Rookie Mistakes When Rolling: Top Ten

We’ve all been here, obviously. We all started at the same place. Some people may have come to jiu-jitsu with a background in other martial art(s), but everyone wraps a white belt around their waist and works their way up the ranks. We all make rookie mistakes! How could we not, we don’t know; with training comes knowledge! After all, “a black belt is a white belt who never gave up,” correct? So in speaking with my pals around the globe the following list was compiled of top ten rookie mistakes or bloopers:

* Reaching out for my rolling partner’s neck while in their guard. Arm bar city!
* Putting your hands on the mat while in the guard. Again, this is an offensive no-no! You’re setting yourself up for lots of nasty things.
* Not protecting the neck. I’ve seen a cross-choke or felt the rear naked coming and thought, what?! I don’t know, you learn that lesson quick!
* Crossing the center line… Goodbye base, hello sweep or sub!
* Falling for that trap… Don’t go for the key lock or choke from inside the guard. Especially on a higher belt. It’s a trap. It’s simply a trap…
* The lean. Oh the “I’m-inside-your-guard & can’t-seem-to-be-able-to-get-out-so-let-me-try-and squash-you-by-leaning-as-far-forward-as-possible” lean. This is setting you up for sweeps, back take…
* One arm in & one arm out when trying to break the guard. Submissions all day.
* Panic mode. If you’re in a position & not sure what to do, don’t freak out. Do what you know. Spazzing doesn’t get you anywhere.
* Asking yourself “what the heck happened” after a roll, but not asking a higher belt or coach (when appropriate) specific questions you may have. How else will you learn?!
* Becoming mad or upset when you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. It’s a learning process – the good and the ugly! Mistakes are great learning tools. You can break them down and see where things went wrong and how to make it right. Turn that negative into a positive. This will give you an edge over the people who walk away when they perceive themselves as doing something “wrong.”

Brazilian jiu-jitsu changes people’s lives. For some it provides an outlet for relieving stress, for others it’s a way to find community, and there are those who join to compete. Regardless of the reason for joining we all begin the journey at the same point, a blank slate to be filled with jiu-jitsu knowledge that we change as time goes on and we become more masterful of the art. Don’t feel as though you’re alone in the goofs and blunders; learn from them and move on. As you move up the ranks your arsenal becomes more lethal.


  1. Thank you for this great article.
    Can you please explain or have a detailed article (I apologize if there was one written) about
    “Crossing the center line”. I always seems to have a problem with maintaining my base.

    Thank you,

    • Hi! I’m glad you enjoyed the article! If you’re having issues with your base it’s possible you are leaning too far L or R (crossing the center line of your opponent)or keeping your stance too narrow. also placing both hands on the same side of your opponent (crossing the center line). These examples refer to when you’re on top, usually within the guard. Your professor may use different terms. 🙂


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