Inverted Gear Blog

Ask a Panda: How to Deal with “Let’s Just Go Light” Guy/Gal


I am a male blue belt, 5’10” and 165lbs. I’m not small, but I’m also not the largest person in my gym. I try to be a good training partner, and I want to keep myself safe during training too.

I’m sure you’ve heard my question before: How do you deal with people who say want to go light during live training but then come at you super hard? It gets frustrating, and I’m worried I might get injured.


“Let’s Just Go Light” guy or gal is one of the most long-standing jiu-jitsu archetypes, though not one of the most beloved. In the typical situation, one person asks a partner to “just go light,” but then comes out of the gate like he or she is in a steel-cage death match. Some people probably do this to get the jump on the other person, but I am willing to bet that most genuinely have no idea that they are doing anything other than going as gently as a summer breeze. They are like those memes that show a .gif of a high-level judoka effortlessly tossing an opponent next to a .gif of a baby elephant trying to knock down a post with the captions “What I think I look like when doing takedowns” and “What I actually look like when doing takedowns.”

Instructors may not spend as much time as we probably should explaining how to “go light” or to flow roll, so the first thing to do is establish what it means. There are tons of ways to describe what is supposed to be happening during a flow roll or a warm-up round, but let us get straight to the heart of the matter. When we go light, it is each person’s job to strategically give up position. Let me say that again: When we go light, it is each person’s job to strategically give up position.

Think about it: Does it take more energy to refuse a sweep or to allow it to happen when your partner has executed correctly? The answer is probably obvious. When we allow a sweep to happen, then, we are, by definition, going lighter than when we defend. Logically, it makes sense that we would want to let the sweep happen, at least sometimes, if we are doing right by our partners in a “go light” situation.

However, logic and ego do not necessarily work hand in hand. Grapplers as a species often neglect to connect the fact that while allowing a sweep, for instance, also results in our partner “getting the better of us” in some way, this is the goal of going light. If both people are doing it right, then both partners stand to benefit from a flow roll because both partners are allowing each other to get the better of them at different times.

Everyone gets this intellectually. When we square off and feel ourselves losing position, though, we tend to go bananas and to throw our best collaborative intentions out the window. This results in a zero-sum game rather than a joint effort toward helping both people gain ground.

The thing is, we cannot really control what our partners do, only what we do. In this situation, you are the “lucky” one, because you have been given the gift of awareness. There was probably a time in your jiu-jitsu career when you were the person you are now concerned about, because you did not have the presence of mind you do now. But with power comes responsibility, so the suggestions I have are for how you can monitor and modify your own behavior. This may not be what you were hoping for, but with patience and thoughtfulness, they can help you AND help you pay it forward to your overly energetic flow rolling partners.

The first thing to do when going light with someone else is to set your own intention to do so—you do not want to be the person in the pair who takes unfair advantage. Many people accompany the fist bump that precedes most rounds with a verbalized wish for good training. Take that moment and that wish seriously, and decide you are going to work with your partner collaboratively. Try to stay relaxed, and if you find your entire body tensing like a rubber band, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

The second thing to do is to pay attention during the round. Often when we train, we let our bodies do the work and give our minds over to the meditative aspects of training. When we are first learning to go light, though, we may need to focus more on how we are moving, how tense we are, and how determined we are to maintain dominance. Just like we cannot relegate specific sequences to our muscle memory until our muscles remember how to do them, we cannot expect to flow roll well if we do not concentrate on doing so, at least at first. So, breathe deeply. Check the tension of your muscles. Try to be like water. If you feel yourself straining or breathing rapidly, slow down.

Another thing to try when you feel you are staying calm and relaxed but feel the force of a wind tunnel coming at you is to stop moving. Your partner will eventually notice, and sometimes that can serve as a non-verbal reminder to them that they need to relax a little. At the very least, it will make them stop and take notice for a second. If necessary, you can say something like, “I was getting a little bit tense, so I wanted to take a breath.” (I understand that you may not actually be the person who is getting tense, but this is where ego control comes in handy.) Repeat as needed. Note that this also has the added benefit of giving you something reasonable to say and do if your partner happens to outrank you; many of us at all belt levels need to work on just going light, not just beginners.

A third thing to do is tap. As with ceasing your movement, tapping can give you an opportunity to reset. Oftentimes we can escalate each other’s energy without meaning to, and if you feel your shared energy getting too animated, you can say something like, “I feel like we are a bit more intense than we want to be, so I figured we could just reset.”

In short, the best thing you can do is model appropriate behavior, react calmly when the behavior is less than appropriate (e.g., stop moving or tap to energy rather than a finish), and be supportive as your partner learns a bit more every day about how to control his/her energy. If all else fails, mentally categorize that person as someone you will go hard with for now; if they ask you go to light, find a reason to say no. You have a responsibility to help your teammates, but you also have a responsibility to keep yourself safe.

How do others help your partners get the hang of flow rolling? Post your suggestions in the comments section.

Have a question? Get an answer from Val!

About Valerie Worthington

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that define me: parents who are psychologists, a childhood spent in the New Jersey suburbs except for a year my family spent in Germany, studying English literature and learning theory, always trying for the funny--not matter how self-deprecating, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art I have been training for almost 20 years. I travel a lot and enjoy snacks just as much. I am reasonably intelligent, but this is undercut by my love of irreverence and childish humor. I am also the author of Training Wheels: How a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Road Trip Jump-Started My Search for a Fulfilling Life.


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10 Steps to Adding Unorthodox Techniques to Your Game

Grappling trends come and go, and new techniques pop up every season. When I started training, everyone was trying to figure out x-guard and arm drags. Now it is leglocks and heel hooks. Eventually, the best elements of these techniques get folded into “standard” jiu-jitsu but not before the initial rush of grapplers scrambling to learn the secrets of the new hotness.

This guide will help you be one of those early adopters. Here are my 10 tips for adding new or unorthodox techniques to your game:

  1. Do your homework. Before you launch into learning that cool technique you saw in a GIF on Reddit, let’s make sure it is worth the effort. Gather up the answers to these questions:
  • Who is good at this technique or position, and at what level do they compete?
  • Do they have instructionals available? If not, does someone else?
  • Can you find tournament footage of it in action?
  • Has anyone done a competition footage analysis?

We only have so much time and energy, so make sure it’s well spent. By answering these questions, you might discover that the technique is perhaps too new to justify an intense investment of your time and study or that you just don’t have the resources yet to really understand it. This step prepares you for the next steps.

  1. Understand its fundamentals. Notice I said “its fundamentals” not “the fundamentals.” We call the basic moves of jiu-jitsu “fundamentals,” but here I’m referring to the key principles, concepts, and building blocks for the new position you are trying to learn. Even strange positions--if they are good--are built on certain basic rules: body mechanics, off balancing, leverage, timing, etc. The ones that don’t have solid fundamentals are often gimmicks--maybe you get a few surprise taps, or it could be a counter to a very specific “flash in the pan” technique that caught on at your gym.  Find the answer to these questions:
  • How does it work?
  • What makes it fail?
  • What key points of control do you need to maintain to be successful with it?
  • When is the right or wrong time to go for it?
  • If you had to reduce to a few core rules, what would they be?
  1. Study your role model. Back in step one (do your homework), you should have picked out one or more competitors/instructors whose competition footage and/or instructional videos to study. With all the YouTube and BJJ video subscription sites available these days, see if you can find even more about them. Watch competition footage in slow mo and take notes. Channel your inner BJJScout. You may spot details or variations they fail to teach. Keep an eye out for seminars where you can go to learn it in person. You may be surprised how different a technique feels when done by your hero compared to what you could cobble together from Instagram clips.
  1. Find a partner in crime. Having a training partner who is learning the same material can boost progress for both of you. You gain the benefit of their experiences, and they may spot details you missed (and vice versa). Having a trusty partner who shares your goals greatly increases learning speed.
  1. Practice outside group class. Get together with your loyal training partner outside of regular class hours to do the extra work. Teachers often get annoyed when students sit off to the side during regular class hours and do their own thing instead of doing what the rest of the class is doing. Either show up earlier or stay later, and use open mat time to work on your new material.
  1. Put in the reps (but mix it up). There is no getting around it: “Repetitio mater studiorum est. Repetition is the mother of all learning.” I quoted Latin so you know it’s true. Put in reps whenever you get a chance. In those extra training sessions with your buddy, mix it up by doing random practice. That means that instead of practices 3 techniques by doing 3 sets of 10 reps, do 30 reps where you mix up which technique you do at random. You can do it where your partner calls out the technique to do, or they just feed you the trigger to do it. Jason C. Brown wrote about block vs random practice on the blog here: Applying the Science of Motor Learning to Your BJJ Practice.
  1. Do positional sparring. When you get together with your buddy, set a timer and put in rounds of positional sparring. Take turns attacking and defending. Start where the target technique is most relevant and sometimes feed your partner the trigger they need to go for it. Raise the difficulty as you improve. Work up a good sweat and don’t stop to talk until you’ve put in enough rounds of trial and error.
  1. Go for it in free sparring. Try it on a few clueless white belts then work up the food chain as you have success. You will need to put your “A game” on the back burner while you develop this new material. Be mindful that old school teachers may get annoyed if you neglect the techniques they teach you in favor of your “YouTube zhoo-zhitzu,” but as long as you stay inside the agreed upon rules for your school you are probably OK.
  1. Find the connection to your existing game. Often when someone (especially intermediate level grapplers) tries to emulate someone else’s style, they run into difficulty because it doesn’t connect to anything else they are doing. Some techniques gel better with others. Your personal style may not suit a certain technique or position, at least not without experimenting.
  1. Expect to fail more than you succeed in the beginning. When you bring a new trick to your school, you will often enjoy early success (and the rush of excitement that brings) followed quickly by everyone shutting your crap down hard (and all the salty tears that brings). Do not be discouraged if you have a rough time with the new techniques. Think of yourself as a “white belt” in those moves even if you aren’t a white belt any more.

Putting those 10 steps into action will take months of hard work and mat time, but you will be rewarded for your efforts with exclamations of "What the hell was that?" from your opponents. Do me a favor and share your experiences and technical findings in a video or blog post. I’d love to see what you come up with.

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The State of Panda Nation

Five years ago, I started Inverted Gear. It seems like yesterday I was ordering polybags and halfsheet labels on Amazon so I could ship the first batch of panda gis from my mom’s basement. A lot has changed since then. First of all, I met my wife and business partner, Hillary. I didn’t know how much I needed her until she saw our original design files that were sent to the factory. Here is a side by side for comparison, so you can perhaps get a sense of the potential she saw on the brand.


With Hillary’s help, Inverted Gear has grown into something incredible.

I’m still amazed when I scroll through social media and get to experience panda sightings. Whether it’s a video or a picture of a seminar somewhere overseas, if you look hard enough you are sure to find a panda somewhere. I am very grateful for this. With the ever-growing amount of options out there, the fact that people keep choosing us means a lot to me and to Hillary.

In order to thank you for your support, we have worked hard over the last few years to bring you more content than ever. I have assembled what I consider the best BJJ writers out there in one team. Marshal Carper, Matt Kirtley, Daniel Bertina, Val Worthington, and TP grant—also weekly features from yours truly and the occasional post from Hillary when she gets time away from all the design work.

Also we are working hard to start bringing you more video content from both our sponsored athletes and us. We’ve been especially proud of our White Belt Wednesday videos. The best part about my job is getting to talk to people about jiu-jitsu, and these videos are a fun way for us to interact with new jiu-jiteiros around the world and hopefully help their training, even if it’s just a little bit. We have some cool projects in the works that we cannot wait to share with you as well.

On the gear side of things, we’ve been busy too. We will have quite a few announcements on the upcoming weeks. 

As much as we’re looking to do new things, there’s a lot that won’t change. We plan to continue our support of Tap Cancer Out and all the great work they do. We also plan to continue our support of grappling events in general. We have been able to sponsor the last two Polaris events, we sponsored the last Challenge (Keenan Cornelius vs. Sean Roberts), and we are pleased to announce we will be sponsoring Marianas open this year.

Finally, we are working hard to bring Inverted Gear to Europe permanently. Our friends across the pond have been patient so far, but we know that high shipping costs and rising taxes can be frustrating, so we have a European distribution hub in the works, so that we can directly serve European pandas the way we serve American pandas. Our aim is to have this completed by the end of the year.

Everything we have done over the last 5 years has been possible due to your support. Thank you again for believing in our vision. We look forward to bringing you highest quality gear possible, great content, and let’s not forget that really cool Panda logo.

Thank you, Panda Nation. You are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.


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Meet the Pandas – ‘Respect Everybody & Go Forward’ – Frederico Silva

In Meet the Pandas, we introduce the many members of Panda Nation to the BJJ world. Previously, we took a closer look at Hillary Witt, mastermind of the Inverted Gear designs and daily operations. In this episode, we focus on the freshly promoted black belt Frederico Silva, who is taking the BJJ-scene by storm with his super-dynamic style.

Frederico Silva (27) grew up admiring his cousin, the multiple-time world champion and all-round badass Lucas Lepri (of Alliance fame). After leaving his hometown Brasília for a life in the States, and getting promoted to black belt by his cousin, Frederico has been tearing up the competition scene. He’s also a very committed instructor at Lepri’s dojo in Charlotte, NC.

Did your famous cousin introduce you to jiu-jitsu?

Federico Silva: Yes, he was the first. When Lucas introduced me to the art I was about fourteen years old. I was fascinated right away, but I didn’t train with him regularly because we lived in different cities. Whenever I would visit him we would train together. It wasn’t until I turned sixteen that I got more serious, and I found an academy in my city Brasília – the capital of Brazil. It was a Gracie Barra school and my first professor was Rafael de Freitas, also known as ‘Barata.’ After a while Barata left town and moved to the USA, so I started to train under professors Rodrigo Rodé and Juliano Leiro. I stayed under Gracie Barra flag until about 2015, right before I decided to move to the United States. There, I joined Lucas’ school in North Carolina, and I changed teams. The rest is history.

What do you remember about your first competition?

FS: The first time I competed I had just about three months of training under my belt. I remember one match when the guy pulled guard. I passed, mounted, and tapped him out with an Ezekiel choke. I also fought in the open division at that tournament. The first match I choked a big guy from the back, and I lost the second one. No, I wasn’t really nervous or anything. It was a really nice feeling. Before I started training jiu-jitsu I did Muay Thai for a few years, and I had two fights. So I was able deal with the adrenaline and stress of a fight situation. I was hooked right away.

So far you’ve done really well at black belt competitions.

FS: Yeah, I’m happy. I recently won the silver medal (adult division) at the Houston Open. It was only my second time competing as a black belt. I fought at the Atlanta Open the week before that, and I took third place there. So I’m getting closer to the gold. Step-by-step.

Did you train jiu-jitsu full-time back in Brazil?

FS: No, I was studying physical education. I almost graduated, but in 2012 I competed at the Worlds. Then I decided to quit university and remain in the USA for a few months. At first I went to Albuquerque to train at Barata’s school. After that I travelled back and forth for a bit, and I spent some time at the dojo of Alexandre Ferreira Santos ‘Dande’ in Texas. I went back to Brazil, and after a year Lucas invited me to join him at his academy in Charlotte. I took that great opportunity at the end of 2015.

What is your daily schedule like?

FS: We have competition training every noon class, and we train two times a day until Thursday. Friday and Saturday it’s one session a day. Three times a week we do strength and conditioning training. That’s a lot of functional stuff, plyometrics, and of course specific BJJ drills. And yeah, I also really love teaching. I run the intermediate, kids, and fundamentals classes. Lucas focuses more on the advanced and competition classes. We divide the kids classes between the both of us, because we really enjoy their energy. Our days are quite full, but we love it, and we make sure we provide a good training environment.

Did your experiences in physical education help your teaching?

FS: Definitely, especially in the kids classes. In university I worked as an assistant teacher at several schools, and the professionals there gave me all sorts of tricks on how to keep the little ones interested and energized, how to deal with them in a positive way, and how to communicate effectively. No, I never wanted to be just a personal trainer. I was always more into the educational side of things.

Do you have some advice on how to get little kids interested in BJJ? (I have a 4-year old daughter…)

FS: The most important thing is that they enjoy themselves. We do a lot of movement and balance games. Like the Spiderman challenge where you have to walk along the wall, upside down on your hands, with your feet against the wall. Sometimes I make them do zig-zag jumps, like jumping on one foot across the mat. Or Sumo is a good one too, where they have to push each other out of a small circle. You have to be creative.

And then of course, I teach them the basic self-defense moves, like escaping from wrist grabs, holds and basic ground positions, breakfalls, rolls, hip escapes, technical stand-ups. Or I let them start in a certain position, and the first one who gets the mount, wins. Just simple drills to let them understand the game. Thankfully, I have two other coaches that help me with those classes. They are also very good. It’s really a team effort at our gym. I couldn’t do it alone.

What did you struggle with in learning jiu-jitsu?

FS: Well, I always tried to have fun and explore new positions, so I never got too frustrated with the art. When I started jiu-jitsu I only played on top, and my first professor encouraged me to open up the game and to develop my guard. So I accepted his challenge and embraced the half guard. But overall, I think I struggle most with the refined strategy games being played in my division, like how to deal with the 50/50 game, when people only fight for advantages, or the lapel guards, when the other guy tries to tie you up, stall and ride the clock. That’s my big struggle right now. To find and answer to that boring, passive game. I like to go forward!

One thing I noticed after watching your matches is your crazy good balance. You seem almost impossible to sweep. How did you develop that?

FS: That’s all thanks to Lucas. He’s the man. Every day I learn some new detail he uses. He really knows how to game-plan and train specifically for certain opponents. He has an answer for everything. I don’t do balance ball drills or any of that stuff. All my balance comes from specific training and using the new positions that Lucas teaches me. I always like to try new things.

Who are some of your idols in jiu-jitsu?

FS: Aside from Lucas I respect Rodolfo Vieira a lot. His takedowns and dynamic guard passing are fantastic. He really knows how to control the pace of the match. But for me, the most important thing about the jiu-jitsu fighters is not their technique or game. It’s their attitude. Win or lose, always keep your composure and be respectful. That’s the essence of a martial art. You don’t see a lot of that with a lot of the new generation of competitors. These days there are a lot of bad boys in jiu-jitsu. I don’t like that attitude.

Tell me about your most memorable competition.

FS: I think it was the Brazilian Nationals in no-gi, at brown belt level. I was coming from a few competition losses, and for a while I was quite unmotivated. But I decided to push myself, and I started to train no-gi with a Luta Livre school: Cerrado MMA. That was an entirely new style for me. It was a more MMA-based grappling style with a super tight top game, takedowns, arm-triangle chokes and leg attacks. I taught some classes there and we exchanged knowledge.

So I committed myself and I was really focused. I went down to Rio with my fiancée and my two sons. For the first match I had a bye, because the guy didn’t make weight. Then I fought a guy from Gracie Humaíta, who I saw compete in the finals of the Europeans a while before. He gave Marcio André a really tough match, so I was pretty scared to fight that guy. But I managed to take him down and submit him with an arm-triangle choke. In the finals I faced someone who’s now my teammate, Caio Rigante Nunes. A month prior we had fought at the Sao Paulo Open in the no-gi finals, and he caught me in a footlock pretty bad – he destroyed my foot. But in the rematch I ended up winning. So that was very special. Also because I had my family cheering for me.

What is the most important thing about jiu-jitsu for you?

FS: I think jiu-jitsu is a journey, a constant search for growth. Not in a financial way, but becoming a better human being. Day after day, by doing something you love. For me it doesn’t make sense to just get a job you hate just because of the money. I think people should look for something they love, and follow that passion all the way. Go for it. Jiu-jitsu is a lifestyle that gives us the opportunity to grow, and to help other people to do the same. To help them to grow into a better person.

Finally, what advice would you have given yourself as a white belt?

FS: That’s a hard question man. But always believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail or to look bad. Just do what you love. Respect everybody, and go forward.

Frederico Silva teaches at in Charlotte, NC. Follow him on Instagram: @fredalvessilva.

Daniël Bertina is a journalist and writer based in the Netherlands. He holds a black belt in BJJ under Marcos Flexa of Carlson Gracie Amsterdam. Follow him on Twitter & Instagram at @joyofirony.

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Should you drill your bad side?

Jason C. Brown is back with a new episode of Chalk Talk. In this installment, he talks about what motor learning has to say about working your off-side into your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu drilling routine. Watch the video to learn more:

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