Brazilian Jiujitsu is a truly fascinating art, one that takes deep hold on the practitioner. A big part for me is the fact that the learning never stops. The art is ever evolving and there is always something to study, practice, drill and improve on.
Arguably the toughest phase of anyone’s journey is as a BJJ white belt.
Every movement, principle, position and technique is like dealing with a new language. It’s frustrating, confusing, claustrophobic and yet still addictive. The five tips that follow are a few little things to keep in mind if you’re a BJJ white belt starting out on your own journey.
The simple addition of these to your mindset and training will speed up the learning curve and have you on your way to blue quicker.
1. Slow the F*ck Down
Slowing down during your roll will bring up some interesting points especially as a BJJ white belt. Personally, I like to roll in the 75% range. More than that and I feel like, in my case, strength takes over. This is the same for most I know. Above a certain percentage of effort athleticism, speed and strength take over.
Relying on the physical advantages you poses isn’t inherently a bad thing. During competition for example you’ll ramp up the intensity to your highest degree and use everything you have at your disposal. In the academy though, this strength, athleticism and speed may allow you sweep, escape or tap your opponent, but it won’t help you refine your jiujitsu.
Next time you roll, slow things down to a pace where you truly have to refine and rely on your jiujitsu to see you through.
2. Breathing, Keep Track of it
The crux of this tip is breathing, more specifically, competing with your opponent’s breath.
When you watch someone inexperienced step onto the mats, or in any athletic endeavour for that matter, you’ll notice how they have the tendency to hold their breath during physical exertion.
Doing so, they completely drain themselves of their power, strength and overall performance.
This tip is all about competing your breath against your opponents. Because of the close nature of grappling, you’ll have the ability to listen to your opponent’s breath – take advantage of this and during your roll try to calm your breath to slower than his / hers.
Do so by calming yourself and lengthening your inhales and more so, on the exhales. Breathe deeply into your belly and in doing so you’ll fully oxygenate your blood and calm both the mind and body.
Try it next time you roll.
Remember, a slower, deeper breath will always win out against a faster, shallower one.
3. Much like Strength and Conditioning, Simplify
BJJ is about finding global principles you can apply to all positions in your game. Things like keeping the elbows in, moving with the hips, building frames, closing spaces on top, making space on the bottom, weight placement etc.
Focussing on overlying principles makes your training more fluid and intuitive, giving it an easier access. Thinking in a principle based mindset allows you to find success in positions that come new to you. It allows you to progress quicker because you do not have to learn something new and different for every situation you come across.
Ps. If you are in need of some BJJ strength and conditioning help, read this.
4. Don’t be too Serious
This is arguably the most important point of all. Have fun!
If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, you’ll see zero progression. Will power and motivation will only go so far, 6 months to a year if you’re lucky. Truly loving what you’re doing is the key to seeing progression.
It’s important to have fun when you’re at the academy. Love the techniques, the rolls and the journey. With love of the art, consistency will be easy. With consistency, technical proficiency increases. Enjoy the journey and it will reward you in kind.
5. It’s not all about the Tap
It’s easy to become obsessed with getting a tap in rolls. Putting too much emphasis on the tap though can be a limiting factor in your progress. The tap is important and it’s certainly fun, but it’s the stuff that led you to the tap that is most important. Posture, passing, control, movements all precede the tap and are the meat and bones of jiujitsu.
Focus on all stages of the process that lead to the tap and you’ll improve exponentially.
Being a BJJ white belt is a tough place to be, but stay with it. You’ve achieved much more than 99% of people out there who haven’t had the courage to take the first steps onto the mats.
Hopefully these five tips will help you on your jiujitsu journey and aid you in quicker learning curve and hopefully help you on your way to your blue belt.