A hard role to fill

The purple belt instructor at my weekend school has been one of my very favorite training partners since I started there. From the beginning he has made it a point to roll multiple rounds with me and he even invites me to come in before class for extra rolling. He might secretly be my favorite person there.

A couple of months ago, it became clear to me that he was pushing me toward a roll I didn’t think I would ever fill. He wants me to be an enforcer. This first came up in a conversation I mentioned in this post where he said that a few guys at the gym needed to be taken down a notch and he thought I was just the person to do it.

I understand the reasoning behind wanting me to be the person to catch these guys. What better way to take a guy down a notch than to have a girl tap him? In a way I feel like I should be insulted by this. It shouldn’t be insulting to be tapped out by a girl! But I really do get where he is coming from. He is not looking to humiliate these guy but to show them that BJJ is not about being strong and going hard. The beauty of BJJ is that if it is applied correctly the smaller/weaker opponent can win. It’s the basis of the whole system. Valerie Worthington shared a story about an experience she had with a new guy while training once and also just recently blogged about it here. In her words, it’s the art!

There is one guy in particular that my coach has been pushing me to get. I think it is important to note here that neither of us dislikes this guy. I actually like him a lot. He is a good guy. He just likes to go fast and hard. As my coach put it, he likes to ragdoll everyone. He is having success doing this against newer people who don’t know how to handle it and I get the feeling that my coach thinks this may be going to his head. This is where I am supposed to come in.

I have not had a ton of experience rolling with this guy. I do remember that the first time we rolled, after I got over the initial onslaught (I really should just prepare for everyone to go nuts after we bump fists so it stops surprising me), I realized that in doing everything hard and fast, he was also being very sloppy and leaving a ton of space. It was really one of my first “aha” moments when I started to realize that there are ways to deal with someone who is going really hard. I have had some bad rolls with him since when I was in my defensive, “please don’t hurt me” phase.

As I said though, I don’t see him that often in class as I am only there on the weekends. My coach will periodically give me updates on him as a subtle reminder of what he wants me to do. Yesterday at the end of basics class I saw him come in which meant he was there to roll. I felt a sense of calm come over me. I didn’t even need to look at my coach, I knew what he wanted and I knew what my duty was and I was going to do my best to fulfill it.

I didn’t ask him to roll right away, I knew he’d come to me eventually, he always does. About half an hour in he asked me if I wanted to roll. We bumped fists and I was determined to get him. Not only did I want to come through for my coach but I wanted to vindicate my previous terrible rolls with him. The whole round I was getting better position on him. I scooted around his muscely guard pass attempt, I caught his sloppy triangle setup and used it to pass to side mount, I used an ill-advised bridge to get into mount, I got his back after he charged at me and even got a body triangle on him, I felt like I was doing everything right. However I could not get the tap.

At the end of the round he tried to lock up a kimura when I was trying to pass. I defended it well and wrapped my arm inside and grabbed my own belt. I also rolled to that side a bit so he didn’t have leverage to finish it. I could tell he was going to use all his strength to muscle my arm out though. As I frantically thought of ways to defend the arm, I could feel him pulling on it with all his might. He got it out and cranked it back and I had to tap. The round ended almost immediately after that. I had failed to complete my task.

It is somewhat discouraging to lose that way. I can’t blame him for muscling. I obviously didn’t protect that arm well to begin with and let’s face it, most of us would do the same. If you have the ability to out-muscle someone, why not use it? The bitter part of me needs to point out that he would not have gotten that submission on most of the other guys there rolling as he would not have been able to pry their arms out. But oh well, I got submitted.

So I lost the battle. But I have not lost the war. I had him on the run the whole time and it was only a list minute Hail Mary that had gotten him the submission. I was proud of my effort and I look forward to the next skirmish with this guy. Victory is so close I can taste it.

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