Grappling with less skilled partners


Brown Belt
Jan 1, 2004
Reaction score
I am one of the best grapplers in my Japanese JJ class (yes, TJJers do ground work, or ne waza as well), so I am frequently in the position where I can pretty much do anything I want to my parters. After I tap my parter, I always explain what I did, and let them try it on me, so that they will learn something as well. However, tappin people gets old after a while (of course, there are some guys who are about the same level as I am as well).

I was just wondering what you guys do when grappling someone less skilled. I often let them put me on my back (guard or sidemount) and work from there, or I try to use no strength at all, just pure technique. My instructor often puts people into holds, eg an armbar, and just holds it without cranking, allowing his partner to figure out how to escape the lock.

I was just wondering if anyone had any other strategies for this kind of situations, so that both me and my partner can learn something by rolling, even if we are not on the same skill level.

Thanks. Ous!
I am freequently in the same situation and yes i let them get me in side mount mount take my back or even full choke and i work to escape and i'll always show them why i did what I did or what they did wrong or whatever. If i get them in a sub i barely fully execute it and wait for them to realize i'm just holding them there so they should just tap when they know it's over before it hurts to avoid injury and hopefully that teaches them to do the same. Also, I personally like to experiment when i roll even if it's with someone who's got less skill. Problem with that is that in doing so... unfortunately i've been caught in a situation where i'm going very slow on a kneebar and the fucker nearly ripped my knee off a few weeks ago and not i will not be rolling again for a while. So just be carefull when you're rolling with someone who's got something to prove. Probably somehting you already know i'm sure. Something i already knew before it happened and i'm going to make sure it doesn't happen again. Cheers.
This is what my instruct does:

He tries to let himself get caungt in a bad position and try to reverse it from there. Some of my more skilled teamates use more basic moves to beat noobs like me. Then sometimes. the betters ones spar 4-5 times straight. The better ones first then the newer ones last so when he gets tired, he has to rely on technique.
Let them get full submissions, and learn to escape from worse and worse positions.
I always give up my back or lazily allow my partners to pass my guard if I know I'm better than them, since I like to practice escaping. Or, I let them try to sink in submissions and I apply my defenses so I can practice those as well. I like rolling with easier people because I can relax and try out stuff that I'd otherwise have to apply with a lot more effort on more skilled training partners.
Hmmm, sounds good. Looks like most people have a similar approach.
I do find some people will try and rip my head off if I go easy on them. They usually try some spazzy jumping pass (grab my legs and just jump) from standing, elbow me in the face and try to face-bar me. Then they wonder why I keep them in KOTB unitl the bell goes...
Im by far not the best where i train but i am better then all the other guys at my level. The ones that im better than i just pick one submission i want to work on... I wont use anything else ill use submissions as sweeps but will never finish with anything else then what i picked.

Say i pick the triangle... Then for 6 minutes i will only put on triangles. I will tell my training partner(s) so he can try to defend and so i can learn to put them on from every angle available.... it really helps.

Just train triangles for a week and then next week pick a new move to do on the beginners.. has helped my game.

this week is omoplattas.
It varys from person to person, but usually I'll say that if they want to ask me anything then just say so at any time - then i'll ask what position they want to start with and anything they particulaly want to do. then i'll usually go light and try to give them little hints along the way - only finishing if they keep making the same mistake so they can see why i'm saying not to do certain things - even then I never crank it.

Only other reason i'll sub is if they go nuts and start to spaz out.

But i'm still a beginner myself (only been at it 8 months) so i'm not exactly a huge authority or anything - just don't want to scare of new guys by going too hard on them right off the bat.
Another thing you can do is to only go for a specific submission, par exemple leg lock and even if you got an opportunity to finish the fight with an other move continue and just go for the leglock. And if that's also to easy then tell your opponent how you will finish him, that will make it more difficult.
all good advice ... sometimes the instructor will tell the higher ranked fighter that they can only use 1 submission (ex: achiles) so they have to work for the position to get it or he'll say you can't use ur left arm or something...
Don't let them get stupid stuff on you though.. that won't teach them anything.
i am usually the less fluid/tech guy when rolling, so when i spar w/people they work on diff things they are weak on and i am strong on.
Example: some guys know i have good ground control, so they let me get top and work not on subbing me but sweeping me, etc.

Example: i am pretty good at reversals, some people get on top and work on maintaining top positions and trying basic see if they can keep me on my bacl w/out me escaping and reversing to a dominant position.

example: some people's takedowns are not good so they work on taking me down, they work on getting me down and controlling me, not subbing me; after they get me down and establish control, we start over.

just find diff elements to work on..
either way we both learn from it..and sometimes u just need to tap people alot, u can show someone something but they learn better from the exp; i used to get tapped left and right, after awhile i got used to it..and learned to def/counter/escape... at times u still gotta step it up to let them see wht they need to do and get used to full speed.
I let them take me down if standing/ kneeling or start on my back if on the ground. I will try to use no hands or just one hand to prevent the pass. If I am passed I let them do whatever, knee on the belly, mount and then sweep them. Then mount and sub them. Over and over. If they just want to practice a sub then I will let them get it and go over the different ways to get it. Just have fun with them.
Use perfect technique, and don't muscle anything. Allow them to get away with certain passes to better positions, and offer them arms or openings in certain positions to see if they take the bait. Working from disadvantageous positions like having someone on your back with hooks in or on all 4's with the guy starting in the typical wrestlers start are good examples.
I won't work for subs or takedowns. If they are open, then I'll take it. If what they are doing is decent, I'll give it to them and let them get the score or sub. Basically, I work my technical only.
It depends.
If the guy sucks ass but is really aggressive, bigger than me, and doing dangerous shit, then all bets are off and I'll just dominate for the entire time (or a least try to).

On the other hand if they're kind of intermidiate, but still worse than me, I'll very carefully give them a little to work with here and there. But I still stay pretty focused and intense honestly, and it's pretty rare for me to not try to beat them. I just stay a little bit ahead of them though, not an all out aggression thing.

If they totally suck and are a total newb beyond compare, I let them get the feel for positioning and submission setups. I never, never, EVER, patronize these guys. I let them know straight up that I'm going light, and that they should go hard.

Honestly, I hate the whole idea of taking it easy on people. I have these fond memories of getting my ass kicked as a white belt, and just thinking "I want to be that good some day." or "I'll get that guy eventually." I always want people to go as hard as they can against me, ALWAYS. It helps facilitate the learning process. But that's just me...
Whenever I go with noobs who are wrestlers, I tend to conserve my energy and let them gas themselves out, since I don't know if this is true or not but it seems like wrestlers like to explode and use all their energy up at once. After they are tired, I calmly put on the submission and slowly make them tap.
You could try working combinations of submissions. Let them put you on your back. Practice pulling guard from under mount or side-control. Then transition from say a triangle, to an armbar, to a sweep, etc. Lets you practice being fluid.
i agree...i am not great by any means; but i learned in the old school way, just got my ass whooped, slammed, thrown, choked, and locked until i learned to def/counter/etc