Roll.Adapt.Win recently put out a picture that spoke to the heart of the White Belt. But, it also spoke to the heart of all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players. Several folks did their own take on it. So in honor of Roll.Adapt.Win’s great influence (and in homage to the point they made), I’m offering up 10 Things Every White Belt Should Know!
We all start training for different reasons, but many of us show up to class because in the back of our minds we all want to be able to take down the UFC superstars. Yeah, sure, you say you just want to learn to be able to defend yourself in a street fight. I say BULL$%!*! You want to try and tap out Dos Santos! This leads us to:
# 10: The highest percentage of submission finishes in the UFC are fundamental, white-to-blue curriculum, techniques. In 2009, the most successful submission in the UFC was the Guillotine, followed by the Rear Naked Choke. My point? Don’t worry about trying to learn that cool thing you saw one of Eddie Bravo’s Black Belt’s doing on YouTube. LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS!
Okay, so let’s say you didn’t join the dojo to beat up on UFC fighters. Maybe you don’t care that you can tap out Chael Sonnen. Maybe you just want to get fit? Maybe build a little muscle and cut a little fat? Well, that’s great, but don’t stop hitting the gym because you found this great, new anaerobic exercise!
#9. When all things are equal, strength and agility will be the deciding factor. Look, there’s a reason fighters cut 20 lbs before a match. It’s so they can be bigger, stronger, and faster than their opponent. If you take two BJJ practitioners, both of whom have been training for 2 days a week, for 2 years, under the same instructor with the same sparring partners, the stronger, faster one is going to get the tap 8 times out of 10.
But you can’t just work out and do BJJ and expect to be the best. You have to eat right, too.
#8. You are a machine. You need fuel and lube to function properly. EAT RIGHT AND TAKE SUPPLEMENTS! Don’t wait till you’re 50 to start popping fish oil pills. Do it now. Food is your fuel. Don’t eat for now, eat for tomorrow. What’s going to supply the power and energy your body needs for later? I know that greasy cheeseburger looks great, but the grilled chicken salad is going to help build muscle and promote good digestion.
I had a football coach who told me I talked too much in the locker room. I didn’t know what that meant until 10 years later and I was in a dojo listening to white belts talk too much in the locker room. If you wear a white belt, you talk too much. You’re talking too much online. You’re talking too much in the locker room. If you’re reading this quietly to yourself, not even out load but in your brain, you’re talking too much. I still talk too much.
#7. Shut up. Listen. Observe. Use your eyeballs and mimic that awesome purple belt you admire. Watch the black belts. You’ll see even the friendly, outgoing ones don’t talk that much about BJJ off the mats. You’re not an expert. Be a student.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is great. It’s a complete, all around martial art. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s not a single martial art that’s better than BJJ. However, like supplementing your BJJ with strength and conditioning workouts, you should consider supplementing your training with another martial art as well. Many BJJ black belts are also black belts in Judo, Aikido, or some other form of martial art.
#6. If your BJJ dojo offers more than one martial art, sign up for it! Expand your horizon and become a multi-martial arts practitioner. Taking Judo 1 day a week will significantly increase your BJJ in the long run. This includes arts like Yoga and Tae Chi. I practice yoga every now and again with my wife and just the small increases in flexibility and balance have done wonders for my game.
So let’s say you took up yoga. Great! But being on the mats isn’t the time to work on your Zen either. Be aggressive in what you want to do.
#5. ATTACK! Now, I’m not saying flail around like a suffocating fish on the sea pier. Don’t be wild. But, force your game onto your opponent. Don’t sit in someone’s guard and let them dictate where the match is headed. And don’t lay on your back and watch them pass your guard, either.
Have a game plan. If you’re still new, and haven’t even started developing a game plan, have a move. Have 1 move for each position (that’s 8 moves, give or take) and repeat each move. He’s in your guard? Keep trying that same sweep until you learn another. If it fails and he passes? Oh well! Try that side mount escape. Did it fail? Good.
#4. Fail often. Fail again. Ask any world champion what they learned after they won a fight and they won’t have a good answer. Sure, they had some questions answered. But what did they learn? Ask any world champion what they learned after they lost a fight, and they’ll tell you a lot. What they learned about themselves, about what did or didn’t really work, how to revamp their training, etc., etc. The list is endless. We learn more in failure than success.
You know what the other great thing about failing at a technique is? You learn what works best for you. Repetition and drills are great, they build mechanics, but failure builds technique.
#3. Learn the variation that works for you. Eddie Bravo’s rubber guard isn’t for everybody, but it’s for somebody. And the person that can execute it successfully can give people a good run for their money. So maybe the standard straight arm-lock isn’t hitting for you, but maybe the reversal is. Learn to set up the reverse from failing the standard variation.
You have to know the moves, though. You can’t do anything if you don’t have the knowledge. Spend 20 minutes a day, even day’s you’re not training, studying.
#2. Hit the books. Watch YouTube. Subscribe to Gracie University. Buy Gracie Barra fundamentals on DVD. Get your subscription to Jiu-Jitsu Magazine. Buy one of Kid Peligro’s books. Look, keeping it fresh in your mind and studying the material will make you a better grappler by 5%. It’s a fact, trust me. Especially if you grab another white belt and say, “Hey, I just saw this cool technique, can we walk through it a few times?”
All of this being said, you’re still going to lose. However, there’s good news!
#1. …Drum roll… There is no losing. Ah, see how I got all Buddhist monk right there! You’re going to lose but there is no losing! Okay, seriously though, you’re sparring. You’re rolling around on the ground with your friends, trying to perform a specific technique. This isn’t a MMA fight. This isn’t a street match. There’s the old adage, tap early and tap often. That comes into play here. Knowing when you’re in a bad spot is important, and attempting to get out of it is important, but not at the cost of your ACL or tearing a shoulder.
Hopefully, I helped out at least one white belt. Now shut up and roll!