While some people say that inverted positions in BJJ are ‘advanced’ the reality is that the Granby Roll is as fundamental a BJJ technique as shrimping or bridging! Because of this misconception that inversion is for higher belts, many white belts take months (or years!) to fully utilize this basic movement.
With a good understanding of the Granby Roll, you’ll be able to Imanari roll effortlessly into leg locks, or develop a guard that is impossible to pass and allows you to send people flying. Learning to invert is easier than you might think – we’ll go over everything you need to know to master this essential BJJ movement: the Granby Roll.
How Important Is The Inversion In Jiu Jitsu?
Going upside down in BJJ might be seen as fancy or ineffective, but nothing could be further from the truth. In modern BJJ, being able to invert from different positions and end up where you want is essential for developing a high-level BJJ game.
Inverting goes way beyond just playing inverted guard in order to fend off passing attempts. In modern defensive BJJ, inversions are one of the best ways to connect defensive postures, allowing you to transition from one defensive trench to another. More importantly, they are also the way out of a bad spot, and lead directly to counter-attacks more often than not.
What Is The Granby Roll?
Named after the Granby School of wrestling in Virginia, the Granby Roll is originally a wrestling technique used as a reversal, escape, or means to set up counter-attacks in wrestling. In essence, it is a shoulder roll that creates space as the roll takes place, opening up defensive options.
In modern BJJ, the Granby Roll is used to achieve a lot more than just defend back takes or get out of the turtle position. It can help transition in-between positions (Berimbolo), set up leg locks (Imanari roll, Vaporizer), open up back takes (Twister Roll), or even allow for intricate inverted guard play (Tornado guard).
In wrestling, when the movement first became popular, it was wild and involved jumping into a roll when someone had a rear body lock. In Jiu Jitsu, the Granby Roll happens in a much more controlled manner, and every step of the move can be used to set up or defend something.
A 5 Step System to Master Granby Rolls for BJJ
As a solo drill, the Granby Roll is often done from a seated position with the legs straight, where a grappler bends forward and does a shoulder roll ending up in a seated position again, all the while keeping their head and feet near to each other.
Having people roll over their shoulder when they’ve never done such a motion before is trickier than you might think. If you’ve ever tried to teach someone a forward roll, you know what I mean.
The way I like to present the Granby Roll is in 5 steps, starting at the middle of the motion.
Step 1: Get Comfortable Upside Down
The first thing to practice when attempting to do a Granby Roll is to lie down on your back, lift your legs and hips off the ground, and attempt to touch your toes to the floor over your head. This is the middle position of the Granby Roll and is a part of many inverted BJJ positions.
The goal is to become comfortable in the position, given that you’ll be here while people are smashing you when you try and put it to practice.
Step 2: Get used to transitioning your weight from shoulder to shoulder
One thing that helps is slowly walking your feet from side to side, feeling your weight transition from one shoulder to the other.
You want your weight resting on your shoulders – not on the vertebrae of your neck.
Step 3: Transition from Inverted to Seated
Starting in your inverted position, bring your hips down to one side, rolling your weight over your shoulder – not your neck. Bring your butt to the mat and rise up to seated position.
Do this a few times to each direction until the transition from your inverted position to seated feels smooth.
Step 4: Reverse of Step 3 – Seated to Inverted
This step is literally step 3, but done in reverse.
From a seated position, leaning your head and torso steeply towards your feet, place one arm next to your body. Then, lie down on that side, shoulder to the ground, and your head on the mats.
Bend your legs and use your bottom leg to push your hips up into a tripod position. A hint is to place your cheek flat on the mats. As your hips go up, swing your top leg to end up in a tripod-like position – both your feet and your cheek and shoulder posting on the ground, with your butt being the highest point.
From this tripod position, continue to roll until you’ve reached the inverted position you mastered in steps 1 and 2.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
The final part of the puzzle is going from the seated position, through the tripod into the upside-down midway spot, and exiting an inverted tripod on the other side via a backstep. Then, you do the same thing on the other side again.
As you’re learning, the goal is to connect all the steps together so that you’re moving in a smooth manner. However, you should not sacrifice form for speed. As the saying goes: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Focus on being able to perform this technique slowly, and you’ll develop good technique, which will serve you well on the mats.
How to actually use a Granby Roll
Knowing how to Granby Roll and being able to use it to attack, defend and transition are not the same thing. Understanding how inversions work goes further than your ability to roll over your shoulder from one side to another.
A great way of looking at inversions is viewing them as circles and lines. Entering an inverted position is a circular motion, as you know from the Granby Roll. However, attacking from there or exiting should be done in a straight line. So anytime you do a circular inverting motion, make sure you follow up with movement in a straight line, in any given direction that makes sense.
Sweeps, leg lock entries, and back takes all have the straight-line element at the end of a circular inverting motion. The key thing to remember is that you don’t have to do a full circle before you switch directions to a straight line. Half circle motions, quarter-circle motions, etc. all qualify as inversions and will work for you as long as you pair them with a straight-line motion at the end.
Granby Rolls might seem like an advanced technique, but they are an essential movement that everyone should learn. Use the 5-step method described above, and you will be able to Granby Roll smoothly with less than an hour of practicing. From there on, the world of inverted BJJ positions is your upside down oyster!
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.