BJJ Advice & Opinions

7 Things To Do BEFORE Every Roll

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We know everyone from new hobbyists to pros only has so much time to maximize each training session’s potential! So it would lend to logic that there MUST be some things you could do to get more out of your precious BJJ sessions!  I mean, who doesn’t wish they could make a three-year jump in their game over the next 12 months if they were able.

However, to fast-track jiu-jitsu’s learning curve in such a dramatic manner means we have to ask ourselves an important question – “How DO I get prepared before I go train?” For many, it’s just jumping in the car or on my bike to get to class. I’ve been there. But if you REALLY ask yourself honestly, I’m sure you would agree that we could all squeeze a little more juice from training if we examined our methods.

So, here are my 7 things to do BEFORE every roll! 

Take A Moment For Yourself 

We have people, advertising, and even our phones trying all day to fill our heads full of their ideas and propaganda. When it’s time to train BJJ, I make sure to take a few minutes and clear my head of all that “noise” to be present and ready to take in every bit of information I can. Even if it’s a drilling session, there is a lot of physical “data” thrown at you, and you never know which piece of information may be the key to unlock your next BJJ level. 

So turn on some music or hell, just put on some headphones (yup, I’m that guy) and take a moment for yourself. In my opinion, it is a way to “Clean your plate off” or “Empty your cup” so that you are ready to fill your stomach with the delicious sweet drink that is BJJ.

Plan Ahead & Pick Your Techniques 

Most people think just coming to class gets them better. They are wrong. Lots of people come to class and don’t get better or stagnate if they don’t shake things up to grow. Every class is an OPPORTUNITY. What you do with that opportunity and how efficiently you manage that time is is another thing.

Thankfully though, this is super easy.

Make sure that you pick out the techniques and strategies you plan on working on in advance. This pre-class routine becomes especially important as you rise through the BJJ ranks and learn more jiu-jitsu. At some point, it can become overwhelming to have a massive catalog of BJJ tech in your head to figure out what part of your game requires purposeful attention to hit your next level.

Review Your Notes to Warm Up Your Mind 

Do you remember what you learned this day three years ago?

Nah, me neither. That’s why I take copious notes in my BJJ Journal.

You want to take whatever you learned in the previous session and have them build on each other. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your training was one big rolling session where every class is just another opportunity to add a new detail as you get deeper into your mastery of one subject in the art of BJJ?

Of course, you would love that! That’s why it is so important to have a BJJ Journal and invest 1-2 mins max to write in it each session. EXTRA POINTS if it’s digital in a notes app or spreadsheet so that you can effortlessly search for the date or subject you are looking for!

This way, you can skim through a subject and have those sweet BJJ “oh yeah” moments before your session and really take your opportunity to train that day to the next level.

Warm-Up Dynamically 

I talk about this one all the time!

Rule #1 in BJJ is “DON’T GET HURT,” or at least make sure to make it as rare as possible!

The term dynamic flexibility refers to an individual’s complete range of motion achieved with dynamic stretching. In other words, applying dynamic stretches that work on how far you can reach, bend or turn by using velocity and momentum to achieve maximum range of motion. Dynamic flexibility is sometimes referred to as ballistic or functional flexibility if you want to get deeper into the subject.

A similar definition comes from Corbin and Noble in the Journal of Physical Education and Recreation; they describe dynamic flexibility as, 

“The ability to use a range of joint movement in the performance of a physical activity at either normal or rapid speed.”

Rather than go down the rabbit hole of “Dynamic Stretching” and its many benefits vs. “Static Stretching” before a BJJ training session, I’ll just leave a definition and a few links here below.

But none of that matters if you don’t show up early or at least on time to get warmed up correctly before putting your body through the kind of BJJ training session your game deserves!

Check out a brief article on the difference between Dynamic and Static Stretching HERE.

And for a more thorough and just slightly longer read on the subject, click HERE.

Communicate With Your Partner 

It doesn’t have to be communication about that weird dream you had last night or how you tried to eat a treat as a reward ONLY to forget to take off your mask and smash a tiny chocolate cheesecake into your face while a toddler staring at you from a distant table on the other side of the restaurant clearly questions your ability to “adult”…

That would be ridiculous, and there’s no reason to relive that soul-crushing moment to prepare for a roll.

I’m talking about taking the opportunity to let your partner know where you are having a hard time pulling the technique off in live rolls. Or let your partner know what level of resistance you are looking for. 

If you feel super confident in a technique but just want to test out a new detail:

-Let your partner know to go a bit harder and faster while drilling so you can dial in cadence and mobility. Conversely, if a technique is new or it’s one, you need to become a bit more technical around – let your partner know to go a bit slower so you can get to the end, collect your data, and drill the tech again. 

Communicate About Any Injuries 

In all my years as a BJJ practitioner, coach, and professor, this one gets abused the most! For some reason, many BJJ practitioners mistakenly think that alerting their partner to an injury to watch out for is a sign of abject weakness. 

Letting a training partner know you’re injured doesn’t mean you’re not worth a roll or making excuses because you sat in an armbar too long, and now your elbow is a bit jacked up. It’s just communication before a roll to improve with your partner. If you’re injured, just let your partner know. If you don’t trust them, or rather DO trust that they could care less about your safety and ability to get back to 100%-ish soon…

Then don’t roll with them while you’re injured. 

Communicate Your Goals 

Let your partner know what part of your game you’re working on. I know the classic BJJ-related anxiety, “But Professor, if I let them know what I’m working on, then they will see it coming, and I’ll lose…”

Woah, there kemosabe! If your technique in a position is so weak that letting someone know you’re working on it will stop you, that’s EXACTLY why you should let them know. That insight gives them the opportunity to GIVE YOU DATA around how that entry and/or control works. The importance of that data cannot be understated.

Besides, I would prefer to be the kind of BJJ practitioner that can tell you what I’m going for and make it happen, regardless of your feeble attempts to ward it off. Isn’t that the kind of game you prefer for your current and future self too?

Naturally, these are 7 of my favorite things before every roll. But I’m sure you all have others that you think I have missed! If that’s the case, you can click on the video I made to sum up, this blog (with a BONUS 8th thing I like to do) and leave a comment below the video.

I’m genuinely interested in seeing what you like to do, EVEN THOUGH the comments section gets a little crazy from time to time.


Prof Mikal Abdullah is a father, husband, US Army veteran, and 1st Degree BJJ Black Belt who is also the founder of Aces Jiu Jitsu Club facilities and this sweet Blog. Prof Mikal is a huge nerd, loves coaching and sharing BJJ with anyone he can and pointing a spotlight on how we can improve as a sub-culture on and off the mats as much as he likes strangling his friends.

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