Flow with the go—Rickson Gracie
The word flow in BJJ most commonly refers to a style of rolling in which the training partners agree to focus on fluid transitions and graceful positional exchanges. The goal isn’t for one person or the other to win, but rather for each to execute their game both offensively and defensively with only minimal resistance; attacking, defending, and transitioning.
There’s usually a huge gap between learning a technique or movement sequence and being able to execute it against full resistance. The greater the intensity, the smaller the windows of opportunity. If no one gives an inch when you roll, you won’t get enough opportunities to practice your game, so your progress will be excruciatingly slow.
Flowing lets you bridge that gap because you’re practicing at a level of resistance that permits you apply your game. The resistance is minimal, letting you practice even moves you’re not good at yet. Over time you can scale up the intensity as you are better able to seize smaller and smaller windows of opportunity.
Trent Lewis, a phenomenal black belt I trained under in Florida, was such a proponent of this style of rolling that he would demand that every training session included flow rolls. At Roy Dean Academy we did a lot of this style of training too, and the result was very fast development.
I’m convinced that flowing offers profound benefits: It accelerates your learning, it encourages a more graceful, movement based game, it builds excellent timing and sensitivity, and it lets you train with more longevity because it’s not as hard on your body. It’s also a lot of fun. And, to the astonishment of people who do it for the first time, it’s a great workout because you are in constant motion. When you play a slower, pressure based game, there is often lots of opportunities to rest within the roll. You can’t rest when you flow.
The long-term benefit of flowing is it builds the ability to apply a movement style of game against full resistance. In the early stages of BJJ, flowing can only happen when both partners agree to it. The high level stuff is being able to flow against anyone, regardless of their intensity or physical attributes.