Are You Brand New To Jiu-Jitsu? Here Are Two Tips White Belts Should Know.

Image Source: Issys Calderon Photography

The old shark was cruising near the edge of the mat when a young pup swam up behind him and whispered into his ear, 

“I’m a baby shark, and I’m drowning on these mats. Please help me swim.”

The fierce submission hunter turned around and replied in his softest voice,

Just keep training, don’t quit. Eventually, you will get better— Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle, #porrada, #warrior, #thematismyocean. 

Hey white belts, don’t listen to this sh*t.

Look, a lot of the advice you receive from higher belts during your “white belt” journey is sub-optimal and will not help you.

Here’s why. 

BJJ is a puzzle, but you don’t know how to assemble its puzzle pieces.

As a beginner in any activity, everything is new to you.

Therefore, your initial desire is to “soak up” as much information as you can.

However, knowledge is not always power. Just because you soak up information does not mean you will successfully analyze and implement said data. 

White belts are often overwhelmed with Jiu-Jitsu because there are too many concepts and techniques to learn, leading to information overload. 

This is the very reason why upper belts tell you to “keep training” because only time on the mats will allow you to understand these concepts and techniques better. 

It’s all about pattern recognition, acquired reflexes, and

muscle memory.

However, if you use “time” as your measurement or see it as your only option for getting better— coincidentally, you may be wasting it.

Your time on the mat (as in your life) is precious, so you should use it efficiently.  

It’s good if your mind pushes you to train, even if you are tired from work. But “showing up” to the mats is only step one. There are many other steps that black belts will “forget” to tell you about. 

Focusing on individual techniques is good, but it’s not enough— it has a point of diminishing returns.

And contrary to popular belief, learning positional awareness or hip movement is not the best use of your time.

Ultimately, there are dozens of variables that will improve your BJJ game and help you get to the next level; higher belts already know about these variables, but you don’t. 

So, what should you do?

First, acknowledge that you will eventually understand all of the moves, but right now, it’s impossible for you! 

Second, realize that the “problem” with advice from higher belts (not all) is that many of them (not all) have forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner.  

Therefore, they don’t teach white belts the way a beginner should be taught. 

Here are two areas you should focus on to improve your progress in Jiu-Jitsu.

  1. Focus on defense

Learning hip movement, positional awareness, proper breathing, how to deal with the physicality of an opponent, etc., are each side effect of simply showing up.

These side effects are skills that you need on the mats (in life).

But they are not the most critical skills, nor will they help you improve as fast as possible. So, please don’t spend too much of your time drilling them. 

Every sparring or “rolling” session should have a purpose, but more specifically, that purpose should be on escapes. 

As a white belt, you are going to spend most of your time in bad positions. So, you might as well focus 60-80% of your limited sparring time on proper defense and try to work your way out of these bad positions. 

Remember, proper defense and sound fundamentals fuel the greatest Martial Artists in the world. 

In a few months, you will get decent at escaping.

But more importantly, your mindset will start to change for the better.

When you believe your opponents, especially your white belt teammates, cannot submit you. 

Then you will have the confidence to be more offensive and ultimately allocate more of your time towards attacking. 

When you become a BJJ blackbelt, high-level defense is one skill you need…. So, start working on it right now. 

Like legendary coach John Danaher once said, 

“Competence breeds confidence; when you feel like not many opponents can submit you, you will be more inclined to attack more.”

  1. Spend 1% of your time thinking about the blue belt.

I like a book called Tribe of Mentors by best-selling author Tim Ferris. 

He interviews 130+ top performers from various fields worldwide on their habits, tactics, tools, and mindsets for success.  

Terry Crews, Susan Cain, Ray Dalio, Jocko Willink, Arianna Huffington, Aisha Tyler, Vitalik Buterin, Ashton Kutcher, the list goes on Aeternum. 

Out of 130+ highly successful individuals, not one person said they were more outcome-oriented than process-oriented. 

Although these individuals kept the finish line of a “blue belt” as a goal, they focused on not missing

a step in their day-to-day improvements.

Some of their biggest mistakes stemmed from chasing an outcome rather than improving their process. 

Ultimately causing said individuals to plateau in their level of success. 

The point is by focusing on your blue belt over getting better; you may drive yourself “mad” if you do not achieve your goals.

If you don’t achieve them, you may get discouraged about this activity. And if you get discouraged, there’s a higher chance of you quitting after six-twelve months because you did not get what you wanted.

I’ve seen this “quitting process” many times in the past.

There is a reason the retention rate in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after the blue belt is low; many individuals drop out of the game because the process to excellence only becomes more challenging. 

Achieving the blue belt is easy; reaching a high level of competency is the hard part. 

And even then, I would say reaching that high level is not too hard if you are training strategically and have the right outlook for your long-term journey.  

John Danaher says it only takes five years for someone to make tremendous progress in BJJ. I agree.

I’ve been traveling the world, teaching myself, and have made tremendous leaps forward but never forget that my training regimen needs to be continually refined and adjusted for maximal growth. 

The point is perspective is a significant component in determining a persons’ level of success. That’s one way to differentiate winners from losers. 

… Both on and off the mat. 

When you invest the time to repeat something, it becomes a habit, so make sure you’re making a good, not a bad one. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here