What to Focus On as a New BJJ White Belt with No Experience

Table of Contents

Being a new white belt in a BJJ school can be very intimidating as well as frustrating. The important thing for new white belts to remember is that every Jiujiteiro has started off as a white belt with absolutely no BJJ knowledge and also got smashed by higher belts when it came to sparring.

The best way to overcome this frustration is to simply focus on a few things as well as little victories within each rolling round. This can be holding a position one round for 15 seconds then working up to 30 seconds and so forth. This way you are always building in small increments and when you look at the big picture, those small increments add up to big gains in your BJJ game.

The Holy “Position Before Submission”

“Position before submission” is one of the golden rules of BJJ, it simply means that with proper positioning the submission is much easier to get as you will have maximum leverage from having a strong position to work off of. This can also be looked at in a defensive manner as well, as having a proper position can better help you defend against oncoming attacks such as submissions and sweeps.

As a white belt, before you dive deep into the thousands of BJJ techniques, you should focus on this principle, especially in 2 common positions that you will find yourself within.

Less is More

A common mistake that new white belts make when starting BJJ is to learn as many moves as possible between classes, thinking that knowledge of 100 new moves will make them better in a faster period of time, what is also known as being a “BJJ technique collector” – where someone knows 1000 moves but cannot do 1 when it comes to rolling with pressure. 

White belts need to focus on the fundamentals and basics, they need to learn the body mechanics of the foundations of BJJ and how to perform them under pressure as well as to understand the emotional stress of being in certain positions and situations while rolling.

Focus on Holding Closed Guard

The guard is truly what separates BJJ from other grappling arts and most of the time you will find yourself either trying to pass someone’s guard or trying to hold someone in your guard, this is simply a statistical truth of BJJ.

Practicing to hold the guard position is excellent for white belts who are physically weaker, tall and lanky as well as those who have no previous grappling experience such as wrestling or judo.

Closed Guard White Belt Goals 

The first goal should be to simply try to hold the guard position for as long as possible, trying to pull your opponent in and break their posture with different posture breaks and grips. This sounds boring but it is pivotal to BJJ success and a good way to see how effective holding guard is, is by getting into a good higher belt’s guard and try to escape – you will quickly understand that the ability to hold guard opens up everything for the bottom game.

Playing BJJ closed guard
Playing BJJ closed guard

The second goal should be to establish proper grips where you can better control both your position and your opponent’s position, generally a rule of thumb is the grab with one hand high and deep on the opponent’s collar while the other hand grabs with the opponent’s wrist or elbow.

The third goal is to focus on breaking the opponent’s posture when in the guard, this is the golden key to opening all submissions and sweeps. If you cannot break an opponent’s posture you simply cannot submit or sweep them. By simply breaking the opponent’s posture you turn your guard from defensive to being offensive.

As you get better and better at holding guard and breaking your partner’s position in your guard, you can work for submissions and sweeps. If you feel you are losing a submission attempt or sweep, simply go back to attaining a proper closed guard position again, this will teach you the timing, body mechanics and sensitivity needed to start submitting and sweeping at the right time.

Use a Systematic Approach to Get Better incrementally

Try to aim to hold the guard for a certain period of time before the opponent escapes, for example aim to hold the closed guard for 20 seconds, then move to 25 seconds, 35 seconds and more. Do this until you can effectively hold your opponent down for longer periods. Remember that in order to effectively hold your partner in guard has a lot to do with effectively breaking their posture.

Focus on Proper Posture When in Your Partner’s Guard

BJJ positions are somewhat of a ying yang in nature, if a match has one practitioner playing guard it will also have one practitioner trying to pass the guard, as mentioned before these are the 2 most common positions to focus on especially as a white belt as you will find yourself in this positions most of the time.

Passing the guard is pivotal to dominating in BJJ, it wins championships and helps you negate the dangers of being in an opponent’s guard. 

BJJ player trying to open the guard
BJJ player trying to open the guard

The foundation of passing the guard in BJJ is always going to be built on body position as with proper body position you will be able to create an immense amount of leverage in order to break the guard and pass.

White Belt Goals for Passing the Guard

Being in someone’s guard as a white belt will mean that you have a high percentage of being submitted or swept, in order to take advantage of being on top in guard that you should work on developing good posture in the guard first and foremost as this will reduce the effectiveness of your partner’s guard submission and sweep game.

As a rule of thumb you should keep your knees and base nice and wide, make sure you are in a straight line with your training partner (do not let them create an angle), always have your hands on your partner’s body and not the floor, your hips against his hips with as little space as possible, back straight and not bent as well as your head and eyes looking forward. Your opponent in return will attack all these elements in order to break your posture and it is your job not to let them do it.

What is My Training Partner Breaks My Posture

If your opponent breaks your posture then your goal must be to return to proper posture, make sure when fighting to regain proper posture that you avoid placing your hands on the mat and always press off your partner’s body while trying to keep tight to your opponent as hands on the floor creates opportunities for your partner to take advantage of. You also should make sure that you are in line with your opponent and do not let them create a proper angle to attack you.

Putting a Plan Into Action

Once again, try to hold posture in the guard for as long as you can and build up in increments until you can hold good positions in the guard without getting swept or submitted in a round of rolling. Eventually you will find yourself being very confident in the fact that you have a strong position in your opponent’s guard and thus the goal of passing the guard is much easier to accomplish.

Final Thoughts

If you take a systematic approach to building your BJJ game as a new white belt you will find yourself getting better quickly. It is all about little goals and attaining them as well as keeping on going to class with a positive attitude.


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