Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Why white belts need to stay calm

If you’re on this page, there’s a good chance you live in the Hills District and are interested in self-defence training. Taking the plunge and starting Jiu-Jitsu is a great decision, but intimidating.

Walking into Gracie Castle Hill for the first time, you’ll probably be excited but also nervous. That’s a fair reaction to seeing a mat full of athletic men and women trying to choke each other. Follow a few simple guidelines, though, and there’s no need to worry.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a safe martial art. A grappling art, it involves wrestling for position and then applying a submission. Since there are no strikes, and since your partner taps out before any damage is done, few injuries occur. But like all physical activity there are risks. The simplest, easiest way to avoid them?

Stay calm.

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Keep self-defence safe

There are five main belts in BJJ. White, blue, purple, brown and black. Naturally, when you first join Gracie Castle Hill you’ll be more intimidated of the coloured belts. While it’s true that higher belts are more dangerous, they’re also the safest training partners.

That’s because they don’t panic. They remain calm.

Meanwhile, white belts can be unintentionally dangerous training partners. For several reasons, they tend to panic. The first cause is obvious: The less technique you know, the more you rely on strength and power to get out of positions.

Second, BJJ is often uncomfortable. One of the best things about self-defence training is that it teaches you how to be comfortable in uncomfortable positions. But that’s not an easy lesson to learn. When someone is on top of you trying to sink in a choke, it’s natural for a beginner to panic

Which leads into the third point: ego. New white belts sometimes come into the gym with a sense of inflated pride. Again, this is natural. Since Jiu-Jitsu is so spar intensive, that ego tends to deflate over time because everyone gets beaten repetitively. But instead of accepting defeat at the hands of a more experienced practitioner, newer white belts sometimes freak out.

Again. Each of these is normal, so don’t fret if you’re a white belt and this describes you. But each of these panic scenarios obstructs your learning. It can also put training partners at risk.

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Just breathe

If you’re new to Jiu-Jitsu, or any self-defence training, the best thing you can do is control your breathing. New grapplers often exhaust themselves in under a minute, and it’s not because their cardio is terrible. It’s because they’re hyperventilating as soon as the roll begins.

Not only will it give you more lungs, you’ll also avoid the panic pitfalls listed above.

Instead of freaking out and trying to power counter out of a position, take a deep breath. Have you been taught anything that will get you out of the situation? If not, is there something you can do with your hips? How is your partner subduing you? Can you break their grips? Questions like this will make you progress much faster than if you try to spasm out of something

After the roll or after class, ask your partner what you did wrong or how you could have countered. Most of the time they’ll be more than happy to explain.

Similar with discomfort. A lot of securing submissions in BJJ is making your opponent feel uncomfortable. Do so and they’ll make themselves vulnerable. If you’re in an uncomfortable spot, don’t try to flail out. Breathe. Practice being uncomfortable. It’s a valuable skill, in Jiu-Jitsu and in life.

The hardest of the three to overcome is ego. But remember the motto: tap fast and tap early. This is a lesson BJJ practitioners have to learn over and over each time they get a new belt. Getting a blue belt, for instance, does not mean you’ll never tap out to a white belt. As a white belt, expect that you’ll be tapping out a lot. There’s no shame in it. Ask anyone on the mats, including your coach, and they’ll say they’ve been there.

Gracie Castle Hill is a safe space. Our coaches ensure everyone on the mats feels as comfortable as possible, and safety always comes first. If you’re thinking of joining this safe space, remember the golden rule:Just breathe!

In the Hills District and interested in learning self-defence? Sign up for a free trial lesson at Gracie Castle Hill.