Do You Attend “White Belt Classes”?

One of the best parts of writing for the Jiu-Jitsu Times is getting to answer reader questions.  If you ever have a question for me or one of my colleagues don’t hesitate to reach out.

I was recently asked by one of our readers, Daniel Goldberg, to explore the merits of white belt only classes.  I’ll do my best to analyze this topic based on my own experiences and perspectives.

White belts come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Two white belts on their first day can be very different beasts, one spazzy and unpredictable, the other tentative and hesitant.  White belts also can come into the art with different degrees of knowledge regarding grappling; wrestling is, after all, a pretty popular sport.

A class devoted to and entirely populated with white belts allows the instructor to focus on details and techniques relevant to them.  Also if the instructor can maintain the same group throughout a series of classes, it becomes possible to explore themes specific to certain positions and techniques, making a series of classes act as one long class.

A good jiu-jitsu instructor is crucial, but the focus and seriousness of the students plays a major role.  I’d rather teach focused white belts than unfocused know-it-all blue belts.  Very often when people are first getting into something ,especially a sport like jiu-jitsu, they have a beginner’s zest and zeal for it. A room full of this can be a powerful and uplifting thing.

On the other hand, having experienced students interspersed with inexperienced ones can be very useful, especially in a large class.  For me, an ideal class size is about 10 people,. Above that I begin to have to limit the amount of personal attention given to each student.  However, if there are some upper belts in the room, they can facilitate this by helping the newer students with areas with which they may be struggling.

For a student, attending a white belt only or fundamentals class should be a priority.  I’d rather spend more of my time focusing on day one fundamentals because those are going to be relevant more of the time in a live setting.

As far as rolling goes, I honestly think that new white belts rolling with each other can be detrimental.  I’ve seen more injuries take place between white belts, who didn’t know any better, than upper belts.  This isn’t out of malice but inexperience, so generally when I teach I try to pair inexperienced people with experienced ones to avoid injuries.

The most important thing to focus on is taking it slow and steady and learning fundamentals, whether you’re a white belt or a higher belt.  This simplifies the game greatly.  Higher level techniques and chains are useful, but a day two white belt learning deep half guard will likely be missing out on many of the important details.

If your gym offers fundamentals/beginners/white belt only classes make sure to attend them; they can be very useful to the budding jiujiteiro.  Be aware, though, that the potential pitfalls lie in the lack of experience throughout the room.


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