In this blog post, I will share my top 5 BJJ white belt survival tips to survive longer against higher belts during sparring sessions.
Sparring with higher belts can be a frustrating experience for BJJ white belts, and I know this from my own experience as a brand new white belt back in 2018.
During my early days of training, I spent only a few seconds in a neutral position against my rolling partners and spent the remaining minutes getting smashed and submitted dozens of times.
I never even recorded a legitimate submission during my first year of BJJ training.
However, as I progressed in my BJJ journey, I learned strategies and techniques that white belts can use to improve their chances of survival against higher belts.
If you are a beginner starting your BJJ journey, these tips can assist you in surviving longer during sparring sessions.
Keep reading to learn more.
Table of Contents
Tip #1: Stay Calm And Relax
Although it may sound like a cliche that you've heard from your coaches before, remaining calm and relaxed during sparring sessions is the most important tip on this list.
That's why it's at the top of my white belt survival tips.
If you're too stiff or tense, you'll become vulnerable to attacks whether you're on top or bottom.
Imagine a stiff board - it's easy to manipulate, control, or even break.
That's you if you're too stiff or tense during sparring sessions.
On the other hand, if you remain calm and relaxed and feel the movement and weight distribution of your opponent, you'll be a lot safer during sparring sessions.
In the words of the great legend Bruce Lee: be water, my friend.
That means you must learn to be adaptive and be comfortable in uncomfortable situations or positions.
Don't forget to control your breathing so you don't run out of breath.
Staying calm and relaxed is a technique that takes time to master.
You'll continue to perfect it throughout your BJJ journey, and the best way to do this is to keep rolling and adapt to the discomforts you face.
Tip #2: Stay On Top As Long As You Can
"Be the guy on top" is the #1 rule of 6th degree black belt Christ Haueter's 3 golden rules of grappling.
The second tip of my BJJ white belt survival tips is to stay on top as long as possible.
When a white belt rolls with a colored belt, the latter usually starts by sitting down or pulling guard.
Then, for whatever reason, the white belt also sits down to play guard instead of trying to pass the colored belt's guard.
Nothing frustrates me more whenever I see that kind of shit happening.
Look, if a higher rank gives a dominant top position to start the roll, then do not cheaply give it away by sitting down as well.
A white belt will eventually get swept anyway by the higher rank practitioner so why in the world if you are the beginner give the sweep right away by sitting down to your butt too?
As a white belt, your guard may not be very strong, and if you pull guard, your higher rank opponent can easily stand up and pass your guard.
A better way to deal with a higher belt that pulls guard is to try to stay on top as long as possible by actively pursuing the guard pass.
By staying on top, you'll have a better chance to practice your jiu jitsu techniques.
If you give away the sweep easily by sitting down, you'll spend most of your time getting smashed and submitted instead of doing jiu jitsu.
If your higher rank partner does not pull guard, then it's a good idea to go after a takedown.
Not only will this help you improve your takedown skills, but it also prevents you from initiating a poor guard pull that could quickly land you in a bad bottom position.
Remember, as a white belt, your guard might not be strong enough to defend against a higher rank's guard pass.
So, by going after a takedown, you give yourself the opportunity to work from top position where you can do jiu jitsu.
Tip #3: Focus On Defense And Escapes
The third tip in my list of white belt survival tips is to focus on strengthening your defense and working on your escapes.
Strengthening your defense means maintaining proper body posture, whether you're on top or bottom.
When on top, aim for an upright posture with your body weight properly distributed to avoid getting off-balanced easily.
When on the bottom, avoid having your back flat on the mat and instead, try to be on your side.
In BJJ or grappling, being flat on your back can put you in a vulnerable position.
Remember; if you are flat, you are dead.
Additionally, make sure to guard the inside of your body by keeping your elbows closed or attached to your ribs and knees.
By controlling the inside part of your body, you can make it more difficult for your opponent to manipulate you.
However, even with good defense, your opponent may still pass through your defensive layers, and that's when you need to know how to escape from bad positions.
Learning various escapes will make you more comfortable in bad positions and help you survive longer against higher belts.
One highly recommended resource for white belts looking to improve their defense is Priit Mihkelson's defensive BJJ crash course instructional, which is available for free on YouTube.
You can watch the video above and learn valuable techniques to enhance your defensive skills in BJJ.
Tip #4: Stick With The Fundamentals
Regardless of what you think about Rener Gracie, this jiu jitsu 101 video is still the best out there when it comes to teaching fundamentals.
Fundamentals are the foundation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Without proper fundamentals, it is challenging to progress and develop a strong game.
As a white belt, it is essential to focus on mastering the basics to set yourself up for success in the long run.
Forget about the highlight reel techniques you see on Youtube or Instagram feed.
You can only do those fancy moves if you have developed strong fundamentals.
One of the key fundamentals to focus on as a beginner is your posture.
Proper posture means maintaining a strong, balanced position that allows you to defend yourself against attacks and execute techniques more effectively.
When you have proper posture, you are more difficult to control and manipulate.
Another important aspect of fundamentals is understanding positional hierarchy.
Whether you are on top or bottom, it is crucial to know how to maintain and improve your position.
This includes understanding how to establish dominant positions, such as mount or back control, as well as how to defend against your opponent's attacks when you are in a less favorable position.
Timing is also a fundamental skill that is essential to master.
Knowing when to execute a technique or make a move can be the difference between success and failure in terms of both defense and offense.
Good timing also enables you to conserve energy and avoid getting stuck in unfavorable positions.
Tip #5: Learn From Your Mistakes
The final tip from my white belt survival tips is to always learn from your mistakes.
One effective way to learn from your mistakes is by asking your higher-ranked training partner for feedback after a roll.
They can help identify your weaknesses and suggest ways to improve.
Don't hesitate to ask for input from more experienced students and coaches as well.
Another valuable technique is to record your rolls on video.
This allows you to review your performance and identify areas for improvement.
You can then discuss these with your coaches or training partners to develop a plan for addressing them.
It's important to keep an open mind and not take feedback personally.
Remember that constructive criticism is meant to help you improve, not to discourage you.
Embrace the learning process and use the feedback you receive to grow as a white belt and beyond.
Ultimately, learning from your mistakes is an ongoing process that will continue throughout your BJJ journey.
Be open to new ideas and techniques and strive to continuously improve your skills.
To wrap it up....
So, there you have it; my top 5 white belt survival tips.
In conclusion, mastering the basics, such as posture, positioning, and timing, will provide a solid foundation for your BJJ skills.
Having a resilient mindset, staying patient, and managing your ego will help you navigate the challenges and frustrations that come with being a beginner in a complex martial art like BJJ.
Remember, BJJ is a journey that requires dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures.
By applying these white belt survival tips, you can enhance your learning, develop resilience, and progress on your BJJ path with confidence.
Keep practicing, stay humble, and enjoy the process.
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