So you’ve just satisfied you curiosity and decided to try out Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Congratulations on taking the first step of your jiu-jitsu journey. I promise you it will be a fulfilling one. You are going to meet many wonderful people that will enrich your life and become much like a family to you. Jiu-jitsu isn’t just a martial art; it’s a lifestyle, one that many become addicted to very quickly.
At the white belt level, you will learn many things and it can feel overwhelming at times. You’re learning many new techniques that you’ve never seen and asking your body to move in ways you are unaccustomed to. You’re going to be frustrated and feel like you’re failing, but just remember, every jiu-jitsu practitioner in the history of the martial art has started in the same place you have. Here are some things to remember when you’re a white belt.
One, relax and focus on the basics. They will serve you well for years to come, especially when you reach black belt. Try not to get ahead of yourself by learning the next cool move on the internet for the sake of trying something cool. If you cannot do the basics, you’re unlikely to pull off the complicated. Remember this saying, “drillers make killers”.
Learn the intricacies of the closed guard. Closed guard isn’t just a defensive position or a position where you can take a break and relax. Many of the high level practitioners I train with have incredibly active guards that enable them to attack at will from their back. It all starts with the understanding of the basics like chokes, arm locks, and sweeps, and your eventual ability to chain these attacks together from the closed guard that will help you to evolve your game quickly.
Another thing to remember at white belt is to take things one step at a time. Don’t be so worried with the “what if my opponent does x or y, what do I do next?”. Learn the movements and begin to execute them effortlessly. At white belt, you need to learn positioning before you can start flowing from one move to the next. You will eventually get there but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
These two lessons often go together. Tap early, tap often, and survive to roll another day. And leave your ego at the door. Jiu-jitsu is great at killing people’s egos. However, the ones that hang on to it refuse to tap in training and think they can muscle out of everything. Eventually, they get hurt or hurt others and there’s no room in our martial art for that type of person. Tapping is a move you will execute quite often. There’s no shame in getting caught, it’s part of the learning process.
Another thing I tell white belts early on in their jiu-jitsu journey is to start a journal. Write down what you learned in class, the things that worked for you and what didn’t work for you. First, it helps you commit moves to memory and helps you formulate questions to bring to the instructor for the next class. Also, it aids in developing a mental flow chart of what moves to execute based on how your opponent counters. As Professor Shawn Williams, a Renzo Gracie black belt is fond of saying, “we’re looking for the right tool for the right job”.
Remember, a white belt is a black belt that never quit.
Good luck on your journey and happy rolling.