70%…. That’s my number. I don’t ever like to roll more than 70% effort. If I can’t beat you with that kind of effort than I’d rather not. It’s not worth it to me. Sounds strange? Maybe it is. There is a reason for it though. I think it’s a good threshold number for me. Anything above 70% and I’ve lost the learning. I can tell you from years of experience that grappling at more than 70% has negligible effect on learning. At that point I’m always using attributes rather than Ju Jitsu. At that point it’s all about the win. Nothing wrong with winning. I sink to that level on occasion when my ego needs the boost. If, for example, a young strong purple belt really school’s me a couple of times in a row I might violate my 70% rule so that I can sleep well at night. Don’t usually feel great about it but I sometimes need to feed the ego monster.

When things are going right for me though and I’m able to keep the ego monster at bay I really love rolling at that level. It’s just the right spot for me where I can use Ju Jitsu rather than attributes to get me out of sticky situations. If I can beat you at 70% I know it was because I used good Ju Jitsu. It’s just simply more enjoyable. Joy is absolutely the best measure of success I know. Now I know that joy may be hard to find when someone is grinding their shin into your cheek bone, or when you are getting crushed hard by a heavy top game. By and large though if I feel pleasure endorphins after a session at the gym then I know I did some good work.

Is the 70% number the right number for everyone? Not sure. I know that the desire to win can be a double edged sword. I have seen quite a few students who don’t progress in Ju Jitsu until they let go of the desire to win and embrace the desire to learn the art. Sometimes those two things are in sync. Sometimes trying hard to win is exactly the way to get better. At other times though it can be the biggest impediment on your game. If you find yourself going balls out every roll you may take a hard look and see if you are trying to win at the expense of learning Ju Jitsu. If you think of it that way it will be easy to find your number.

What does this 70% do for me? It gets me tapped out a bunch. For that I’m usually thankful. Ju Jitsu would be boring if I didn’t get to tap out. Not that I wouldn’t be getting tapped out all the time if I was going 100%, but the 70% improves the chances. I get to work defense a lot. It automatically puts me on more even footing with some students who I’d have an easier time with if I was going all out looking for the win. In short, it gives me better training partners. Instead of me being on offense all the time with more inexperienced players I can work both offense and defense.

It probably means I’ll never be Mundial champion. I don’t understand the competition training as much as those who compete. Is going all out necessary for competition practice? Probably. The competition game is way more attribute based than the in class friendly roll. You aren’t there to learn Jiu Jitsu. You are there to win. If you don’t experience that level of competition often in training you won’t be ready for it. I don’t think that level of training in the gym gets you better at Jiu Jitsu though. I think it only gets you better at that level of pressure.


  1. I think that 70% sounds about right for me too. just the right output to flow and not just be forcing my will on people.

    Learning to tap a lot is a tough skill.

    Really enjoyed this post, thanks a lot.

  2. Interesting. I think I’m pretty much always using 85-95% of my strength, especially when on the defensive, and the same percentage of my weight, especially when on the offense. But I’m using 50% of my speed pretty much all the time (which gets to be a problem. I’m just not confident that I won’t break someone’s nose by accident when I “try” to go fast.)

    • Interesting Georgette, it may have more to do with matchups than anything else? If you are always wrestling with guys who outweigh you then 85% of your strength may equate with 70% of theirs. I think the idea is that you don’t rely on your attributes as much as you rely on Ju Jitsu. I always tell guys to calm down and trust their Ju Jitsu to take care of them. When they do that it always works out better. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Great article Cane! Showed it to my guys and they appreciated the message. 70% or there about is a learning pace – and the smile is still on your face!

  4. 70% is a good number not only for rolling but for training intensity. I am over 40, so if I train at around 70%, I can train more often cause I don’t need as much recovery time. I would rather maybe sit out a roll everyone once and a while and be able to train again the next day then go balls to the wall against all the younger guys on a Monday night and be so sore I can’t make it back til Thursday.

    • I don’t compete Matt. Just not really interested in it. I absolutely hate the idea of spending an entire Saturday in a noisy gym waiting for a chance to get a few short rolls in. I have no desire to be a champion of any kind. I don’t define myself that way. I have nothing against people who do. It’s just not my thing.

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  6. Great stuff. Nothing has been more frustrating than being stuck with a spaz-core rolling partner and having to keep explaining to him to settle down again and again. 70% sounds like about my magic number as well.

  7. I usually have to train with people at least 30 pounds heavier. I always feel like I’m always going all out, which usually makes me wonder if I might hurt someone if I ever get the chance to fight someone closer to my weight. Any advice?

    • Veronica,
      It’s hard if you don’t have anyone your size to roll with. The 70% rule is still a good one though. In a big weight mismatch I tell people you can go more than 70% on escapes only. Once you escape go back to 70%. Going too hard against big guys will only get YOU hurt. I know that from experience.

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