Reader Question: “How should I roll with fellow white belts to avoid being an a-hole?”

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Question: “New student just started at BJJ school of excellent lineage and champion black belt Professor. Started wrestling young, some MMA experience, deep interest and study of martial arts for many years. Due to conditioning from work, cardio, feeling like I am having issues with injury/excess force against fellow white belts although not big guy.

Due to not knowing etiquette despite study and gentle intent used can-opener against unknown rules, pressure on chest and one guy left practice and I felt bad. Feel better with higher belts, they can submit me easy. So how should I roll with fellow white belts to avoid being an a-hole and hurting my school?”

Jiu-jitsu Times: A great question!

Sounds like you may be guilty of being the “goes really hard” guy. That’s fine if you are in a group of competitive guys who have the same mindset and are preparing for a competition. The young lions will take all you got and give it right back!

But this is a “no no” if you are rolling with recreational white belts who are getting injured or turned off of training after rolling with you.

I have always felt that the purest expression of jiu-jitsu is to control an opponent with as little strength as necessary. If you have sharp technique, you should be able to dominate and submit opponents without hurting them.

Without having seen you roll, I am guessing that you like to roll at high intensity, utilizing your athletic attributes and wrestling experience.

I would suggest saving that full speed for the competitive guys or the higher belts.
Try rolling with other white belts with these two guidelines in mind:

1) Emphasize control.
My third-degree black belt head instructor would catch me in arm bars from the mount in every roll.

However, he didn’t leap on me, wrench my arm, explode his hips, and bend my arm at full speed. Using his legs and grips he would control my escapes. Then he would use leverage to SLOWLY pry my arm away from my body.

He so completely controlled me that I would tap before my arm was completely straight. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. He had me in the jiu-jitsu equivalent of check mate.

2) Roll one level higher than your opponent.
There is little point in completely smashing a white belt who is several levels lower than you.
Instead, challenge yourself to see how little force you can use while utilizing pure technique, timing, and leverage to catch the tap.

You should have multiple different speeds and intensity levels to roll with different partners.
Roll at a different pace with the recreational student who is over 40 than you do with a 23-year-old blue belt preparing for a tournament.

We need to preserve our training partners and roll in such a way that the other guys want to roll with you.

Roll just above the level of your partner.

That might mean taking your foot off the gas when rolling with a partner of significantly different ability.

It will not only help you, but make rolling more productive for your partners.

Read also: Jiu-jitsu Times – The 60% Rule In Rolling


  1. My opinion is let the white belts gain position. Let them train and use what they know. From my experience even when they do get in the mount they arent even efficient enough to finish the fight or pull of any submissions. So let them tire themselves give them positions and then defend and practice sweeps get the mount and let them escape again and agin etc. Eventualy submit them but no need to slam them around and choke them to death lol.


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