By Paul Winter 

All across the internet, pretty much every article targeted towards you, the white belt, is the same:

It will tell you not to quit, it will tell you to “relax,” and a few other cookie cutter things that you’ve probably heard now from everyone and their mother at your gym until you’re ready to puke.

This is not to say these things aren’t important- it’s a pretty obvious statement that to make it to blue belt you have to not quit…

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to quit at blue belt- which is just the black belt of quitting.

“Relaxing” is important too, although I’ve never had a roll that felt like I was kicking back on a La-Z-Boy and having a beer…

However, there are a couple pieces of advice I like to give fresh new white belts right before I hit ‘em with a Berimbolo, Buggy Choke, or teach them a ridiculously hard heel hook entry (hey, I’m a purple belt- it’s what we do…well, that and skipping warmups).

The first isget accustomed to getting your ass kicked…but don’t give in to it.

Kinda like the line in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the dude at the beginning gives young Indy his trademark hat and says…

“You lost today, kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

As a white belt, you’re gonna get beat up by both upper belts and even white belts with more experience- but don’t “get used to it.”

Assess your rolls- try to figure out, obsessively, what you’re doing right and wrong. Mix up your rounds with different levels of belts, and set different goals- that is, against a blue belt, your goal can simply be “try to survive,” but with another white belt it might be “hit that new sweep from class this week.”

Without direction in our training, we are unlikely to get anywhere. I wish I had started this much earlier- don’t let anyone tell you that just because you’re a white belt you should just “show up and shut up.”

Ask questions. Try to glean what you can from blue belts and purple belts- they’re usually happy to be asked for help…it makes them feel special.

Don’t ever accept the idea that you’re just not advanced enough to sub a higher belt- it happens all the time, and usually by white belts who work hard and surprise them by having some “game.”

Second- there’s no reason to wait for a higher belt to start feeling out what you like and developing an “A game…” even if that’s your only game. 

I know black belts who have been hitting the same submission over and over from white to black- they’re just really, really good at it now.

My problem was always being all over the place with my attacks, and what position I wanted to work from- I couldn’t seem to focus on a specialization. In Jiu Jitsu, there’s so much there, you could never learn it all- pick something and go nuts.

Work armbars only for 6 months, or longer. From everywhere. From anywhere. Pick a takedown and “nerd out” on it.

Same for your sweeps. Get really confident with a few sweeps and attacks and just keep after them- eventually, that blunt butter knife is going to turn into a friggin’ ninja sword!

Finally, when it comes to “relaxing,” and “strength” in grappling: 

It is, for sure, critical that you learn to understand economy of movement and breath control- the easy way to say this is “relax.”

However – this does not mean you need to become some super-Zen, Miyagi-Do white belt…

It just means you need to learn to not blow yourself out one minute into a five minute roll and tap to “sorry, bro, my cardio.”

Try this:

Challenge yourself a few nights a week to breathe only in and out through your nose. If you have to start breathing through your mouth, take it down a notch- even if this means “losing” the match- you’re not “losing,” you’re training your breath.

Setting these kinds of goals creates new victory points in your rounds instead of simply “winning.”

Use people newer than you to see if you can hit a sweep or a sub without muscling it- try to make your Jiu Jitsu as clean as possible. Focus on the details. Try to make it flow.

That being said- once you start to understand all this, you will be able to use your strength when it is appropriate, rather than *all the damn time.*

Because strength is something that must be trained, strength is a skill also- but like all skills, you need to know how to apply it with good technique.

Strength and technique are not two opposing things in Jiu Jitsu, no matter how much people will try to bullshit you about it…go ask Romulo, Ryan, Galvao, Buchecha, or even smaller guys like Musumeci, whether strength is important in Jiu Jitsu.

Then, no matter what they tell you- look at their physiques.

Thought so.

And now, to end with the cliche…

Don’t give up!!!