How To Correct White Belt Mistakes

White belts typically get the worst rap for all the quirky things they attempt to do on the mats. While those same quirky things lead to a lot of mistakes, they can easily be remedied by making minor changes to their games. This list could be much longer, but we decided to keep it at five points, otherwise you could be reading the, ”Mistakes White Belts Make Magazine.” Now, if you’re a white belt, don’t get your feelings hurt. Higher belts make these same mistakes as well from time to time, so these are all useful tips that can help anyone regardless of rank.

1. Hunting For Submissions Before Position
In most jiu-jitsu schools, white belts are often taught techniques before having a firm understanding of movement and positioning. So it’s not uncommon to see a lapel or head and arm choke attempt from inside the guard. Getting armbarred or constantly swept without the knowledge of what is happening can be downright frustrating. With this in mind, you want to remember that submission before position rarely works out for the better. Instead, get to a position where you can control your opponent before attempting a submission. Even then, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to tap your opponent out because of great defense. However, in case it doesn’t work out, chances are you can regroup to a position that is still favorable.

It’s better to get the back before going for the finish.

Exceptions To The Rule?
Of course, there are some exceptions, but these are rare at lower belts or normally done by someone with a lot more experience, like Garry Tonon, for example. Until you’re at a more advanced level, remember, position-control-finish.

2. Keep Your Arms To Yourself
You’ve probably heard this statement as early as kindergarten, and should practice it in jiu-jitsu. There aren’t too many times that you want your arms away from your body. When attempting to pass a guard there’s a chance you could be caught in an armbar, triangle, or omoplata if you’re overreaching. If you’re stuck in side-control, mounted, or have someone on your back, and your arms are extended, it could be a short sparring session for you. Keeping your elbows close to your body, as much as possible, helps to prevent any locks where your arm can be clamped onto by your opponent, as well as being imbalanced for a sweep. Even if you are the one initiating the offensive attack, you leave yourself open for a counter of some sort. So, don’t give anyone that opening they’re hoping for and keep your elbows tight to your body.

When the arms are away they’re in play.

3. Move Those Hips
Nowadays, there are so many versions of the guard it seems as if there are at least two or three new types debuting every year. The best guard players have a few things in common: they utilize a lot of hip movement and use it so they never stay flat on their backs, or at least not for too long. Even with a great closed guard game, you’ve got to be able to move your hips. Using your hips significantly changes the complexity of your guard by allowing you to create angles, get onto your side, or posture up. This mobility is needed to combat the attempts of an individual who is trying to pass because he now has more mobility and free area to work with. When you’re flat on your back there is an increased amount of friction between it and the mat, as compared to your hips. This friction slows down movement dramatically making your guard less dynamic. Not being able to move efficiently in jiu-jitsu is a sure fire way for your opponent to get the better of you.

Show Us Your Moves
A lot of schools perform shrimping (aka snake moving) during warm-ups. Have you ever noticed that you never lie flat on your back while performing this exercise? Try dragging yourself with the heels of your feet, while on your back and you’ll see very quickly how limited your movement is.

4. Don’t focus on just one move
Now that you’re beyond being taken advantage of and fully grasp the concept of position before submission, you will start progressing until you stop yourself. How can you stop your own progress you ask? Well, let’s say you have a go-to move that works well on everybody – that is until it doesn’t. However, you still doggedly pursue this move regardless of all factors during the roll, and in the end, you still don’t get it. Since you are so focused on that one and only move, either your entire game shuts down or you wind up on the bad end of things. Instead of being so focused on executing that one move, try other options. Chances are you will find new openings that you hadn’t previously seen.

In case case like this one Penny has both a triangle or an armbar.

“You either win or you learn.” -Rickson Gracie

5. Don’t beat yourself up
I put this last because all too often white belts beat themselves up more than their opposition does. Frustration from a multitude of factors is bound to happen. Making the previously mentioned mistakes, as well as others, where you are either forced to tap, get swept, or are not able to escape, are just a few things that come to mind. Feeling beaten down can make you question yourself as to whether or not you are any good at jiu-jitsu or if you should continue to train. My advice: don’t take it to heart because everyone has to start somewhere and we all progress at different rates. Keenan Cornelius was an unheard of purple belt until he changed his focus and mentality based on his progress and previous mistakes. He sought out better ways of learning, became a force to be reckoned with at the purple and brown ranks, and is now one of the best jiu-jitsu competitors in the world. While you may make mistakes, learn from them and look to improve yourself in some way, shape, or form each day. Ask for help and be okay with constructive criticism. You’re your own problem and solution.

by Travis Guesnon


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