructive, defeating its purpose. Because of this, flow rolling was developed.
Unlike your typical live spar, flow rolling is less competitive, involving a give and take between two training partners. It is performed at a slower, flowing pace and uses little to zero resistance. It focuses on movement and learning at a controlled pace.
For many BJJ students, flow rolling is a powerful tool that could improve their overall BJJ game. Because they are unable to practice new techniques or try a new style due to the intensity of regular sparring, flow rolling is their best option since it is the closest thing to live sparring.
Flow rolling will change your game
In regular sparring, many of us revert back to our A-games, especially when we’re faced with a tough opponent. The desire to try anything new or work on techniques is lost because we’re so focused on winning the spar. Perhaps it’s the resistance or fear of getting submitted – whatever the case is, regular sparring won’t help us change our game.
Adding flow rolling to your training repertoire makes you more comfortable with trying new techniques and stepping out of your comfort zone. Without the pressure of regular sparring, you’d be more inspired to become creative with your techniques and positions.
Flow rolling will make you more observant
Flow Roll with BJJ World Champions Alex Silva and Bruno Pucci!
WATCH: Flow Roll with BJJ World Champions Alex Silva and Bruno Pucci!
Because movement is so unrestricted in flow rolling, your mind is constantly working to think of new techniques, positions, and escapes to use. Eventually, these techniques become second nature because your mind is conditioned to seek them out. The more observant you are about the techniques you use, the less you start to think about them. This undoubtedly transfers into faster transitions and submission chains in regular sparring.
Flow rolling also makes you more observant of your opponent’s reactions, forcing you to devise counters to these. The next time we are able to get into our favorite position in regular sparring, we can predict how our opponent will react and bait them into a counter-attack.
The Unspoken Rules Of Flow Rolling
1) Don’t forget your focus
The focus of every flow roll or spar should be to learn, not to win. It’s to add new techniques to your arsenal or explore new styles and elevate your BJJ game. You would have never had such an opportunity with full-on sparring because you aren’t focused on submissions or positions – you’re just trying to see what works and what doesn’t and see what happens.
2) Go with the flow
BJJ Flow Rolling: Shinya Aoki x Bruno Pucci
BJJ Flow Rolling: Shinya Aoki x Bruno Pucci
There’s a reason it’s called flow rolling. There should be no intensity, speed, or strength involved when you’re attempting techniques. Instead, you should let each other move freely – no grips, no shoulder pressure – nothing. The minute you do any of the above, you revert back to regular sparring. Focus on movement, flexibility, and breathing. Relax. You’d be amazed to see what happens when you do.
3) Give and take
If you find yourself winning a flow roll, you’re doing it all wrong. Flow rolling is all about give and take. If you find yourself in good positions or going back to the same submissions over and over again, you’re likely using strength over your training partner. If you’re just using technique, try something else – after all, that’s what flow rolling is for.
4) Don’t finish submissions
As we mentioned above, flow rolling is all about give and take. If you do get a submission, be sure to let it go. Just keep on flowing!
5) Talk to your partner
Although it isn’t supposed to, things could get intense when you’re flow rolling. Don’t hesitate to tell your partner to restart so you can both go back to the correct intensity level.
Through flow rolling, you’re exposing yourself to new techniques and mastering them, making you more well-rounded. You’ll also learn how to fix bad habits and acquire new good ones. Thus, there is no doubt that flow rolling is one of the best training methods to help you take your BJJ to the next level.