BJJ Drilling: What Is It And Why You Need It

Ever wonder what the benefits of drilling are? Jiu-Jitsu classes have rolling which is a way for students to test their skills, isn’t that enough? Rolling lets us utilize our techniques where we can find opportunities for improvement or our strengths. Well, I wanted to find out the importance of drilling and why rolling may not be enough and here’s what I found.

The goal of drilling is to make improvements to a technique (sometimes very small) each repetition. Drilling offers an opportunity to practice a technique that needs refinement or improvement. Practicing a technique in a slow, controlled, and focused manner will enhance the technical details, timing, and conditioning of a move. Taking time to drill before or after class will improve and progress your skills in Jiu-Jitsu.

What Is Drilling?

Drilling is focusing on a single technique, movement, or position and repeating it many times over and over. While drilling attention to detail cannot be forgotten, the technique needs to be practiced correctly.

The objective of repeating something over many times is to engrain it in muscle memory. This way when you find yourself in a similar position during a roll your reaction is automatic and precise.

“I fear not the man who has practiced a thousand kicks, I fear the man who has practiced one kick a thousand times.”

Bruce Lee

Drilling correctly is keeping the scope of the thing being practiced small. It’s not about getting good at everything at one time. A drill is about sharpening a tool and being deadly with it – even if is it drilling mount escapes.

Why Is Drilling Important?

Drilling is important to practice techniques in a controlled, methodical, deliberate way to ensure precise, effective technique. A well-drilled technique will have a higher rate of success and will have a higher chance of being executed.

Drilling techniques will help you make them more effective and efficient. It can fix holes or gaps in your techniques that may be preventing it from being effective. Engraining the muscle memory for a technique will make it sharp and quick. Before you know it, your moves will take less conscious effort to do and in the future allowing you to strategize further.

A great example of why drilling is important is this: When doing a scissor sweep you don’t want to have to think about grabbing the collar, grabbing the arm, pivoting your hips, etc, etc. You want to have the scissor sweep engrained so it becomes automatic when you have your opponent’s collar and sleeve in your grips.

Practice makes permanent. Repetitions are how you program your mind and body to do things automatically. And drilling is the best way to do it.

When is Drilling Useful?

Drilling is useful to refine techniques and situations. Drilling a new move or submission can turn the technique into something that you’re able to perform during a roll or tournament.

If you find yourself in a certain position a lot, just missing a sweep, or not being able to finish a submission, chances are drilling is what you need to do. For instance, if you’re catching everyone in an armbar but cannot get the finish, taking the time to perform the movement slowly and focus on the details for 30 minutes will be game-changing.

Not drilling or not taking the time to refined techniques can form bad habits that can be very hard to break. One of the best things I’ve heard was, “It takes 500 repetitions to learn something, it takes 5000 repetitions to fix something that’s incorrect and ingrained in muscle memory“.

What Is Muscle Memory?

Muscle memory is a form of memory that involves ingraining a motor skill into memory through repetition. A movement is repeated many times over, over a period of time, so that your body can remember the motor pattern. Eventually allowing that motor pattern to be performed with little to no conscious effort.

What Is The Difference Between Rolling And Drilling?

The difference between rolling and drilling is, rolling is where you’re free to do as you please and use any technique you wish. Drilling is choosing a position or technique and practicing for many repetitions; it has a beginning and an endpoint.

Rolling has it’s advantages as different variables are presented. Drilling will ingrain a foundation into your body and mind that will allow you to react more appropriately to those variables.

Rolling is the equivalent to sparring in other martial arts disciplines. This is when you’re able to use everything you know against the other person. The roll ends when either the given time limit expires or when someone gets submit.

Drilling is practicing a set of techniques, positions or situations with intentions. It should be done slowly and methodically or at a rolling pace resetting once the end objective is achieved. The goal of drilling is to eventually learn to perform techniques without needing to think through each step.

Types Of Drilling

There are many types of drilling that can be done. Each method of drilling provides a different type of learning response from the body. The different methods of drills are technical, repetition, movement, and time.

Technical Drilling

Technical drilling practicing a technique in a slow and controlled manner. Practice slow and focus on the details of a technique, it will ensure everything is done properly. This type of drilling will allow muscle memory to correctly remember the patterns of the technique. Don’t try adding speed too quickly, otherwise, you’ll be practicing the wrong technique, only faster.

Repetition Drilling

Repetition drilling is useful for when a technique can be performed correctly and the details no longer need to be broken down into steps. This type of drilling is similar to doing sets and reps in the gym, except instead of doing 3 sets of 8 of Deadlifts, it’s a few sets of doing some reps of armbars. Drilling in this manner allows practicing a technique then giving the body a break before the technique falls apart.

Movement Drills

Movement drills are when a technique can be performed correctly at a decent speed. Start a movement drill at a slow speed to ensure the details are right and then start adding speed. The benefits of movement drills are that they start adding speed, conditioning, and timing to techniques.

Timed Drills

Timed drills take movement drills a step further. Set a timer and practice the technique many times (as long as it doesn’t get sloppy) within a time limit. This type of drilling is a great opportunity to start having your partner add resistance and pressure.

Styles Of Drilling

Four different styles of drilling exist to further target different learning responses. The different styles of drilling are single technique, sequential, situational, and exploratory.

Single Technique

Drilling a single technique in Jiu-Jitsu allows engraining the muscle memory and details of a technique. Taking the time to work on a specific technique will help improve it and get it tight. Working on all the smaller details of a technique is what makes the difference between a successful attempt to a failed attempt in rolling.


Sequential drilling is linking or weaving different techniques that flow, setup, or compliment each other. Practicing the movements and transitions smoothly will encourage muscle memory to recognize responses and capitalize on them.

One of my favorite demonstrations of sequential progression is this video from Roy Dean. The video goes through the progression of a Kimura, linking and weaving it to different techniques.


The situational style of drilling is similar to sequential; however, in this style, the partner will change up what they’re doing throughout the move being applied. The drilling partner will give different scenarios for you to use the techniques on.

For instance, your partner can use a different styled guard or side control each time the drill is reset. This type of drilling is useful for adapting to different styles that will be encountered during rolls.

Another way to simulate drilling is by doing situational rolls. Start with your partner in a specific position. Reset once you’re out of that position or if your partner gets into a more advantageous position. Situational rolling compares to rolling, except you reset so the particular position will be drilled many times.


The exploratory style of drilling is when techniques or moves can be explored and investigated. Ever wonder if you could intertwine two techniques and turn it into a new move, this is the time to do it.

Exploring, researching, and developing techniques may have you and your partner bouncing ideas off each other and then trying them out. Doing this style every so often is a great way to develop new game plans to see what works and what doesn’t.

How Do I Drill

The optimal way to drill can be broken down into five different phases:

  1. Learn the technique, drilling it slowly.
  2. Slowly start adding speeding.
  3. Add in some resistance.
  4. Introduce light situational drilling.
  5. Start full resistant drilling.

Learning The Technique

The first step to drilling is learning a technique and then practicing it slowly. Practice the details and precision of a the technique. Refined and get the technique dialed in during this stage. When speed is added to quickly, it risks ingraining incorrect technique into muscle memory. Your drilling partner shouldn’t be adding resistance at this stage as it can encourage bad technique.

Adding Speed

When a technique is learned and details are refined, speed can be added in slowly. The key here is not to go so fast that it is sloppy from the beginning. Add speed to the technique slowly, it may not be as clean as it was at a slow speed, but that’s why this drill is important. Adding the speed will eventually get you using the technique quickly and effectively.

Introduce Resistance

After the technique has been dialed in slowly and at speed, get your partner to start adding in some resistance. The resistance will allow you to get a feel for fighting through the opposition or allow you to see different responses from the partner.

If you’re the partner adding resistance, don’t give 100% resistance, add in resistance slowly. Adding resistance might be getting your partner to grip a bit harder to prevent an armbar from being locked in.

Light Situational Drill Rolling

The light situational drilling is drilling a technique like a roll, except not with the full resistance and pressure a roll would give. Your partner would attack and defend as they would in a roll, except their not trying to beat you, just show you what could happen.

Full Speed Drill Rolling

The final stage of drilling is drilling a technique at a rolling pace. The difference between drill rolling vs rolling is once the technique is shut down or successful the positions are reset. Once the reset happens, the drill proceeds again until one of the two outcomes occur.

A simple example of this is practicing side-control escapes. Your partner starts in side-control and your objective is to escape. When your partner gets a more advantageous position or submits you reset the position. If you’re able to escape side-control the position is also reset.


In conclusion, drilling is important because it is an opportunity to practice techniques in a controlled, deliberate way to ensure techniques are progressing correctly. A well-drilled technique will have a higher rate of success since the details that have been worked out and can be performed accurately.

Drilling compared to rolling will ingrain a foundation into your muscle memory that will allow you to react more appropriately to those variables in rolling. Rolling presents many different variables all at once, so it can be hard to get better or progress weaker techniques in a roll.

Many types of drilling are able to be complete and each method of drilling provides a different type of learning response. The different methods of drills are technical, repetition, movement, and time.

Want to get started drilling? Here is an easy 5 step process to do so:

  1. Learn the technique, repeating it slowly.
  2. Slowly start adding speeding.
  3. Allow your partner to give resistance to the technique.
  4. Introduce light situational drilling.
  5. Start full resistant drilling.