How early is too early for white belts in Brazilian Jiujitsu to start sparring?
One of the most important facets of Brazilian Jiujitsu is live sparring. The ability to apply what you learn against fully resisting opponents is absolutely essential to developing useful skills for self defense and competition. Sparring with a non cooperative partner is an amazing proving ground. You get to see first hand what your strength and weaknesses are. You learn what you need to work on and have the opportunity to test concepts through rigours training against unwilling opponents who want nothing more than to shut you down and impose there own will over yours. Sparing is awesome, essential and you shouldn’t do it. Ok, let me clear this up a bit. Sparring is awesome when you have the necessary skills for it.
I have been in many jiujitsu schools that allow white belts with little to no experience to spar with other white and higher belts. I have seen many people in these schools try their first class and then spend 30 minutes getting mauled in a sparring session. This is absolute lunacy. Its also a recipe for disaster leading to injury and very likely the student quitting.
We love to spar. Its fun and exciting. If you win its exhilarating and the feeling can become quite addictive. Sparring is like a test and it makes absolutely no sense to test if you haven’t been prepared. Imagine walking in to the first day of advanced math and your teacher says “Ok class, here is you exam.” You would FREAK OUT! If you let very new white bels open spar (an open roll where they can end up in any and all positions) you are setting them up for failure and injury. You are like that math teacher who hasn’t prepared them. Even if the higher belts will go easy on them, they are clueless. They don’t need to spar they need to work on “Specific sparring.”
What is Specific Sparring and why should you be doing it instead of just rolling after class? Imagine you are in a class that is focusing on how to open and pass the Closed Guard. You partner up and work on some basic moves. Learning the leverage and fine points of each guard break and pass. Now its time to spar, you slap hands, fist bump and your opponent quickly passes your guard, pins you cross side and keeps you there until they submit you. You start again, this time you get mounted and choked. Tap tap tap. Time to go again, oh no they got your back. After a few rolls like this you notice you don’t know what to do in any of those positions. You are lost and you didn’t get a chance to really practice what you learned in class. Now lets roll it back and instead of letting it be a free for all lets set up some specific sparring. This time you get in your opponents guard, slap hands, fist bump and work on opening and passing. Once you pass and get into side control you both stop, reset back in their guard and go again. Over and over working on the skill set you just learned in class. This type of specific sparring helps you develop your skills, keeps you safer and learning faster than simply sparring without a proper foundation.
Most of a white belts sparring should be specific with occasional well supervised open rolls.
What do you think?
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