Thursday, July 14, 2016

When a roll turns agro - dealing with newbie, psycho-spazzes

We've all been there - rolling with a newbie, psycho-spaz (NPS, for short) who believes this training roll is a matter of life or death. He (or she) kicks, scratches, slams, jerks, and rips out of every grip and hold. You get the sense that, for the NPS, injury to either of you would be preferable to tapping. Tapping is THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING! If you tap, you lose. And above all else, the NPS hates to lose.

But by definition, the NPS is new. Eventually he gets caught. He taps. And from there his aggression escalates.

It is fair to say that no one likes rolling with the NPS. It may be productive under the right circumstances, but it is neither safe nor pleasant.

So how is the NPS dealt with? Very often, we simply match his aggression and lack of regard for his training partners. We think - Oh, THAT'S how he wants to roll? Ok, let's do this. Our goal for the roll changes. We set out not to hone our skills and work new technique but simply to destroy the NPS.

But lately, I've realized something. When we match poor rolling behavior, we reinforce it. The NPS does not necessarily make the connection: I don't like how this person is rolling with me. Hey, maybe folks don't like how I roll, since I do some of these things. I should probably change my rolling style.

It's more likely that the NPS says: See, I'm doing nothing wrong. This is how EVERYONE rolls, even the upper belts. I'm just like everyone else.

Recently, I was trapped in an escalating roll with an NPS. I was partnered with an agro, wrestler guy whose clear goal was to not tap at all costs. My body was paying the price. After wading through ripped fingers and elbows to the face, I was relieved to find myself taking mount and snatching an armbar. Maybe if I showed this NPS his place, he would calm down.

Only, he didn't tap. Instead, the NPS grunted "I'm not submitting!" and proceeded to bicep curl my body and escape from my imperfect armbar. So I moved on to choke him instead. He finally did tap - but from there the roll further degenerated. His behavior increased in intensity but now so did mine. I was pissed. I had watched this NPS roll with plenty of dudes and never once did he respond to their attacks with the defiant grumble "I'm not submitting." This guy was not just an NPS - he was a sexist douche. And now I was the one turning agro. The NPS-SD was rolling like he wanted to kill me, but now I was about to roll that same way.

The final time that I tapped this NPS, I dove on an americana and cranked it hard - far from the slow, controlled way I would normally submit a new white belt. I realized something: The way this guy was rolling was not ok. And because I matched his style, the way I was rolling was not ok. Matching his intensity was neither smart nor effective. We were both in danger of getting hurt and it had done nothing to change his behavior.

I decided I needed to speak up. I explained to the NPS why this roll was unsafe and described to him what I believed to be a more effective way to roll. In part, I did this to make the rest of the round safer for both of us. But I also did it for him and the sake of his future rolling partners. Smashing him was not teaching him a lesson but seemed to be escalating his behavior.

Because you know what? I was once new. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that in my first few weeks, I was an NPS. I learned quickly but I did so because my more experienced training partners took the time to talk to me about how to roll. I distinctly remember upper belts telling me that if I slowed down, I would learn faster. I got treated better than most new dudes who start training, even though my behavior was similar.

So what do you do when you see an NPS on your mats? My advice is this:
  • duck them if you can
  • roll with them if you must
  • smash them if you are able
  • but then take the time to talk to them. To turn the NPS into a productive training partner, your words may be more effective than your chokes