Less Than Technical White Belt Advice
Recently after some rolls, I was sitting down with some white belts. We were just talking casually about things, some of them related to jiu-jitsu, others not. But after a few moments a really motivated, young guy named Andrew asked me what I wish I knew before I started training. I thought for a second and told him a few things, but I continued to think about the question in the car home and later.
The things I thought about mostly turned out to be things totally unrelated to the actual act of jiu-jitsu. They had nothing to do with positions and movements. They were things that would be good to reiterate here.
The first thing I told him was to be a good training partner. I told him that he should be more concerned with accommodating his partner’s needs than his own. And it was this general thought at the very essence of all the things I was saying.
Be A Good Training Partner First
Primarily, be a good drilling partner. Jiu-jitsu is a sport which necessitates a base level of knowledge, resistance, and cooperation. If you are brand new, you probably won't know what's expected of you in any of those regards. Learning these norms will be essential.
Learning how to drill and roll is this first hurdle I see white belts struggle with in their development as a training partner. It’s the middle ground between limp fish and frenzied Tasmanian devil. Only time and mat hours can teach it, but simply asking “Am I giving you enough resistance?”, every now and again will help you set the parameters.
Train With Everyone
There is a normal tendency for lower belts to congregate. And, I understand that. They feel like they’re slowing the upper belts down. That could not be further from the point. Upper belts need lower belts to drill techniques with. As someone who typically trains in a room with bigger, better, more experienced players I need those precious few times I get with newer partners. I play defense the vast majority of the time, and that time is pivotal.
This is not to say that lower belts are merely food. It all goes back to being a good training partner. I too need to be accommodating to them and give them time to work also.
Cleanliness Is Helped By Numbers
Plain and simple: Wash everything after every practice. No one wants to train with smelly or dirty partners. To participate in jiu-jitsu is to do laundry many, many times a week. I understand a lot of new players aren’t totally sure about committing, but owning multiple gis and rashguards goes a long way. If you own two, you immediately cut your laundry days in half, boom! I steer them towards some cheaper gis that have served me well.
I’ve even been gifted a few shrunk hand-me-downs when a white belt. So, upper belts pay it forward. I know I have some “emergency use only” gis.
Other than that, brush your teeth and cut your nails. Wash your bag, belt, and things in it also.
Try To Get Better, Not Get Good
Jiu-jitsu will burn off any ego you have. There are no exceptions. It can be mentally trying, every practice. Often I hear white belts comparing themselves or setting expectations for the future. This is bad practice. In all ways, you must slow down. There will be setbacks and speed bumps. Instead of focusing on those things, try to improve every day.
Obviously, stay motivated and have goals. It’s a balance between the grind and the mountain top. Everyone wants to get there, but you can’t forget to address the thousands of steps. Because there won’t be jumps in your skill every practice. Sometimes you will just get reps in, roll, and leave. This brings me to my last point.
Enjoy Your Time
Enjoy your time at white belt. Enjoy your time at the gym, in general. There are days I don’t want to get up and go. But deep down I know I enjoy the sport. Once I show up and go, it’s always fun. By combining the points above, you will enjoy your time there and people will like training with you.
If you are a conscientious training partner, stay clean and safe, and keep realistic goals it’s hard to not enjoy your time on the mats. The technical things will come with practice and can't be rushed. The points above are things you can do today and will yield important results. Go practice and improve!