Something That Pisses Off Upper Belts

I recall a conversation with a white belt friend of mine who was one year into BJJ.

He told me that he was rolling with an experienced blue belt and suddenly, “without reason” the blue belt turned up the intensity and went really hard, tapping my buddy out with a knee on the belly.

I explained to my naive white belt buddy what likely happened. This is based on my conversations with a great many advanced guys.

What probably transpired was the advanced belt (from this point on known as AB) was looking to enjoy a technical, fun roll. The AB knew he could control the white belt quite easily, but the AB decided to “let his foot off the gas pedal” and let the white belt into the game.

Unfortunately, my buddy probably didn’t recognize the AB was going easier and “smelled blood” as soon as he got into a submission position. He started panting and saw his chance to finally tap an AB after months of tapping to them. He attacked 100%.

This dismayed the AB. Here he was trying to exchange positions with the white belt, and the guy was head hunting him! This must be corrected. Order must be restored. The level was therefore turned up with the inevitable result of the white belt getting emphatically tapped.

Before you criticize the AB for bringing the weight of the law down on my buddy, understand the AB.

He just wants to get in some fun rolls. He is not entered the finals of the Mundials! If he shuts down the white belt, the roll will be boring. Pass the guard, submit from top, repeat. So for the benefit of all involved, he lets the white belt get some positions.

But the white belt doesn’t recognize this. He thinks that he has suddenly figured out the AB and is going to dispense some righteous retribution!

This pisses off a lot of AB’s. They really want to have fun, productive rolls with you. But if you try to take advantage of a position that they gave you, they feel that violates the spirit of the roll.

I had the chance to roll with the great Andre Galvao at a seminar once. I could approach this one of two ways:

1) Go 100% and see how long I could survive before the inevitable

2) Try to move and exchange positions with one of the best grapplers on planet.

I decided for #2. Galvao interpreted this as being playful and ran circles around me. He would catch a submission and then allow me to escape, prolonging the roll. After allowing me to roll around for a while, he mercifully delivered the coup de gras with a rear collar choke, which I vowed he would not catch me with! It was really fun.

What is the takeaway from my ramblings?

When you are rolling with an AB, please recognize that they are looking to have a technical roll in most cases. If you find yourself in a dominant position, it is most likely that they allowed it to happen. Don’t be “that guy” and try to take their head off. Then they will let you play.


  1. I’ve tapped before as the AB but then just drove the point home in the next roll but it doesn’t have to be in a grimey way like a knee on belly to tap which is painful and demoralizing. Sounds like the AB needs to check his ego. Plus if your an AB and think your above tapping you should reevaluate. Other ABs complain lower belts won’t give them an honest roll because they start of mentally defeated. Getting caught deep in a submission is a good chance to work your mid to late defense game and who better to work that with then a white belt.

  2. I’ve taped accidentally (I’m sure, I’m just 1Y white belt) few times higher belts, some went berserker mode, some didn’t gave a sh… Even when white belt doesn’t recognize flow roll, it’s a consequence of the decision made by more experienced player, so if you gave white belt a position, don’t be surprised he will try to submit you, just make it an opportunity to test your escape skills, as Rickson would do. And if you need to put a knee on belly it’s ok too. I’m a white belt and I’m getting this a lot of times, It’s fine with me, I just need to learn how to escape from this position too. As a higher belt you’re always a Teacher in this scenario, and all failures of a students are teachers faults. Trust me I’m a college professor ;P

  3. Both are in error, there’s no point in assigning blame. If people would communicate a little, it would be better. A little, “Whoah, dude, what percent are we going now?” when the WB amped it up should be a good “yellow light” signal to bring attention to what happened.

  4. I’m a 3st brown and have a small club in SC. This is a very interesting topic. I think a lot of it is the culture in your academy. We have no “advanced” vs “beginner” class. I think a person’s jiu jitsu should be limited only by their imagination and physical attributes.

    I love the technical roll as do most of my higher belts, and at the same time realize my white belts aren’t mind readers knowing what “type” of roll I want today. Also we focus quite a bit in self protection and in an assault you can’t say, ” hey pal let’s flow through this mugging.”

    I find myself getting really excited when my students do well with me or the other ABs.

    When they do meat headed white belt things we seek to “lovingly” coach them through that and that approach has created some really quick and solid results.

    In the end I care more about their progress and growth as an ambassador for jiu jitsu than I do about beating them or beating up on them. For them early on they learn it isn’t about winning every 5 minute roll. It’s about growing as a martial artist and person.



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