BJJ Poll: What is the Protocol at Your School for Asking Someone with a Higher Ranking Belt Than Yours to Roll with You?

by Caleb on April 30, 2011

We recently received this email from one of you guys out there:

I’m a long time listener of your podcast, and have a question I have been wondering about. Recently I was promoted to the rank of purple belt in bjj, and have heard from some of the brown, and black belts around that the purple belt is like moving from apprentice to journeymen in a trade union. One of the black belts I train regularly with said it that the purple belt is the beginning of the advanced game. With that in mind I had a question that I have been wondering about. When I was a blue and white belt I never approached any belt higher then mine and asked them to roll with me. I always waited for them to ask me, and would jump at the chance to do it, especially from purple belt on up. Mostly out of respect, to the higher belt. My question is:

What is the protocol for asking a higher ranking belt then your to roll with you?

I am an older practitioner (I turn 38 in August), and when I look around my gym for people to roll with I am always looking for a partner who is going to match up well with me both physically and mentally. I like to get a gauge on how that person rolls before I roll with them, I’m definitely trying to avoid the win at all costs type, and go more towards the type that is going to make me work in a smart and safe manner. My gym has no set guideline written on asking people to roll, but I have heard from other higher ranking belts that the higher ranking student should ask, and if asks they have the right to politely say no. I hope all this makes sense, I’m just trying to get a deeper answer.

- R.

So what’s it like where you train? Which of the above best describes where you learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Vote in the poll on this post to let us know, and don’t hold back on the comments either!

(Congrats on your purple belt, R.! That is an awesome accomplishment! And thank you for the poll suggestion!)

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad April 30, 2011 at 8:24 am
Mr_Mike April 30, 2011 at 10:59 am

At my school, the instructor decides who will face who in the 3 to 4 10 minute training matches we have. The only time I’ve done anything different is after My instrucor is a 4th degree black belt and, seems to make wise decisions with his picks. We line up along the wall and, he says Mike, go with… I always get a good mix of styles, abilities and, sizes.

Geordie May 1, 2011 at 5:51 am

I wonder what percentage of people that answer this poll are unaware if they have a guideline or not? In our school we have this guideline but, we do not enforce it or reprimand a student for approaching a higher rank, however if the lower rank is not courteous or has been rested while everyone rolls and then wants to roll, the higher rank will usually give them a hard roll. As with anything be polite and humble and you should not have any trouble.

FJ May 1, 2011 at 8:20 am

While we don’t have any rules, ill wait to be asked by a black belt, I’ll ask a brown after some sort of eye contact have been made while looking around.

Al Morrison May 1, 2011 at 8:58 am

I’m not actually sure. I rolled with a brown belt who turned up to the whitebelt class. and I’ve rolled with blue and purples in the intermediate class.

pKleff May 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

At my academy everyone rolls with everyone, & everyone asks everyone. Coming up in rank (I’m a new purple belt as well.) I never even thought that this might be a concern. I think that this is because the philosophy at our academy is that everyone is in charge of their own training. So, if you want to roll with a higher belt, it’s up to you to ask him and take control of your training. At times I actually had the almost opposite concern. I was worried about not asking the higher belts when I had the chance, in case I might appear to be be avoiding harder rolls. Mostly it never matters though, because we normally roll for about an hour every night, and everyone usually gets to roll with each other at least once.

Andrew May 1, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Great question!

At my gym the highest rank we have is purple belt, the rest are all blues and whites. There is no protocol, but I think it is fair to say that being asked to roll with our head coach (who is a purple, but he can kick my butt any day!) is a privilege, though he does get in and roll in most classes.

I think the “ask higher belts to roll” thing comes back to the overall ethos of the club. From the comments I have read, some people who train at places where you can ask anyone to roll seem to have a very relaxed club atmosphere anyway. Where I train there is no bowing or anything like that. When we roll we just slap hands and off we go. With that in mind, it would seem odd for us to have ONE particular older tradition, when we don’t really keep any of the others.

(I should point out that where I train is completely respectful of clubs that do maintain a higher level of discipline and incorporate bowing and those sorts of things).

Franck May 2, 2011 at 9:22 am

I use to train in a very traditional martial art environment, and higher belt have to be always busy , it is a sign of respect to ask to a higher belt to train with you .so in jiujitsu I keep this in mind , I am a blue belt , and I try to roll with higher belt each time I have the opportunity to do so…. remember there shouldn’t be any ego involved on the mat. I read that Roger gracie rolls with every guys in his academy , even when he is exhausted….

Roger May 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Every Dojo has their own way. At out academy we believe the higher belt have the right to ask first. The higher belts are the upper class men and reserve this right if they choose. A lower belt could ask and the higher belt could say no and choose someone else if they so choose, however, if the higher belt picks the lower belt, the lower belt should not refuse. For us its an honor to show this kind of respect to the higher belts, realizing they have the more time and experience.

Caleb May 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

Doh! You are right Brad!

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