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24. Things I learnt from Chris Haueter – #1 Starting a roll from your knees isn’t as useful as starting it in different positions. November 14, 2008

Posted by Adam Adshead in BJJ, Chris Haueter, Conceptual BJJ, Inspiration, Things I learnt from:.
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Things I learnt from Chris Haueter – #1 Starting a roll from your knees isn’t as useful as starting it in different positions.

Most grappling clubs start sparring with both people on their knees and whilst this minimises the injuries that sparring on the feet has, I don’t think it’s the most efficient use of limited class time.


I agree that it’s fair and even, but why not start with one person in closed guard, in side control or in back control etc? By doing such a thing you’re in the thick of the action straight away and not dancing around the mulberry bush just to get started.

I think taking such an approach is also a really useful way of building the repetitions of breaking a closed guard, getting out from under side control or keeping on someones back (All fundamental core skills that can never be worked enough).

But you don’t have to stop there you can start from any position.

If for instance you’ve just taught a class on De la Riva guard, how inefficient is it if everyone then starts to roll from their knees? Yes, eventually one person will end up in guard but why not save some time by starting with one person in De la Riva guard? Then if someone progresses to a tap etc, then they end up in De la Riva guard, giving the other person a go. This gives both people a chance to work what has been covered, work opposing sides of the material and is a more efficient use of your time.

The thing I love about this idea is that whilst it seems like you’re giving one person an unfair advantage, it is actually quite fair. Not only does it give both people a chance to work from a certain position but if there is a discrepancy in the ability (White vs Purple belt) then it can give people a chance to work material straight away.

We’ve all been there when the coach has shown some super slick sweep and then you don’t get to work it all night as everyone you roll with pulls guard. Or they’ve shown some top control game and because the person you’re rolling with is really good you don’t even pass their guard and end up for most of the roll under their top control. Now, both scenarios aren’t your partners fault (to a degree, they could give you a chance) it’s just how the roll can end up, but this idea allows both people a go.

I’ve already started this at my gym and it’s how we’re always going to play from now on. I think it’s brilliant for the following reasons:

  • It forces people to play weaker aspects of their game, so making for more well rounded grapplers.
  • It builds repetition on fundamental/specific skills (Compare 5 side control escapes to 20 in a session).
  • It’s allows junior guys the chance to work material against senior guys more easily.
  • It spices up rolling sessions – you can change the position each roll or have a ‘Starting point of the week’.

Why not try it yourself? (I sound like Neil Buchanan – UK joke) Not a coach? You don’t need to be, just ask your partner to start in side control or on your back, or if they don’t like the idea – put them in it by giving up your back or letting them pass your guard. Remember you don’t have to work all your grappling game during each roll, you can just focus on certain things.

There is no limit on the use of this idea and I urge you all to try it. I can hear the cynics saying ‘It doesn’t work a natural progression’ or ‘it’s unrealistic for competition’ but I guarantee that if you play this you’ll become more well rounded. Even if you only try this idea for a few rounds each session I guarantee that people will see the benefits.

It’s a Conceptual BJJ dream!

Thanks Chris.



1. Christofer Hoff - November 14, 2008

At our academy we often mix starting from the knees with what we describe as “positional grappling” in which we start from side control, taking the back, etc. as you describe.

It does, as you mention, expose holes in your game and allows one to focus (initially) on a specific element.

It does work, but I’d suggest you can blend both the knees and positional starting points into the same session for an even more effective routine.

2. Adam Adshead - November 14, 2008

Hey Chris,

I agree there is a place for both. It’s an issue to do with proportionality and the amount of time you work on each faction of the game. Starting from your knees all the time weights things towards certain patterns of playing, whilst starting in different positions allows you to work new patterns and form new game plans.

I’ve just come back from a session where we all played this positional grappling sparring and it worked really well.

One of our guys is playing a lot of inverted guard, so I had him put me in it from the start, then I caught him with something, back in inverted guard, he caught me, back in inverted guard. The roll was so productive as I wanted to work against his guard and he wanted to work his inverted guard.

Everyone’s a winner! We boths had several chance to work what we wanted during one roll. In terms of productivity we probably got a weeks worth of working inverted guard in one roll!

Thanks for commenting Chris, you raised a good point and thanks for your insight.

All the best,
Adam Adshead

3. Steve - November 18, 2008

I agree completely, Adam, although I do see a place for both.

I’ve never enjoyed jockeying for position like two bears at the beginning of each round. I much prefer to either pull guard or start from another position. I guess I see it as fast forwarding to the BJJ part of the match.

4. Adam Adshead - November 18, 2008

Thanks for the comment Steve. 🙂

I agree about working both. We’re really enjoying using this concept at our club. One guy at our club who NEVER plays closed guard, is already boosting a weak part of his game by forcing himself to go into it each time he rolls.

Another is working is Omo Plata game and I spent a round just in his Omo Plata and is was brilliant! We both got so much out of it and also had a good varied roll in between all the Plata practice.

I can’t wait to see how our guys are going to improve in the next 3 months, as after 3 sessions I’m already seeing holes starting to be filled and rough edges polished.


5. BJJ, Burmuda shirts and puffy shirts « Conceptual BJJ - December 17, 2008

[…] get out of the habit/tempt people not to fall into it we’ve started rolls from different positions, but you are ultimately the one who needs to take control of the choices you make whilst […]

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