The number one thing you should keep in mind as a BJJ white belt is not to be afraid of making mistakes.
Mistakes are how we learn. Errors provide you with an opportunity to learn and then improve, and this applies to any mistake.
Even the smallest mistake can teach you a big lesson.
It is crucial to start with the recognition of error and then learn how not to make that error again.
Don’t beat yourself up over it; you are still in the learning process, and you should not be focused on perfecting everything at once.
Accept it and move on.
2. Master the Movement First
A problem people run into is trying to attempt more complex movements without mastering the fundamentals beforehand. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu white belts need to first focus on the fundamentals before trying to attempt the more complex actions.
A few examples of fundamental movements are bridging, shrimping, getting up, or sweeping.
Bridging and shrimping are the two most important movements that link everything together.
You need to understand that bridging needs to be perfected before you can learn how to escape a bad position, and shrimping should be developed on both sides.
Bridging – Bridging is when you are lying on your back with your knees up, and you raise your hips to make a bridge shape.
Shrimping – Shrimping is mobility while on your back and using your feet to move you around.
Getting up – When moving to a standing position you want to use a technical stand up, the important aspect is making sure your head will not be compromised.
Sweeping – Sweeping is when you will use your feet to take out your opponent’s base and legs which usually leads to gaining a better position.
Being able to get up to a standing position and being able to finish a sweep are basics that should be learned before trying more advanced positions or submissions.
Being able to put these fundamentals together smoothly will be a mark of advancement for a white belt.
3. Relax While Training
If you are unable to relax while you are training, you will most likely become exhausted too early and feel overstrained, which can lead to injury.
Going into Jiu Jitsu with a competitive mind instead of a relaxed one will slow down your progress.
You can always tell an experienced Jiu Jitsu practitioner from a beginner just by noticing how relaxed they look going into even the most intense rolls.
They can go in having a clear mind and controlled breathing.
When you are tense, begin taking rapid, shallow breaths, and rely solely on your strength, you will run out of energy much faster than your opponent.
When you become exhausted, your opponent will be able to force you into submission much quicker.
Any position in which you are not going to lose control of the advantage or immediately gain a lead is a moment you should take to breath.
If you feel stressed going into class, set aside a few moments to take deep breaths and center your mind.
4. Correct Gripping
When grappling against an opponent, you will need to grab ahold of them. Many beginners don’t realize the importance of having a good hand grip.
Effective gripping has three essential components of it – hand strength, efficient gripping, and where to grip.
The muscles in your hands need to be appropriately trained to give you proper grip during Jiu Jitsu.
Some exercises can help you strengthen your hands:
Kettlebell swings Rope climbs Rope pulls Pinch hold weights Claw hold weights
Even if you have a significant amount of hand strength, if you do not have an efficient grip, your forearms will begin to weaken, causing you to lose grip.
Some hand grips are:
Pistol grip – grabbing onto the GI with your pinky closest to their wrist, grab as much material as if you are holding a pistol handle Spider Grip – grabbing the GI sleeve with the four fingers curling inward at the first knuckles C grip – grabbing with your four fingers and curling inward like making a letter “C” Monkey grip – grabbing with the top of your four finger’s joints
Where To Grip
An essential component of gripping is where you should grip.
No matter how secure your grip is, if you are not gripping in the right spot, you will not get the right amount of leverage.
The best areas to grip are:
Collar Sleeve ends Lapels Pant cuffs (fingers never inside pants)
With grappling, you want to have a proper grip on the opponent’s clothes, but you also want to have excellent hand-to-hand gripping skills.
This allows you to have a strong hold on your opponent and prevents them from being able to break your hands apart.
The hand-to-hand grips you should learn are:
Gable grip – Common grip for body locks, defending armbars, and armlocks
Butterfly grip – Helpful with Greco throws and half guard
Gokor grip – Used in moves where the elbows need to come together, Darce Chokes, and Japanese neckties
S-grip – Used when the opponent is too large to wrap around and to defend armbars
Seat belt grip – Used for back control, front headlocks, anklelocks, and guillotines
Bridge and roll escape vs. mount– This move utilizes your strongest muscles – thighs, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back –to push your opponent off of you rather than pushing them away with your arms, which beginners are inclined to do.
Mount position– This is a mighty, complicated move that is essential in Jiu Jitsu and should be mastered. There are three types of mounts: low mount, technical mount, and high mount.
Americana lock– Common lock in grappling, which entails the attacker taking control of the opponent’s arm.
Toreando guard pass– This is named after the motion a bullfighter does to avoid the bull as it rushes in.
Hip bump sweep– The perfect sweep for when your opponent is on their knees
Armbar from guard– This move gets confused with gripping, shifting, adjusting, and swiveling, so it is crucial to learn the difference.
8. Ask Questions
A common mistake white belts make in BJJ is not asking questions.
Asking questions is how you can begin to learn something, so when your instructor shows you a move and asks you if you understand, come up with a follow-up question that can help you learn.
Being able to ask questions to understand why a technique works will allow you to improve your skills and understand how more advanced techniques work.
It will also help you learn about yourself and what works best for you.
As suggested by a BJJ practitioner, here are eight questions you should ask your instructor:
Which techniques will work better for my body type?
How do I get competition ready?
Am I ready to compete?
Why does this move work?
Why am I unable to make this move work?
When is the best time to move on from a move?
How can I improve?
How should I connect moves?
9. Don’t Look Only for Submissions
In Jiu Jitsu, the goal is to beat your opponent into submission, but as a white belt, you shouldn’t expect to do this when you’re first starting out.
You need to be okay with losing because it is a way to help you learn and improve.
Instead of focusing on trying to get a submission on your training partner, you should focus on defense instead.
Don’t be discouraged if you do not win every match.
This is a learning opportunity, and you may even be able to pick up on what they were able to do to beat you.
Tap on Your Partner, Not the Mat
Although the goal is to win, you need to understand that losing will help you learn, so you should go into any match with the mindset that you may have to submit.
When you are put into a submission, it is important to know how to tap out properly.
If your partner puts you in a submission, tap on them, and not the mat.
It is common for your partner to be so focused that they may not see you tapping on the mat, so it is essential to make sure they feel you tapping out.
Another thing to be aware of is that if your opponent can’t see or hear you tapping on the mat, they may adjust to a tighter grip to get you to submit. This can often lead to you passing out or getting injured.
If you are in a situation where both your arms are trapped, stomping on the mat repeatedly is another way to make it known that you are submitting.
If they do not realize that you are trying to tap out, giving a verbal message is another option.
Don’t Wait Until It Hurts
Another thing with accepting that you may not win the match is making sure that you know your limits and do not push yourself.
As a white belt, you are still learning about your body and how much you can take.
Take it easy in the beginning.
It is common for a white belt to think that just because something is not hurting enough, they can still escape.
Even though they may still be able to escape, they can end up injured from it, keeping them from being able to train for a few weeks.
Most locks and holds are not supposed to be very painful, they are meant to prevent you from being able to break free, so if you push too hard, you will end up popping something.
Some less painful holds are toeholds and heel hooks.
10. Become a Master at Defense and Escaping
Working on your defense is a critical factor as a BJJ white belt.
When you are going up against an opponent, even if they are more advanced than you, you want to have a strong defense to help prevent them from being able to submit you.
It will be beneficial to start on the bottom when you are going up against someone to learn the different guards and escapes.
Whenever you are put into submission, analyze what you could have done to get yourself out.
Learn what works and doesn’t work for you.
Escaping from The Bottom
When starting as a white belt, you will notice that there are many different escapes for specific situations and that the principles of these moves are all similar.
When you are on the bottom, you want to look for ways to create space.
Ways to create space are:
Bridging and shrimping
Use your forearms to push your opponent
Roll to your side
Once space has been created between you and your opponent, you will want to keep your hands in a defensive position.
You should keep your elbows held as tightly in as possible and try to hide your arms to prevent your opponent from grabbing you.
Being a BJJ white belt can feel intimidating, but you should understand that everyone has been in the same place.
Your instructors and the more advanced belts are there to help you learn and improve, so it is vital to listen to them and ask questions whenever you have them.
Stay relaxed during this process, and don’t be scared to make mistakes; those mistakes will help you learn.
Focus on the basic movements of Jiu Jitsu and learn to master those before moving on to more advanced techniques.
Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years.
Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.