BJJ & Aggression In Training
I’ve been looking around a few other BJJ blogs in recent weeks, as well as a few forums. One topic that seems to pop up time and time again is the idea for the need to use a high level of aggression when training, and specifically rolling, in BJJ. Obviously, there is a time and a place for using aggression in BJJ. It is a combat sport after all. I’ve written in the past about the need to test postures and techniques against resistance, and as training ramps up towards competition preparation, there is no doubt that some level of aggression needs to be involved. But that is not what I refer to here. Instead I am referring to various blogs stating the need to use certain levels of aggression against certain team members; either an out-of-control white belt, or against the few, well known, meat-head types at their gym.
Is Aggression Needed in BJJ to Control the Out-of-Control?
The reasons they give for both seem fair enough. After all, added aggression against a white belt will allow them to quickly learn not to freak out wildly and become more timid as they are dominated by others. With the meat-head, the same rule applies, and that aggression is a necessity in order to both compete with this opponent as well as keep them in check. Another reason is that being more aggressive and forceful against these characters will decrease the chance of picking up an injury, because in both instances a lack of knowledge, appreciation, and the correct attitude can lead to either party being hurt. But really, is this an answer? Is there perhaps a better way to deal with these situations?
The reason I am curious about this subject is because I haven’t, in fact, had to deal with either issue since I began my training at SBG Portland. I have never had an occasion where I’ve rolled with a crazed, panicking white belt, nor felt overly beat up on by a meat-head with a higher belt than me. I think the reason comes down to both the team ethic, and the style of training, at SBG. Whilst I am all for the inclusion of rolling and live sparring as part of training, new students are not exposed to this aspect of BJJ until they have gone through two to three months of fundamentals classes. These fundamentals classes show all students the same essential postures, positions and techniques, and allow them a chance to work against gradual, progressive resistance, until the coach feels that the student has reach a point where they have a solid, basic grasp of the fundamentals. Only at this point is there any exposure to rolling. Prior to SBG, I had trained at another BJJ school that had me jump into a class and had me rolling after a fifteen minute warm-up. I thrashed around wildly before being triangled in seconds. It was a startling and pointless experience in which I learnt nothing. The SBG approach of progressive resistance allows the student to ease into a live sparring situation with the mindset that lets them remain calm, recognize the situation, and begin to roll productively from the outset.
The second condition that plays a major role is the team ethic. All around the SBG PDX gym there are rules posted, one of which is to remember that you are part of the tribe. It is an important one to remember, because despite BJJ being an individual sport, success cannot be achieved without a team around you, including patient, attentive coaches and cooperative training partners. A gym with a strong team ethos that exists from the coaches and most senior members down through to the newest beginners, should swiftly weed out any characters that do not fit in with the overriding feel of the gym. That is not to say that a gym should be made up of identical clones, but that each individual should train with mutual respect for one another. This happens best through a strong sense of community and a sense of mutual desire to improve and openness to learn. Those seeking to boost their ego and constantly ‘prove’ themselves are naturally less likely to stick with such a model.
So, to me it seems that using additional aggression on certain types of BJJ practitioner is rarely necessary, when a strong team ethos and effective training program are in place. Even without these critical elements in place at a gym, I’m not sure what happened to just quietly talking to these supposed offenders. I, for one, count myself lucky to be part of a BJJ team in which this question has never arisen.