Being a white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu isn’t easy. Many people find learning BJJ to be addictive, and part of that is because there’s so much to learn. It never stops being fascinating – but it also never stops being challenging.
That can be overwhelming as you begin. And like the old adage goes, nothing worth having comes easy. The only way to get better at martial arts in general and Jiu-Jitsu in particular is to keep coming to class, to keep practicing.
With that said, however, there are a few common mistakes BJJ beginners often make. Fixing them can make a big difference to your game.
Interested in Jiu-Jitsu but yet to take the plunge? Come into Gracie Miranda in the Sutherland Shire for a free trial lesson.
How does BJJ work again?
Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling martial art that predominantly takes place on the ground. It originated in Brazil when a Judo master, Mitsuya Maeda, taught Judo to the Gracie family. Helio Gracie was the youngest and weakest of the Gracie brothers, and so began to modify the techniques to accommodate for his smaller size and stature.
That began a transformation that ended up with Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu’s creation. It’s for that reason that BJJ is often referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Helio’s son Royler Gracie is the head instructor of Gracie Humaita, a family of Jiu-Jitsu academies of which Gracie Miranda is a proud part.
In short, BJJ is about grappling on the ground. It’s unusual from most martial arts in that it has a heavy sparring component. If you’re an adult, you’ll be sparring (or “rolling”) from your first or second class. Kids spar too, but only once they’re competent and comfortable enough to do so safely. (We have dedicated kids classes each day of the week at Gracie Miranda.)
The point of rolling is twofold. First, it gets you accustomed to what a real-life altercation feels like. You’ll be grappling with fully resisting training partners, not planks of wood. Second, it shows you what techniques work and which don’t.
When you begin Jiu-Jitsu, it can sometimes feel like you’re a training dummy just trying to survive. Here are tips to make that process easier.
Use your hips, not your grips: White belts will find themselves in bottom position a lot. That can mean on the bottom of half-guard, side control or mount. Often times their response is to try and push, pull or flail their way out. When you find yourself in a bad position you don’t know how to get out of, don’t think about how you can muscle out. Think about how you can use your hips.
Keep your hands off the ground: When you find yourself in someone’s closed guard, try your best to keep your hands off the ground. Putting your hands on the ground opens you up to several attacks, like Kimuras and the Flower Sweep. A safer place it keep your hands is on your opponent’s hips, with your elbows tucked in. If your posture is broken, try controlling your opponents biceps.
Tap early, tap often: The reality is that, as a white belt, you’re going to be submitted. Over and over again. Tapping out is a normal part of Jiu-Jitsu – not even earning a black belt saves you from having to tap again. Being put in a submission hold is an opportunity to practice escapes, not to show how tough you are.
If you find yourself in a submission hold, try an escape you’ve been taught. If that doesn’t work, tap. If you don’t know an escape, tap – and then ask the coach after class how you should have escaped. Jiu-Jitsu is a safe sport: Too often injuries occur not because BJJ is inherently dangerous, but because someone didn’t tap when they should have.
Don’t let people touch your head: In Jiu-Jitsu, nothing good comes of someone being able to control your head. Often white belts make the mistake of being too comfortable with someone touching or controlling their head. The most common instance of this comes in the Gi with collar grips. No matter what position you’re in, if someone has a grip of your collar your first priority is almost always going to be breaking the collar grip.
This is also true in positions like bottom side control. The person on top should have to fight to put you in a cross face or establish head control: Don’t just give it up!
Breathe: Perhaps the easiest way to tell if someone is a fresh white belt isn’t by judging their technique, but by watching the way they breathe. Or rather, watching the way they don’t breathe.
Once rolling begins, your fight or flight sense can activate. White belts get stressed, become preoccupied with protecting themselves and forget to breathe out in the process. They often keep on taking breath in without exhaling at all. The result is that they hyperventilate, which leads them to lose all their gas very quickly – leaving them completely unable to defend themselves.
When you’re in a bad position, remember to breathe.