Among the measures of a student’s progress in BJJ’s live rolling is how they look after and adjust to other people rolling next to them.

No one likes running into others while rolling, and everyone has different reactions to collision or a potential collision.

Some grapplers don’t even notice the collision, usually in a tunnel-visioned whirlwind of inexperience. Others are all too aware, stopping early 10 feet away, hoping to use half the mats for just their roll. Some seem to have an extra built-in awareness of the room and those within it. We see it often with police and security officers, military, or bouncers. Having a job that requires the zoom-out and room reading helps.

But the skill of zoomed-out social responsibility can certainly be developed, and you can watch it materialize overtime on the mats. Some academies have guidelines for exactly this. Some say stop and move for the higher belt, some say those should move who are most mobile (ie standing vs on the ground already), and others still have no real guidelines as bumping bodies figure it out in the heat.

At our academy, we simply want safety. Our mats are mostly crowded, so we rely on everyone to help keep us safe. We limit the number that can roll simultaneously for example, but once on the mats and rolling it’s up to each pair to keep their partner and the other pairings safe, regardless of rank, the present state of motion, or how “almost” you had that technique.

We encourage the view from above, putting the hive before the bee, and moving yourself. What’s best for your development is giving up that cherished position or mat space for the greater purpose of the class’s space and development, and it returns to you many times over as you continue the habit.

 And while you’re at it, you can take the opportunity to get into a more inferior position to work out of or get creative with how to “Jiujitsu” your way out of the collision zone.

Your partners will feel safe with you, and those that feel safe rolling with you will seek you out on the mats. More safety, more options, more variety, more experimentation. Take the initiative, stop YOUR roll, and move.

If your academy has set rules, understand that they are meant for safety or should be, and to obey accordingly. But it starts first with awareness, your ability to think outside your own roll. When we see this ability at our academy, we see progress. To internalize enough Jiujitsu to have the ability to shift some attention to your surroundings is a milestone, and how you use that ability shows character.