When I first started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Pankration, the main thing that attracted me about this arts were the reality. Reality in the sense that you had to roll or spar, there was no breaking boards or practicing katas.
You were tested at the end of each session and you knew straight away if your techniques worked or if they didn’t. This also helped to keep your ego in check as there was always someone who could beat you.
Through the years and as a coach now, I have realised that rolling or sparring is not always beneficial to the student if done too early. The experience should be enjoyable by both parties not just the more experienced or stronger who tends to win. Sparring and rolling are a great opportunity to test one’s skills against a resisting opponent. Many new students do not grasp this concept straight away and in turn it ends up becoming a danger to their training partners and to themselves.
At our Dojo we tend to treat each student as an individual when assessing them before they can roll or spar. As a rule of thumb it takes between 6-8 weeks of consistent training before someone can step on the mats for a friendly spar. More importantly as a coach I always feel the duty to be the new students first roll/spar as I can give them just enough pressure and resistance without turning it into an out of control all-out war.
Sparring or rolling can be one of the most fun things to do in martial arts. For this to occur however, it is important to create the right learning environment for all participants whether they are experienced or new.