I came across an Instagram post a while ago saying how one roll with someone will tell you more about their personality than any personality test. I recently reposted that statement and was pleasantly surprised to find out how many people responded agreeing with me. Unlike the sixteen types of personalities indicated by the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, one roll or just one drilling session with someone new can honestly tell you more about their personality because you can’t fake or skew how people react in training. After all, don’t we all have favorite training partners in the academy? This is probably because these people mesh well with your personality unlike some others, who, coincidentally, you do not like rolling with and stay away from them with a 10-foot pole.
So let’s break down some of these common Jiu-Jitsu personalities…
The Napoleon: And we don’t mean Napoleon Dynamite either. This personality is specific to the smaller people in the academy. It is characterized by overly aggressive or domineering behavior. They are the ones who want to prove to you, middle sized and larger people, that technique, should in theory, conquer all in BJJ… but, rather than focusing on technique, they often overcompensate in all aspects (speed, technique, strength) because they have to make up for their size. This is also the person who often critiques and/or criticizes you mid-roll/mid-drill, regardless of whether you outrank them or not because in their world, they are better than you.
The Hulk: This person doesn’t have to be the largest person in the room, per se, but they stand out because they are usually found trying to smash and stall in dominant positions. They take advantage of their size and strength when rolling with smaller or weaker people than them, and will often inadvertently hurt them in the process. The Hulk knows what they can get away with when the professor isn’t looking and often time uses that to their advantage to exert their dominance on their partner. These people are also the least likely to listen to their coach in competition.
The Scapegoater: This is the person that has an excuse for EVERYTHING – “I would have submitted you but I hurt [body part] before I rolled with you.” Just like in life, this person has a response or excuse for everything and it is NEVER their fault! “I can’t do this because my legs aren’t long enough… doing [type] of guard is unrealistic for me because…” Or my personal favorite: “Sorry, I didn’t know…”
The Professor in Training: This is the person who may hold a high level position at their job (or in their home) and transfers that power and control in the gym despite their lower rank. The Professor in Training is quick to “help” others, and even more so when they are tired and the drills are getting harder. This person also makes sure to ask questions after the real professor has demonstrated a technique despite the answer being clearly related during the instruction. But because they want to hear themselves speak, and wanting the attention on them, they find a way to become the center of attention. This person often feigns injury when they are sparring with someone who is technically better than them and purposely sits out so they can “coach” other people from the sidelines rather than put in the real work. When they are close to getting caught during a roll, they start coaching their partner on how to finish the submission or transition to a dominant position.
The Spaz: Much like their life outside the gym, the way they roll is chaotic and often times uncontrollable. Sometimes they are aware that they are being too spazzy and will slow down, but don’t count on that self-awareness to happen all the time or last for very long. Once they are triggered (i.e. by the way someone grabs their collar), they WILL react even though it was totally unnecessary and “extra.” They often tire themselves out trying to rush through a technique because they want to try to get as many submissions in the round, which is unlikely because their technique is sloppy AF or they will usually have to force a bad technique to get the finish.
The Flow With the Goer: This person is super chill and this often translates into the way that they roll. They are not overly aggressive, but can match your pace if you start to go harder. Their techniques are usually pretty fluid and they enjoy branching the techniques they learned in class to form a flow rather than just react to what is happing in the roll. The Flow With the Goer will often roll with anyone, despite size mismatches and will first try to slow down the pace of the roll if someone is trying to go too hard. They do not get emotional when they roll and often remain calm when most people would get mad.
The Lego Movie Guy: Everything is AWESOME! Jiu-Jitsu is awesome. You’re awesome. Your professor is awesome. The technique you learned today is awesome. This person always has a positive attitude in class and when training. They are happy to get smashed because they know they can always learn something from the experience. They are always wanting and willing to learn more and often ask the higher belt ranks for advice. They are self-aware and move with consciousness and intent, as to treat others the way they would like to be treated during a roll. We need more “Emmets” in training IMO.
While not everyone fits into these personalities to a “T,” they fit enough traits to classify them into it… enough to let you know that this is someone that you don’t ever want to train or roll with ever again, or, someone who you can now call your BJJ bestie. What other types of BJJ personalities have you encountered and/or how do you deal with them?