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The Argument For Causing Pain When Rolling


Up until 2014, most of the grappling I had been exposed to was BJJ. As a result I had a very specific mindset when it came to grappling in training.  In 2014 I joined Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center.  We have a jiu-jitsu program, but some of the grapplers with whom I train have their roots in shoot fighting and catch wrestling.  They roll very differently from what I had become accustomed to in the past, and have a very different relationship with pain than most grapplers that I’ve encountered elsewhere.

Perhaps the biggest difference from these styles to jiu-jitsu is that these styles allow and encourage pain generation.  While in jiu-jitsu, pain is treated as an undesirable side effect of certain positions and moves, in many other grappling arts pain is the objective as the reactions that it creates are far more severe and definite.

Jiujiteiros probably read this in disgust: “Pain for the sake of pain?  That’s barbaric!”  But there is some method to this madness.

In learning both to absorb and dish out pain, sometimes truly excruciating debilitating pain, I have developed aspects of my game that I didn’t even know were there.  For example, I am able to make an opponent react far more aggressively in competition than I was able to in the past. That reaction often opens up opportunities to hit great submissions.

Also, my pain threshold has gone up substantially, making me far more capable of deciphering positions that I may have avoided in the past.

I recently saw a video on here covering the definition of a “**** move”, or an impolite move.  In the video, BJJ black belt Nick Albin explained that when he does something that may be painful; he must define to himself why it is he is doing that. If he is simply generating pain for pain’s sake, he is being a ****.

The mindset behind training some of these other grappling arts is that pain in and of itself should be a goal.  One of the coaches I train with, Sean Daugherty always likes to say “A.D.D.  Always Do Damage.”  When Sean rolls with me, he does things in neutral positions that force me to react, things that if I were still training with the BJJ mindset would upset me and make me think Sean was being a ****.  However, when he does these things, my instant reactions lead to effective transitions and submission entries.

As I’ve increased my understanding of pain, I’ve realized that yes it’s not nice, yes it’s kind of rude to do to your training partners, and certainly most of my training partners never see that side of my game.  But it’s an aspect of the game that deserves time and attention.  Learn to cause pain, and make sure that the pain you cause evokes reactions.  Figure out what the most likely reactions will be and learn to use those reactions to make your jiu-jitsu more effective.

Rolling like this isn’t for everyone. The fact that catch wrestlers roll like this may be a reason that catch isn’t more popular.  However, if you have a stomach for it, find yourself training partners who are willing to subject themselves to this kind of misery (and agree to rolling this way with you) and explore it. There is certainly an argument that can be made for pain.

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