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I practice and instruct judo, where my advice to beginners is to seek the most experienced and skilled practice partners available. My experience is the normal beginner tendency is to train with partners of the same skill level. Unless players are adhering to a rigorous competition training program or there is a safety issue, the expectation is you practice with people who ask.

I was recently informed by a BJJ practitioner cross-training in judo that she was explicitly discouraged in BJJ from asking experienced (brown? and black belts) to practice together during a training session. The expectation was the more experienced practitioners would choose their partners. Is this normal procedure in BJJ or a local quirk?

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    Really curious about this as well, as my Judo club has the same philosophy as yours. We had a few BJJ guys come over time and, while they didn't really seem surprised about this, they very rarely sought more experienced training partners. – Dungarth Jun 6 '19 at 3:14
  • @Sardathrion This particular person trains at multiple BJJ locations, and I have no reason to suspect disrepute. – mattm Jun 6 '19 at 12:54
  • @mattm Ah, okay. It could be a BJJ thing then, at least where you are. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jun 6 '19 at 14:03
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There is a nuance in the question as posted. Ultimately, this practice may have to do with cultural differences between Brazilians who are more loyally subservient to a team, dojo and instructor, while Americans tend to be more centered on personal achievements and accomplishments as evidenced by some discussions on Reddit about this issue.

Cross-training is absolutely encouraged and required at our dojo because, as with any other sport, you get better by challenging yourself against those who are where you aspire to be. As a lower belt, I was bigger and stronger than most of my peers, so it was the upper belts that gave me humble pie, especially those not as strong or big. Its very important to experience similar techniques from different BJJ belt levels.

On the other hand, some jiu-jitsu instructors or academies discourage a lower belt from calling out black belts, as a form of respect. I didn't agree with this rule as a lower belt but now I understand as a black belt instructor. Instructors teach many classes daily and can roll 10-20 times in a day as well. We are focused on marketing, membership, long time injuries, etc. and do not always have the energy to deal with the killer purple belt walking in the dojo fresh. The custom I have experienced is that you can make yourself available to the black belt but ultimately the invitation to roll comes from the black belt. This is not always the case and some students have personal relationships that bypass this formality.

However, this should not be an excuse for instructors not to roll with their students. Unfortunately, some BJJ instructors will not roll with certain students merely out of fear of embarrassment.

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I train BJJ in Brazil and this behavior is pretty normal here.

You are not encouraged to call higher graduated people and you should accept high graduated calls. This is not a formal rule, but since the first train session the white belt practitioner will notice that the respect over belts (experience) is highly followed.

One thing to notice is that the instructor (or the most experienced person in the training session) uses to match the rolls partners. So, in a regular training day, everyone waits for the instructor to match the roll and then everyone starts together. Every BJJ venue I trained or visited followed this implicit "rule".

So, considering this, if some white belt calls a purple belt to roll, for example, it would sound very bad, because It would disrespect the instructor, who are supposed to match the rolls, and the purple belt practitioner, who is more experienced.

Sure you can call someone to roll. It just depends on the way you do it. There would be no problem to call someone in private, or even ask to the instructor that you want to train with more experienced guys to develop yourself. But it would sound disrespectful to call someone in front of other people.

Of course this is my own BJJ training experience. This answer may not reflect all training academies and/or practitioners.

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