Looking Back To White Belt

I wish someone told me all of this when I started. So, if you are new take a few minutes to read this.

As an Instructor and someone that has benefitted greatly from learning Jiu Jitsu I appreciate every time a person decides to train and get on the mat.

When I was new to Jiu Jitsu I made the same mistakes most new students make and the one’s that you will most likely make too. Although your path with be unique to you there are plenty of common experiences that most people have when starting. So, here are a few insights I hope you’ll find helpful.

It is true and your Professor knows it. A common phrase you’ll hear is “Work on the fundamentals and positions before submissions, relax, learn to breathe and work on defense first” and that is because it is a universal Jiu Jitsu truth that will remain unchanged and has been proven to be true for a very long time.

In most cases your Coach has spent a ton of time on the mats and has made every mistake just like every other white belt when they started. Michelangelo probably wasn’t the remarkable artist he became the second he was handed a paintbrush and you can’t expect to be remarkable right away either. Jiu Jitsu is a process and the learning never ends, ever. That is what captivates so many people and keeps the interest so high. Ask any high ranking person.

Take the time to learn the positions and details at a slower pace and then when you add some speed you have much better technique as you progress and you’ll work less and be more efficient with your movement. The sooner you learn that and accept it, you’ll most likely make much faster progress than the person that just wants to go for the submission yet can’t hold anyone in a position.

In most cases your Coach has spent a ton of time on the mats and has made every mistake just like every other white belt. Michelangelo probably wasn’t remarkable the second he was handed a paintbrush. Jiu Jitsu is a process and the learning never ends, ever. That is one of the many reasons Jiu Jitsu captivates so many people and keeps the interest so high.

Jiu Jitsu is about getting submissions, it is not about injuring your training partner. Tap fast and often and you’ll be glad you did. Of course, try to avoid being submitted and escape. However, there is no medal given for being the toughest White Belt that refused to tap to anyone and there are too many ways to get injured; the main cause is the EGO. 

You cannot expect to beat higher belts in the beginning but if you are a good training partner to them, they will be a good training partner to you. Be the person that people want to train with and most people will go out of their way to help you get better. Probably more than you expect.

If and when you get caught, and you will, say thanks and ask the person to show you what they did. Do NOT be the person that gets angry and takes the lesson of the experience and makes it something it should not be. It is a lesson, treat it like one.

Give yourself a break. The thing about Jiu Jitsu is that you will quickly find out where you need to improve. Not every match or sparring session is a championship. It is ok to get taped and every single higher belt has tapped countless times. Getting submitted does not define who you are. How you handle it says much more about you.

Getting submitted at your academy is not the same as losing a match or fight. You are supposed to have obstacles and you will learn a great deal about how you deal with something when it doesn’t go your way. It is just Jiu Jitsu, nobody gets a belt without getting submitted just like in life nobody gets out alive.

Have fun, laugh and just keep showing up. Progress is inevitable for those that show up consistently.

Too many people focus on how everything should go right and fail to learn how to overcome doing your best and still not doing well. Hang in there. I guarantee you will see a new person start training at your academy after you have been there for a few months and have an “ah-ha” realization that you are getting better. It is a good feeling, it will come, and you’ll remember it.

Be coachable and do the work. If you have a good Instructor you are going to get feedback and while everyone has their own style of coaching and teaching. Learn to take feedback and try to follow the advice. In the beginning you may not even understand why, if you don’t be sure to ask or speak up, and get back to training. Do not be the person that wants to debate every piece of advice or instruction. Ask questions but don’t be “that person”. 

What is hard today will be easier tomorrow. That is one of my favorite Jiu Jitsu truths from Master Sauer and the more time you are on the mats the better you will move, the more poised you will become, the better your techniques will get and everything will seem easier and you will have a much deeper sense of accomplishment and confidence that will have an impact in every part of your life.

Jiu Jitsu will change you for the better. You’ll have a new perspective on how you influence everything.  You will be forever grateful that you started. Just ask every Black Belt you meet if it was worth it to them. Enjoy your training, be safe, and I hope to see you sometime on the mats.


  1. Yep, JIU JITSU is fun , but its a challenge , you have to listen to your Body and especialy your coaches. Always remember Jiu Jitsu isnt for everybody , if it was everybody would have cauliflower ears. The few, the proud, the white belts.


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