BJJ White Belt Survival Tips
So, you’re a BJJ white belt.
Maybe you’ve just started, had your butt royally kicked for the first time in your life, and found yourself hooked on jiu-jitsu. Maybe you’re several months in, coming back time and again to get tapped, over and over again. Or maybe you’re well on your way to your blue belt, bought your first fancy jiu-jitsu gi, but still find yourself staring blankly at your instructor when he/she is teaching.
Whatever the case, know that every jiu-jitsu practitioner has been there. Over time, you learn the tips and tricks that help you progress from the lowly minnow to the ultimate mat shark. But sometimes that journey can be long and… well… painful (depending on how long you wait to tap).
To give you a bit of a head start, I’ve compiled a few “BJJ White Belt Survival Tips” to help you along:
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Jiu-jitsu is a funny activity to get involved in. Not only do you have to learn these strange new movements – that you would never do in your normal everyday life – but also all the weird lingo, social nuances and customs that operate within the academy. It can be a lot. And often your fellow students won’t lay them all out for you at the get-go.
So, take things into your own hands; monkey see, monkey do.
Watch what the higher belts are doing, and try to mimic as best as you can. Notice where they walk barefoot and where they don’t. Where do they store their gear? Do they bow before stepping on the mat? Do they greet everybody else? Where do they line up? Pay attention to the way they do their drills. Yes, you’ll look silly the first times you attempt those movements, but you’ll look sillier if you just hang back because you “don’t know how to do that.” Pay attention and try. Hopefully a higher belt will take pity on you and show you step-by-step, but don’t just expect it.
Slow Your BJJ White Belt Ass Down
Don’t try to do anything at the same speed that the higher belts are doing it. Nobody expects that, so don’t feel pressured to do so. The reason they’re able to do it, is because they’ve practiced those movements – in some manner or form – numerous times before, and have developed the necessary coordination.
But you, my dear sweet white belt, have not. So, slow your ass down.
When you try to go fast, you skip critical steps, your movements become sloppy, and you may even develop bad habits or end up hurting yourself or your training partner. Take your time and go step-by-step. As you become more proficient with the movements, you can put some speed on it. But as soon as it starts falling apart, slow it back down. Go as slow as you need to. Your jiu-jitsu journey isn’t a race.
Adopt a Higher Belt, and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
The head black belt or instructor isn’t the only one on the mat from whom you can learn. Anyone – even another white belt – who has been there longer than you have, has something to share. Ideally, you’ll want to adopt someone who’s at least a rank or two higher.
Once you’ve found that person (or persons), see if you can pair up with them during technique. Take privates or schedule time to drill with them. If you’re drilling with another white belt, move to where they are drilling, so if you get lost, they’re within reach to help you out.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask, whether it’s your adopted higher belt, or anyone else. Most people will be happy to help, and happy to share their jiu-jitsu. All you have to do is ask.
Respect Everyone… No Exceptions
This one is a biggie. Whether they’re your same rank or higher, male or female, young or old, and whatever their ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical capabilities, political leanings and preferences… respect everyone that shares the mat with you. No exceptions.
Because of your common interest, you have come together to share the mat and learn jiu-jitsu. Leave your ego and biases at the door.
Deciding to start Brazilian jiu-jitsu will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. But sometimes at the beginning, when you don’t know what to do with your hands and you’re getting smashed by everyone and their grandmother, it may not feel that way. Hopefully these BJJ White Belt Tips will help you ease those first painfully – literally – awkward months.