This topic has been brought up briefly several times before, but I felt it warranted its own thread, given how crucial it is to development of awesomeness.
So let's say you're in a class of about 20 people. A perfect balance of fat and thin, lanky and stout, athletic and cerebral, experienced and inexperienced. For our purposes, a good selection of grappling archetypes. It's time to roll and everyone is picking their dancing partner. Who do you go for?
The obvious, kneejerk response here is "it depends what I'm working on", which is fine. All I'm interested in is what type of people do you most frequently roll with. Do you steamroll white belts so you can come online and post "LOL gogoplata"? Do you stick to people around your size and skill level? Or do you torture yourself and practice escapes under the fattest ************ in the room?
Personally, I almost always start with a white belt. This is a purely practical issue, since I usually pair myself with one for drilling so I can help them with the technique and, in turn, work on my teaching. Furthermore, being able to relax and control the pace in a noncompetitive sparring session helps ease me into the night without having a battle royale for my first round.
The battle royale is the second round. I usually head for the instructor, or whoever the highest-ranking person in class is and go fairly hard. The purpose of this round is twofold: First, it serves as the benchmark for me to gauge my progress against technically better fighters, and second, it (hopefully) gets me tired for the next couple rounds.
After I've had my token Warmup and RARRR SMASH session, I give myself more leeway with choosing my partners, and after that it becomes a "whatever I'm working on" affair. Before the night is over, I always make an effort to work against:
Another blue of similar build
A much stronger/bigger white belt, if available
Someone with decent takedowns
Another purple or brown
Of course that's not written in stone. Some nights I'll come in and be the highest-ranked student there. Friday nights, which are notoriously slow, often put me in a class of white belts. In this case, I'll try to find whites that are good enough to provide adequate resistence, but bad enough so that I can get creative (read: gimmicky) and not be punished. Generally though, the rule is: one person i'm better than, two people better than me, and one of my equals. After that, it's whoever's willing to stick around after class.
So let's hear yours. How do you prioritize with choosing sparring partners?
First round = warm up, white belts, try crazy new **** out and inflate head.
Second through whatever = exercise, big and strong, we have lots of good former wrestlers and natural athletes on hand, head deflated by sheer beating of rounds regardless of out come.
whatever through final rounds = my level or higher, good, honest, hard work.
Honestly though, I rarely follow a pattern: knee jerk, depends on what I'm working on. Plus as the assistant instructor I try to roll with everyone in the room, I feel it's something I should do just to see where folks are at. During the summer months that's easy cause the classes are so small, gets a bit more difficult during the fall and spring- 30-50 people, yargh.
1) Roll with the advanced belts first and get dismantled
2) Prey on large, spastic white belts who gassed during phase 1 and people who give me specific trouble
3) Women and children when I get tired
I don't get much say in who I roll with. I am usually paired up by the instructor. On the rare occassions I get to choose I generally go by size first, then skill level.
Meaning I would rather go with someone my size than someone larger or smaller. But I would rather go with a smaller purple than a smaller white belt. If there is nobody near my size I go up in size while trying to keep the highest level possible. It is a bad day when I have to go against a big white belt. A bad day indeed.
I go with anyone who is avail. I go with purples, blues and whites. All sizes. I do pretty well. I don't even get gassed with the purples. I can tap out white belts (boyz) who are 30 lbs heavier than me.
It varies widely for me but if I had my preferrence...
1. Someone I'm competitive with.
2. Bigger more experienced folks.
3. Smaller more experienced folks.
4. Whatever comes my way.
I roll with anyone who asks, and usually who my instructor pairs me with.
being a girl, no one wants to roll with me so I roll with Kat or whoever else doesn't get a partner (usually a first week noob). I mean, back when I did BJJ anyway.
I usually progress through partners in this cycle:
1)Those more skilled than me.
2)Those less skilled but similar size as me.
3)Those similar in skill and size.
4)Those more skilled than me.
"1" exposes current holes. "2" lets me work on new **** and recooperate. "3" lets me focuses on stuff from "1" with a chance of doing something about it and try and work in material from recent experience with "2s". "4" good to end the day getting humbled.
I usually also work in someone who is way below in skill level to try and help them out and work throuh the mental aspects of some part. Teaching makes you better.
We're almost always paired up by the instructor. Assuming we're not--I like to roll with folks about my size who are purple or browns. Alternatively I like to roll with white belts who are really intense and push the action and go close to 100% (depending on how tire I am).
I generally don't get to pick either. Being kind of a big guy, there's certain people who are off limits for me. Because I am big and strong, I'm going with the biggest, strongest, and meanest people in the place. We have some mean guys around our place. I think of this as "Character Building". You wouldn't believe how much character I have:)
However, there's a few people I like to try and get a roll in with as often as I can, because they're good benchmarks for where I'm at. I usually save those for open mat. I've also trained at a sister academy in Vancouver, B.C. which was really good. Again, I got the biggest and meanest folks in the place(Hi Shiro!). Lots of fun, and that, to me, is one of the best things about being in a large association(GB). In theory, I can go anywhere we have a school, and train with people who are going to be pretty cool. I find it helps quite a bit, as it's almost like a tournament. You don't know what they do, and they don't want you to think they're not any good, so they step up the game.
Varies if we can just pick or not. But I have the "shy squirrel" approach to sparring. I see who's left and partner up with them for the first time around. I don't really have a set progression or anything, but you will seldom catch bigger guys wanting to roll with smaller guys, meaning if I want to be smashed I have to call someone out to do the job. (which I've finally learned not to do too often) I like to mix it up as much as I can and be greedy. Get as much of the pie as I can each time :D
And then there's a purple belt around my weight who always wants to kill me after regular rolling because I'm as small as him and he's delighted to play and do all kinds of crazy **** to me. I've been led to believe it's a good learning experience. O_o
I'm going in tonight and if they'll let me roll, I figure I'll concentrate on smaller, more skilled opponents.
This is because everyone in the class is smaller than I am. . . . and everyone in the class is more skilled than I am, much the way a wolf is more skilled than a shaggy, lumbering musk ox.
Seriously, last time I was there, the instructor paired people off every time. Nobody got a lot of choice, but nobody seemed to mind. I imagine it saves a lot of
"Hey, you wanna roll?"
"I dunno, you wanna?"
"Well, yeah, unless, you know, you were gonna roll with that guy. . . ."
"Nah, that's OK, let's roll. . . . "
" . . . . 'Cause I can find somebody else . . . ."
There are rarely so many people at class that I can't roll with everyone. Generally, it's the instructor, me, and 2 other dudes. So that's a round-robin right there.
I'm 160# and my partners/instructor probably range from 180-210. There's 1 guy that's 150, and we tend to roll super-fast compared to me rolling w/ the heavier guys.
I like rolling with guys that are bigger than me. My reasoning: I always feel like I'm not getting that many subs/reversals anyway, and when I get them on the bigger dudes I feel more like I've accomplished something.
Since I generally roll w/ heavier guys I'm almost always on the bottom, and I get most of my subs from the Guard. Also, I feel like I'm tempering myself against the pressure of constantly being knee-ridden and smothered by big guys. I've definitely gotten better at managing the other guy's weight, b/c nothing's worse than getting tired and then having to deal with 220# on my 160# chest.
edit:: Now that I think about it, the other small guy is always on the bottom too. And as a result, we tend to get stuck in the others' guard a lot. I have trouble passing his guard and maintaining dominant top positions and he has the same problem with me - we mostly submit each other from the guard... maybe we're both over-doing it with playing the bottom
I only do morning classes, and morning classes are "white belt land"...so there's not much choice I guess. The ocasional blue or purple that missed night class the day before shows up and we all gun for him. We roll among ourselfs(white belts) and with our instructor( black belt) and that's it. I guess it's a bit of "inbreeding" but it's a cool and relax atmosfere and we give great attention to detail.
When I manage to attend a night class I roll with whoever my teacher chooses, from white to brown. :eusa_ange
My personal preference is to go with the more technical guys who aren't out to "win" every roll.
1) Less chance of injury as opposed to the guys which rely more heavily on superior physical attributes and want to "win" at all costs.
2) More quality rolling - I won't waste time waiting for someone to gas while trying to apply poor technique or stalling. The more technical guys will keep the game flowing.
That being said, to keep myself honest, I make sure to roll with everyone at least once in a while.