We're going to try something a little different this week and hand over the reigns to some interesting grapplers of differing backgrounds, levels, and styles that tell us in their own words what makes a "good" white belt.
Whether it's ability, attitude or aptitude there is a bunch here for you as a white belt to reflect on and see which desirable traits you do or do not possess.
"The biggest is commitment and consistency. You need to turn up with an open mind and zero ego."
- Ben Vickers, MMA Clinic Head coach and BJJ brown belt.
"A good white belt will be aware of the culture of the club they have just joined. Ask, never assume.
A good white belt will:
- tap early and tap often.
- expect it to take ages.
- have a 'win or learn' mentality'.
- listen and drill.
- think about the game off the mats.
- turn up early and stay late.
- be patient.
- ask questions.
- look after their teammates.
- train consistently."
- Adam Thomas, P.U.M.M.A. BJJ purple belt.
"I think, open mindedness is crucial, confidence/trust in the coach/process.
If they understand that it will take a few months to understand the "game" and then 12-18 months to understand the fundamental movements, generally they make the best white belts (& continue to make great students).
No watching YouTube and the latest EBI/Polaris/Worlds & trying to learn the 'new' techniques!"
- Chris Helback, C4 MMA & BJJ head coach and BJJ black belt.
"Has a good character. Thoughtful of their training partners. Thirst for technique & turns up consistently."
- Ricky Budgen, Head coach at Empire Martial Arts and BJJ brown belt.
2. Obviously being patient.
3. Being thick skinned - not just because you're going to get smashed a lot, but when someone tells you your technique is wrong, sloppy or they laugh. Bjj is just an activity and your current skill level isn't your character, so don't take it to heart.
5. Don't try to master it all in one go, pick one move and branch from there.
6. One that listens, but more importantly one that watches - sometimes the best learning comes from watching your partners roll."
" 1. Check your ego at the door (it's just going to get kicked across the room anyway so humble yourself early)
2. You're a beginner. Focus on building your foundation: positional hierarchy, mechanics of techniques, mat fitness. The subs will come in time.
3. Be a respectful and safe training partner. Less strength, more technique. Tap early. When you sub, always remember "chokes are on them, joints are on you" if they don't tap to a joint lock, release and discuss rather than injure.
4. If you feel like you're getting smashed over and over and making no progress, keep showing up, you will progress ...eventually.
5. Don't be afraid to test yourself. Learning to be comfortable/safe/survive difficult positions early will allow you to advance quicker and will assist late in rolls once you start attacking/being offensive.
6. Be the teammate you'd want to spend 5 nights a week with."
- Rebecca Simpson, Axis Jiu Jitsu blue belt.
"Being a good white belt is a contradiction in terms. By definition this phase is the novice time of your Jiu jitsu journey. Understanding this and not being offended by it is key to healthy growth. At white belt you are super excited and enthusiastic. This initial enthusiasm should be focused on learning but very often it is focused on winning/not losing. The more pressure you put on yourself to be the best white belt, the less you can be vulnerable, make mistakes, recognise them for the opportunity that they are, ask for help (and accept it); which is limiting for your development. Strive for better movement and understanding concept over winning a roll against another white belt. There are many ways to 'win' in Jiu jitsu. Submissions aren't the only outcome that is of benefit to you each roll. Better timing, awareness, body movement, cardio, pace, pressure... all are a win if you've progressed with your understanding. You can 'lose' a roll yet still gain better technique.
Though super fun, white belt is a phase you want to develop beyond and leave behind. Focusing on how to learn, how to listen and how to structure discipline (discipline both mentally & physically) in to your training will speed up the time it takes you to move from novice to blue belt. Jiu jitsu itself is simple. Learning it is made complex by those that are doing the learning. Applying it effectively, even more so. During white belt your focus is not to be a black belt but rather, to move from novice to intermediate. Intermediate to advanced can come later. It can wait. It has to. You don't have to learn EVERYTHING during white belt. And you won't. You're laying your foundation to learn.
The sooner you work out how you personally need to be taught/drill/study/learn this sport, the better. Discovering this about yourself will serve you well throughout your journey.
Also, the journey is awesome and confronting and joyous and rewarding and challenging all rolled up into one. Make it yours. Enjoy the hell out of it. Black belt is even more fun than anyone is telling you yet. Make sure you get there! Stay in it. You'll get there."
- Jess Fraser, Australian Girls in Gi founder, BJJ black belt.
And there you have it!
Some very insightful answers and some more so succinct yet there are themes throughout. If you find there are qualities here you do, don't or would like to possess then there's no time like tonight's mat time to start.
- Jake Anderson