Why do you suck at flow rolling?
I suppose the real question is; why does a flow roll or attempt to “roll light” turn into a battle to the death? I think there are a few factors at play here. First, we have to assume that both parties actually want to roll light. There are definitely people that ask to roll light, and may even believe that they want to flow roll, but don’t really know what it means to flow roll.
So first, what is a flow roll? This is my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. A flow roll is like a freestyle dance where each person takes turns leading. In many ways, it looks a lot like drilling but instead of stopping after the movement, your partner starts their movement from the position where you stopped. So you might shoot for a double leg and gently bring your partner down and as they fall backward, they close guard on you. Then you can start working your pass or they might start setting up an armbar. The point is, whenever your partner starts a move you allow it and work from the position they put you in. The value of this style of movement is that you can flow through common (and unusual) positions and work proper technique while taking time to think through the position. So you can get your neural maps going and develop the muscle memory and reactions without taking a ton of damage. Some gyms have even integrated this style of movement into their regular warmups. Take 10th planet, for instance, they have a flow of the week. Typically, it’s one-sided but it’s the same idea.
There are two reasons that I can think of that people go from rolling light to trying to murder each other. The first, as stated above, they just don’t know how to. If you are just learning BJJ or don’t have the self-awareness yet to understand levels of effort and what they feel like, you might not really be rolling light. In a similar vein, I compared a flow roll to a dance. There are people out there that can’t dance. If this is you, it might make sense to take dancing lessons or at least be more present and aware of your own heart rate during a flow roll. On a side note, they say people that can dance well with a partner are better in bed. Something to think about. So I guess this is sex advice now.. be present and aware of your own heart rate.
The second reason people can’t flow roll is purely ego-driven. Assuming both parties start the flow roll with the intention of rolling, the ego can take over pretty quickly. And it only takes one ego. An example of this is when one partner chains several moves together without allowing the other to participate. This could be the case or just the perception of their training partner. Either way, the intensity ramps up one move at a time until the “flow” is now a roll to the death. Or what we lovingly refer to as training.
Thanks for reading!