When you hear someone talk about flowing in Jiu-jitsu they mean ”be like water my friend.” The returns to training this way are incredible. It improves your technique, lowers the chance of injury, helps with recovery, and it allows you to learn quicker. Plus both parties benefit. By learning to flow you are going to understand the importance of relaxation and tension during live sparring. Let’s talk more about these benefits in greater detail.
Warm up flow
A good way to begin live training is with flow roll. There are two advantages to warming up with the flow. First, it raises your body temperature and prepares it for more intense grappling. Second, your nervous system also gets stimulated and this will increase your performance before sparring. Good schools always start live training with flow roll. You allow your body to naturally adjust and move through the positions prior to increasing the resistance.
Minimizing injuries during training should be a priority for you. Constantly training at high intensity creates more injuries. It also slows down progress. You probably have had someone in your BJJ academy sit on the sidelines due to an injury. You don’t want to be that guy. Injuries will keep you from getting promoted, competing, learning, and enjoying BJJ. Also, many of you most likely are not full-time athletes and need to make a living working. Being injured might affect your ability to work. Avoid injuries and increase your time on the mats by learning to flow roll.
Flow training in between hard training days will skyrocket your recovery. One of the best methods for recovery is being active. Add more flow sessions to your training. During flow sessions you allow the body to increase blood flow to the muscles. It is a great way to get rid of small nagging dings and bruises. Be careful because too much of a good thing can become bad. Control the intensity and time of the flow. Recovery is crucial if you want to continue practicing BJJ for a long time.
When you flow roll you are able to see your blind spots or weaknesses. Your blind spots are those you don’t see when you are training at maximum intensity. Fixing your blind spots means to clean up your technique. It could be something as simple as isolating the legs when passing guard. Not having to constantly defend or slowing things down gives you the freedom to concentrate on technique. During flow, the purpose is to use more technique with minimum resistance. For example, if you are a technical Jiu-jitsu athlete you will take the path of the least resistance. Less technically skilled athletes may take the same path, but they will face more obstacles to their destination. The intensity of the flow is always negotiable between you and your training partner. Strive to find an intensity that both parties can benefit from. If you are training with a higher level belt and they are ”constricting your flow” nobody benefits.
Some say this is what separates the men from the boys. Above I talked about the importance of technique. Transitions are a next level skill. Guess how you can learn it faster? By practicing flowing. It takes time to begin recognizing opportunities in Jiu-jitsu. Flow roll puts you in a relaxed state of mind. You can see, but also feel what your opponent is doing. One drill that really helps to develop this skill is to close your eyes while flowing. Closing your eyes sharpens your senses and prohibits the use of other systems such as your vision. Relying on feeling teaches your body to store the data and use it automatically when needed.
Tensing and Relaxing
Tension can be a good thing, but also a bad thing. Jiu-jitsu is a constant battle between tensing and relaxing. There are moments during BJJ when you have to be tense and moments when you should relax. A submission attempt would be a time to create tension. Being in a relaxed state, for example, would be prior to the submission while you are working to set it up. Flowing teaches you how to relax and create tension at the right time. This will also play a role in your endurance. Constantly being in a tensed state will constrict blood flow and no matter how good your cardio is you will get tired. Another way to exhaust yourself is to forget breathing. Usually, when someone tenses up they forget to breathe. Try to synchronize your breathing during a flow with the paste of the roll.
There is a time to flow and time to roll. Don’t fall into a trap of either. Create days when you flow and days that you train with harder intensity. Your flow days, however, should be more. The return is greater. Just think to back when you were a kid and played sports. It was fun and you did with enjoyment. As kids, we love to play games. Flow roll is the same. Great Jiu-jitsu practitioners are always relaxed even during competition or live training. That is one of the reasons they are able to perform at a high level.