If you have never tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, imagine you walk into a gym, put on this super thick and heavy cotton uniform (called a gi) and have someone tie a white belt around your waist because you probably have no clue how to tie it. Now you’re suddenly told
“Okay, you are going to roll with that person.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out…”
So now you are instructed that you’re going to roll/spar against someone. You’ve never done anything like this and you’re probably filled with nervousness, confusion, hesitation, excitement and fear. Maybe you’re thinking one of the following:
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Am I going to get hurt?”
“I don’t want to hurt this person”
“Why did I think eating a spicy, bean filled burrito before class was a good idea??”
Regardless, you spar and realize that it’s not that bad. However, most likely, you still feel like you didn’t know what you were doing.
Now, imagine that you were thrust into a country where you didn’t speak the language. Let’s say you were don’t speak any Spanish and you appeared in Mexico. You probably know some basics like “hola” (hello) and “how are you?” (como estas?), but if someone said to you “Buenos tardes, quieres darme tus riñones?” you’d probably have no clue what they were saying and would reluctantly say yes resulting in your acknowledgement to give up both your kidneys. Perhaps, you’d wish you had taken a Spanish class or used Duolingo. Well, that is where having a foundation in Jiu Jitsu can be similar to you keeping both kidneys.
When you’re starting with Jiu Jitsu, there is so much to take in. These are our top 5 moves new white belts should learn so they don’t feel so lost when sparring.
1. DIAMOND BASE/ COMBAT STANCE: DON'T START ON YOUR KNEES
When new white belts start, they often don't know what to do. One part where this is particularly noticeable is in the start of a sparring match. Often, new white belts will start on both knees with both hands open. Starting on knees is the first step we try to correct. It's simple mechanics. When you start on both knees, you limit your movement because you can only lunge forward. It's very easy for an opponent to topple you over by simply sweeping you left or right.
Instead, start in Diamond Base or Combat stance. This is how to do it:
Sit on one butt cheek (left cheek in this example)
Put your right foot flat on the floor and your left knee should be on the ground
Right elbow is resting on your right knee
This way, you can lunge forward, move backward and turn left and right easily to follow your opponent
2. MOUNT: USING ALL LIMBS TO HOLD
Mounting someone sounds simple enough, but for most, it's very difficult to hold. One reason is because your opponent can still easily move around due to freedom of their limbs. Here are some tips to keep the mount:
Start by mounting your opponent and put your knees on the ground
Wrap the inside ankles inside the ankles of your opponent. This is called getting hooks into your opponent. When your opponent is able to put their feet flat on the floor, he/she can move. So extend your legs to extend theirs and flatten them out again.
Put your left palm flat on the ground and put your right arm under your opponent's head. Cup the back of their head and push it into your shoulder. When their head is off the ground, your opponent can't use it bridge.
3. SIDEMOUNT: CONTROL BODY POINTS TO STOP MOVEMENT
Sidemount is often underrated by white belts who want to get to mount or give up position and go for submissions right away. Sidemount is a great position to control your opponent and tire him/her out. You'll often find yourself here so you might as well learn how to hold it correctly. Imagine you are on your opponent's right side and you have sidemount. This means your left hand is by their head. For a proper sidemount you need to control the hips and shoulders of your opponent. At least three points to stop them from moving.
Left hand under opponent's head and put your shoulder into their face to push their face away from you. If you can keep their head from moving, you control the spine so it makes it harder for your opponent to move.
Left knee goes into your opponent's right arm pit and your right knee goes into their right hip. This makes it hard for your opponent to turn into you.
Right hand can control their left hip or it you can do a Gable grip with your left hand to secure everything.
Use your gi to wipe away their tears when they can't move
4. HALF-GUARD: HOW TO NOT GET SMASHED
Time and time again, white belts get in this weird limbo between full guard and mount: the half guard. However, they don't know what to do and get smashed. Imagine you have your right leg in between your opponent's legs and that you are on your right side. Here are some tips to "frame" and prevent the smash:
MOST IMPORTANT- win the underhook. Get your left arm under your opponent's right armpit and scoot yourself as far down as possible. This will help you get under your opponent so they can't smash you down.
Left knee goes on the the inside of your opponent's right hip to further keep them from smashing you down
Right hand and grab their left wrist or use it for more posturing from bottom
5. FULL GUARD: BREAK THEIR POSTURE TO KEEP THEM BACK DOWN
Watching full guard is like watching a baby show it's reflexes. White belts will wrap their legs around the opponent's hips, but won't know what to do afterwards. This leads to opponents fully posturing and getting out of guard to escape the sweep or submission. Here are some tips to keep an opponent then:
Squeeze your opponent with your guard. Use your legs to thrust your opponent forward so their weight is forward and they are forced to fall
Try to get an overhook on their right arm with your left arm. Wrap your left arm over their right arm hold that tight. If you can, use your left hand to grab the lapel by the left side of their neck. This locks your opponent down.
Use your right hand to cup the back of their head to further break posture
While there are so many other moves to learn, this is a good foundation so you don’t feel so helpless. As time goes on, you will pick up more and more moves to add to your base and soon you will be giving advice to new white belts when they walk through the door. If you have any other moves you think would be helpful, please feel free to add in the comments. Now you can get a burrito.