BJJ: Rolling Vs Drilling

Rolling vs drilling is one of the most consistent debates in modern BJJ. How BJJ Works defines rolling as, “an all-encompassing term for sparring or drilling at varying degrees of intensity.” In case you didn’t know, drilling is where you go over a move. In most classes, the time spent rolling and drilling is usually around 50/50. However, some professional BJJ grapplers have different opinions on how much you should drill in comparison to rolling.

Drilling to Fight

In the video below, BJJ Black Belt, André Galvão discusses in a seminar about the rapid development of BJJ. He talks about how, as the sport gets more complicated – moves that once seemed complicated no longer are, because something else has been created that’s even more advanced. In the video below, Galvão shows his point of view on rolling vs drilling, 

“I think in the jiu-jitsu world, it has changed a little bit, the conception of drilling, because you see people drilling all the time. People are drilling where they’re setting up for an hour out of the day just to focus on drilling. But I see some guys drilling and they drill lazy. When you drill, you’ve got to get to the point where you’re going to do it the way you’re going to do it in a fight. But to do this, you need to have a good repping partner.”

“You are drilling to fight. You are not drilling to drill. You’re drilling to fight, right?”

Galvão shares an interesting point, although I think it could be entirely subjective. It’s relatively common knowledge that everybody learns differently. Some people learn through repetition, others learn by going at a slower pace to allow time for things to sink in. However, Galvão goes on to expand:

“When you’re a beginner, ok you drill as a beginner. But when you start going purple belt, brown belt, even blue belt, you’ve got to start changing the way that you’re drilling. So have a good partner.”

Should Higher Belts Still Drill?

Australian grappler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Yuri Simões, Kit Dale is one of the most vocal proponents of rolling over drilling. He discusses in the video below why he thinks drilling lacks efficiency in regards to training.

He also expands on the advantages and disadvantages of training with partners of a different size, and how drilling is good for muscle memory, but learning reactions and being unpredictable is somewhat more important…

Kit also explains why he doesn’t drill anymore…

“In jiu jitsu every time you roll with a different opponent, there’s different variables. Not only do they react differently, they’re also built differently. One might be flexible and fast, the other one might be slow and strong, fat, skinny, long, tall, whatever, so these are the kinds of things you’re going to run into trouble with if you’re just planning on drilling for muscle memory – so this is why I stopped drilling.”

All in all, it seems as though the key point is that the more you progress within BJJ, the less attention you have to put on drilling. This does not mean that you should stop but maybe approach it differently. Drilling also presents a much lower risk of injury in comparison to rolling.

Drilling is imperative in training, especially for white belts, however for more advanced practitioners, there are essentially alternate methods of drilling that are closer to the rolling concept, as opposed to drilling – in order to push yourself to work harder. After all, how can you practice something you haven’t yet learnt?

Lucy Wynne

Twenty-one, from Stoke-on-Trent now living in Manchester. I'm an avid writer, music lover and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) enthusiast. I began training BJJ in Southampton when at university, and I've trained ever since. #OSS

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