I love flow drills. I feel they help my game, but more importantly, they help me decompress. Flowing is a spiritual experience for me. I like to describe it as “very zen”. It’s six minutes where my brain is completely off. A sort of moving meditation.
When you think about what you’re doing while flowing you’re not quick enough. Likewise, you can’t let yourself be distracted by thinking about anything outside the flow. A second thinking about what you’ll have for dinner and you’ll have been swept. Think about the armbar in front of you and you will have missed the window. You trust that your body knows what to do, and your mind ends up just blank. There is no past; no future. During a flow drill there is only what is happening in that moment.
The times you have to think when rolling are times where you or your opponent is stalling. You’ve been pinned, you’re holding him in mounted triangle just trying to get that last two inches of space to finish, you’re in deep-half just chilling. Flow drills are about movement and don’t have these stalls. When you get the pin and they don’t escape you move to a different pin. Both of you have to keep moving. Neither of you has time to chill; time to think.
I know some guys are thinking through their flows. They’re thinking four or five steps ahead to avoid being too slow when the opportunity happens. I’m not them. I’m not hunting for the submission. I’m not worried about holding the top position. I’m just having fun and relaxing. If you are the kind of person who sees six moves ahead I applaud you. That’s a fantastic skill. The next time you’re super stressed though, I recommend grabbing someone you can just flow with at a pace fast enough to keep you from thinking, but an intensity low enough that there is no ego. That’s the sweet spot. That’s where you can’t think; you just have to do.