Sparring vs Drilling

BJJ, english | 0 comments



June 26, 2017

by Prof. Martin Guggi


Today I am going to write about a very important question: How much time should I put into drilling compared to sparring. Sparring can also be divided into hard and light sparring. Jiu Jitsu is constantly improving and growing. But if our Art is growing, also our way of training has to improve. A friend of mine went to a BJJ Seminar with Buchecha and Leandro Lo and told me: “they said they do not drill anymore, they only spar hard”! For me this was a very interesting statement from two of the best in our sport. My friend continued to ask me what I think should he do to improve.  At the end of this article you are going to find my advice I gave to him, but first I want you to understand the situation and the different view on drilling and sparring!

I googled a lot in the internet to find different approaches to these topics from high level black belts and competitors.

The goal of learning a technique and drilling it is to hit it in sparring or in competition. So we are not drilling to drilling – we are drilling to win[i]. But if we want to improve for sparring than we have to spar more then we drill! We are always fighting the way we train – so this being said we have to spar more than we train. Right?

“The biggest mistakes people make in training that many believe are the “keys to success” is training hard all the time. I see many young athletes, just training, training, training and it’s great at first but the body begins to break down after a while. Once they lose a match they say “I have to train harder” but in fact, they should be focusing on training smarter. Like mentioned earlier, it’s not all a physical game but it is also mental. Drilling techniques do not beat down your body as much as training yet it is just as productive (if not more than training hard.) I do not discourage training hard as it is essential for improvement, but it cannot be viewed as the only form of improvement.”

Gianni Grippo – Marcelo Garcia Black Belt

With this statement Prof. Grippo is definitely right. You cannot spar all the time hard. This is very tiring and opens your body for injuries. But on the other side – if you only drill than you can lose the focus on what for you drill. We drill to win! We do not drill to drill! I found a very interesting statement from Prof. Atalla from the Rio Grappling Club:

“BJJ needs sparring and more sparring, putting yourself out of your comfort zone, accepting defeat and learn to win, respect and persistence, and we all know that most people will quit in the first months or year. No, BJJ is for all those who are not shy of working hard and again for the rest of their lives, and the rest of you can stay lazy watching TV on their couches.”

Does it mean drilling makes you soft? The question is how you drill! Do you drill and do you get tired during drilling or not? Prof. Andre Galvao did a seminar where he explained his view on drilling and on how to drill![ii]

Prof. Galvao said – that you have to make your drilling similar to sparring. You have to bring reactions into drilling. What would your opponent do in this situation? How would he react? And then drill what your reaction on his reaction would be! This being said – Drilling cannot be something to relax! Drilling can be a way of conditioning yourself. If you drill hard you are having a great workout[iii].

I hope we all got a better understand on how to drill now. But on question remains: How much should we spar? Let´s see what the Mendes Brothers have to say about this:

Drilling Sessions: We train 80% our game “A”, drilling our best positions and variations from there. The other 20% we train different positions that is not from our game or new techniques.

Sparring: Our training is about 50% drilling and 50% sparring. the last 2 months before big tournaments we spar more than drill. We always say in the training that Galvao is “drill to win” and we are “roll to win” Lol. But we know how important drilling is.


To sum it up – I would say it always depends how your attitude towards training is! The most important point is: If you are training and you are not challenging yourself then there is something wrong. This could be with drilling or with hard sparring. Light sparring for me is to warm up or to concentrate on some setups or new moves. But you should not roll light more than 25% of your sparring time.

In your early states of your Bjj journey – drilling could be more than rolling – later and if you want to compete you have to put definitely more time into sparring than drilling!

I always tell my students – that sparring makes you tougher and drilling makes you more techniqual. First you need to improve your technique and then you need to be tough. If you are only tough you will not get the best timing, reaction and perfection of any technique. But as a competitor you definitely know, that sometimes not the more techniqual guy wins but the guy who pushes more, who is more active and grinds more and this you learn in sparring!

To finish this article you find my conversation with my friend about drilling and sparring:


Martin how are you doing? I was looking for some advice, I am teaching full time so I can´t train with my teacher anymore, I still want to compete but I feel that when I roll with my students (all white belts) I roll very soft, should I roll hard with them? I went to a seminar with Leandro Lo and Buchecha and they both said that they don´t drill anymore they just roll.


hey, i would give you this advice. Rolling is to get tougher and drilling is to get more technical. if you have a certain level you need to roll a lot, but you will not learn a berimbolo or something technical when you only roll…. it also depends how many rolling partners you have. If you have a lot of beginners then you can improve much more when you drill with on partner and if you want to roll find good partners to roll with but you do not need to roll every day. i drill every day and roll hard every other day… i would not compare myself to Buchecha or Leandro lo, they are on another level and did so much training and drilling already…. good luck


Thanks a lot! So would you recommend to drill while rolling with beginners or take time to drill only? And then i can invite people to get some good rounds of rolling


Yes. I would drill every day for one hour… you need at least have one guy with whom you can drill good…. and improve and then you teach and roll with beginners. Not hard, but concentrate on some aspects… like passing, sweeps…. small details. Make it harder for you and before a competition roll with other guys who challenge you more! And never forget to have some fun!

[i] This being said – please also check out the book from Prof. Andre Galvao about Drilling with the titel: “Drill to Win”.



[iii] Look how Prof. Marcelo Garcia is explaining this to his students:




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