So, you’ve decided to become a world champion jiu-jitsu player? Congratulations! So obviously even though you’ve never trained submission grappling a day in your life you’re an expert so feel free to skip onto the next article. Wait, you’re still here? Is it because you just finished your first class and in between counting all your new bruises and learning what it feels like to be choked half to death you realized that you don’t know everything? Maybe it’s time you learned what you’ll need to know to survive being a white belt.

Leave Your Ego at Home

First up, accept the fact that you are now a punching bag for EVERYONE in your club. If you’re a normal guy or gal taking up grappling for the first time this is an adjustment period. The attitude that you have in this phase of your training will determine how far you go in jiu-jitsu. Have the attitude that you are here to learn and everyone is your teacher. The opposite attitude is that you’ll have to beat everyone every time and that you should roll like a moron, wasting energy and hurting yourself and your classmates. Who would you rather roll with?

Drill, Baby, Drill!

Jiu-jitsu is not a 1000 moves that you do 10 times it is 10 techniques that you do 1000 times.

Everybody knows that’s true, but how many of us are willing to actually do it? The best and worst part of BJJ is that there are so many techniques for every situation. That means that no matter your abilities or how you or your opponents are shaped, jiu-jitsu works every time. The down side is that it’s so easy to get distracted by the flashy and fancy moves and neglect the fundamentals. Food for thought, how many world championships have been won by collar chokes and arm locks correctly applied? Basic stuff studied to such a high level that even the best in the world get caught.

Champions don’t get bored with the fundamentals. How many shrimp drills do you think Marcello Garcia has done?

Survive and Thrive

You will be submitted. A lot. It will probably take a long time before you get to catch someone else in a choke or joint lock. So how do you measure your progress when you can’t seem to beat anyone? Survival time, that’s how. When you are able to seal up enough holes in your game that it takes longer and longer for your opponents to sink something in, then you know you’re getting better. This is not about being stubborn and seeing how long you can hold your breath in a guillotine or how flexible your shoulders are in an omoplata, this is about constantly trying to improve your position in the roll and buying time for the next phase of your training.

General survival tips:

1. Keep your elbow glued to your ribs. You can’t armbar the guy with T-Rex hands.

2. Get off your back, get to your side. This immediately cuts your opponent’s submission options in half.

3. Protect your neck. Duh. Or don’t, I love choking people.

4. Aim to move yourself, not your opponent. I am much easier to move at 155 than my opponent is at 260. Hold him still, move around him instead.

5. Keep moving. If the guy in top mount is constantly being shifted from side to side by your bridging and shrimping, he’ll have a tougher time keeping his balance for a submission.

Tap Early and Often

Admit it, he got you. Please just move on. If there’s anybody in your school that actually keeps track of how many times they submit someone, don’t roll with them because they are a dick. Roll with people that want to get better and want you to improve as well. That’s how jiu-jitsu grows. Tap today, roll tomorrow.

When someone catches you in something, or you just get stuck in a position do the following:

1. Try to get out even if you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. Try something, flip over onto your stomach, try to choke him, fake a seizure, whatever it takes to be creative. And just so you know muscling out of something is NOT creative.

2. If that doesn’t work, just tap.

3. Here’s the most important part: ask questions. Did you get caught in a gimmick technique that someone picked up on YouTube? Or was it just a position you can’t escape yet? Whatever it was, write it down so you can learn from it. You do have a notebook, right?

Final Thoughts

Studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu continues to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. To be calm in a violent situation is a beautiful thing and survival positions are the key to that. But it’s going to take time for the information to sink in and you notice that you’re actually improving. Trust your instructor, show up, bring your notebook, and train smart. It takes a lot of blood and bruises to turn a white belt blue.


For a complete blueprint to bluebelt please check out our BJJ Basics DVD by clicking on the image above