There’s one at almost every club. The guy who can’t lose. The guy who always goes 100%. The guy who applies every submission with speed and power. The guy who fights as if his life depends on it.
One sure indicator that someone is a grappling berserker is that he is always injuring his training partners and/or himself.
A favorite trick of a berserker is to say something like “I’m feeling tired (or sick, or injured) today, let’s just go 50% and flow”. Usually it takes less than 10 seconds of sparring for them to go into turbocharged berserker mode. Now you’ve got to make a decision to get crushed or to play his game and match his intensity.
There’s nothing wrong with hard-fought, high intensity rolling, especially if you have competitive aspirations. Making EVERY sparring match a battle to the death, however, is suboptimal for several reasons:
First of all, the chances of injury increase, both for you and your opponents.
Secondly, since everything is tense, tight and explosive it limits the development of that elusive attribute ‘flow’.
Thirdly, it limits your pool of training partners. People will start avoiding you on the mats, either because they don’t want to get injured or simply because they aren’t in the mood for an all-out dogfight.
Finally, it can stop you from becoming well rounded, because if winning every sparring match is the only thing that counts then you probably won’t willingly put yourself into bad situations or positions you need to improve at.
If you have a berserker at your club I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spar with him; in fact they can be very useful training partners depending on what aspect of your game you are working on.
The main thing is that you have to know what you are getting into and be prepared for a battle every single time. Don’t get sucked into starting out light and easy and then, without warning, having the intensity escalated on you.