Rolling Without Time

Last night, open gym only had 4 of us there, so we didn’t set a timer. There have been a couple times in the past that something like this has happened.  The first one I remember was about 15-16 months ago. There was a blue belt that was trying to work on a specific choke. If he couldn’t get in that position, he’d just keep rolling until he could. This meant I escaped a lot, and we switched positions a lot as he tried to get the choke. He finally did after about 30 minutes. I was a bit surprised that I just went 30 minutes, as that’s not something that I’m used to.

Then a few months ago, I was rolling with another guy on Friday night and again we went about 30-35 minutes. This time, the gym closed before either of us could submit the other. It wasn’t for lack of trying. There were arm bars, and escapes, chokes and defenses, we were just evenly matched. I have no clue what the points would have been had someone been keeping points, probably something like 28-22.

Then again last night, when I got to the gym, there were 2 guys just starting to roll, and another teammate and I stepped on the mat at the same time. We started rolling, and we moved from the middle of the mat to the edge and had to reset before we smashed our heads on the concrete. We continued rolling and went back across the mat.  There were some definite momentum swings. I had knee mount, cross side, he had my back multiple times. I wound up in guard a few times, he had kesa gatame at least twice.  At one point, however, as I had him in my guard, I thought “I’ve been here before. If I just protect myself and keep relaxed, I’ll eventually get him.”  I don’t know what made me think that. But I knew at this point we’d probably been rolling for 15+ minutes, and I knew that I’d had grappling sessions like that in the past.

We kept working, he put back into kesa gatame, I once again escaped and got my guard back.  We kept going, him trying to pass, me trying to submit him.

Finally, at around 25-30 minutes, I was able to transition from guard-omoplata-triangle and finish the match.  We both were exhausted. My arms had been burning for a good 10 minutes, both from my grips and from trying to fight out of his tight grips.

After I left the gym, I started thinking that I enjoy those types of matches. Matches that just keep going. I enjoy them for a couple reasons. First, when I have a clock on me, I feel an extra sense of pressure or urgency. I’m not sure that always helps me. For example, last night, we stayed standing for a minute or two. In a tournament, I usually want to get it to the ground fast, because I know I don’t have much time.  But last night wasn’t that way. In the same way, if I have a dominant position in a timed match (e.g. cross-side) I start telling myself I need to finish because there’s not much time left.  But in a match where there’s no time, all I have to worry about is protecting myself.  When my partner was on my back, I didn’t panic, I just worked on getting to a safe place.

Another reason I like those long type of matches is because at some point, in every one of those matches, I have a thought that goes like this: “I’m tired. This is exhausting. If he gets close, maybe I’ll just tap so we can stop.  Wait! If I am tired, then he is tired too. If I put a little more pressure on, maybe HE will tap. It becomes a mental game, which is something I don’t always feel in a 5 minute tournament match. It moves beyond just “who can get the arm for the arm bar?” to “Who is mentally tougher? Who can pace himself and rest when he needs to? Who can control his breathing?”

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