30 Tips to Get You Started As A White Belt in BJJ

May 6, 2024
The road from BJJ white belt to blue belt – and eventually black belt – is long and arduous. But it doesn't need to be – especially when you have these 30 BJJ white belt tips to get you started!
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Being a BJJ white belt is hard – there's no way around it. That's why we put together this list of 30 of the best BJJ white belt tips.

It's important to note that this is not an exhaustive list. After all, there is a lot for beginners to know, and we couldn't include every single piece of advice about starting BJJ while also keeping this article readable. That said, these are 30 tips to get you started on your BJJ journey as a white belt.

The first 5 tips are general and arguably some of the most important.

The next 25 tips are organized based on a few specific categories:

  • How to get better at BJJ
  • How to train BJJ safely and intelligently
  • BJJ etiquette and hygiene
  • Getting through BJJ

5 General Tips for BJJ White Belts

bjj white belt goals

1. Tap early, tap often

As a BJJ white belt, you'll be getting submitted quite a lot. It’s just an inevitable part of learning BJJ.

Learning how to tap early and tap often is a big part of the early stages of your BJJ journey. You need to stay healthy and safe in order to train consistently over time – and to reap the many benefits of training BJJ – and you can't do that if you're injured. Tap early, tap often, and keep learning and developing.

2. Use technique when sparring, not strength, power, or aggression

The essence of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is using technique and leverage to defeat larger, stronger opponents. This is what the Gracie family brought to gentle art.

But many white belts tend to use strength and power when trying to get out of bad positions, rather than using technique and timing.

In order to maximize your time on the mats, and in order to not develop bad habits, learn to use the techniques being taught in your first days/weeks/months of training, rather than relying on strength or athleticism to win exchanges with your training partners.

3. Leave your ego at the door

When you first start training Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you’ll often find yourself in a defensive position – especially when you’re rolling with coloured belts.

 Leaving your ego at the door – and being ok with failing/learning is absolutely necessary if you're going to progress from white belt to blue belt.

This requires a shift from one of performance in training to one of learning and development. It doesn't mean you have to lose every round of sparring, but it does mean that you don't get your ego involved when you do happen to lose a round.

4. Consistency beats intensity when it comes to training frequency

Consistent practice is the key to developing most skills. The same goes for getting good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

It's more important that you find a way to train consistently over months and eventually years than it is to train twice a day for a few weeks, only to burn out, get injured, or become disinterested in the art.

Pace yourself and think of your BJJ journey as a marathon – not as a race.

5. Relax and have some fun

At the end of the day, for most people, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a hobby. Few practitioners are high-level competitors or MMA fighters.

With that in mind, it's important to remember that Brazilian jiu-jitsu should be fun!

Relax, don't take yourself so seriously, and try to enjoy your time on the mats!

25 Specific Tips for BJJ White Belts

How to Get Better

1. Do the warm-ups/Master the basic movements

Mastering the basic movements of jiu-jitsu (e.g., bridge, hip escape) is a key part of getting better. These movements, among others, are at the foundation of all the techniques you will learn.

Sure, learning more complicated techniques can be appealing, but what’s most important at white belt is learning the foundational movements of the art.

2. A sound defence leads to better offence

Knowing you can attack from top side control is one thing. Knowing that you can get out from bottom side control is another thing.

That said, for white belts, a sound defence will lead to better offence, since you will be more confident in your ability to escape bad positions if your attacks fail.

3. Learn to be comfortable in bad positions

More importantly, as a white belt, you'll be spending a lot of time in bad positions – whether you want to or not. Learning how to be comfortable when your opponent has a dominant position like back control, is crucial for your development.

Staying calm in bad positions allows you to think your way through the process of escaping, rather than resorting to strength and power as many white belts/beginners do.

4. Take advantage of Deliberate practice

Using deliberate practice is a fantastic way to get better at BJJ. Set specific goals based on your individual needs and then gauge your progress as you practice, constantly reassessing and updating your goals.

BJJ is a great activity for deliberate practice because we are constantly getting feedback from our training partners (i.e., did the technique work on the opponent or not).

5. Be curious, ask questions

Keep your training playful – experiment, try new things, and make mistakes.

Training as a white belt is all about learning the foundation of BJJ and exploring the many techniques, positions, and concepts that define this amazing martial art.

Also, don't be afraid to ask a training partner or an instructor for help! Be curious, and try to learn something from everyone.

6. Keep a BJJ journal

As a white belt, it'll be difficult to remember all the techniques you're learning from class to class.

One way to speed up the learning process is to keep a BJJ journal, where you can track all the details of the techniques you learn in class. This is especially helpful when learning more advanced techniques.

7. Watch/Study jiu-jitsu

You can improve your jiu-jitsu even when you're not on the mats training.

For Brazilian jiu-jitsu white belts, watching and studying jiu-jitsu videos is one of the best ways to improve your game. You can watch full competition matches, or even specific technique videos, where you can focus on positions or techniques you're having trouble with in class.

8. Spend time drilling and rolling

Live rolling (or sparring) is an incredibly fun aspect of training BJJ.

But finding a good drilling partner and spending time refining your techniques and your sequences is a great way to improve your BJJ game.

9. Focus on the main, high-percentage techniques

Many beginners want to learn fancy techniques before they've learned the fundamentals.

As a jiu-jitsu white belt, focusing on the main high-percentage techniques and positions will do the most for you when you're first starting out. Closed guard, half guard, guard passing, arm bars, triangles, rear naked chokes, etc.

10. Compete at least once

How good is your BJJ technique? Competition is the best way to answer that question.

Test your BJJ game against other white belts and see what you need to work on most. Maybe your guard passing isn't what you thought it was. Or maybe your guard retention is weak and needs your attention in training. If you want to get better at BJJ faster than your training partners, competing is a great way to level up (win or lose).

How to Train Safely and Intelligently

11. Be a good training partner

Being a martial arts student is not only about learning how to defend yourself – but it's also about respect.

At the end of the day, you can't train jiu-jitsu without training partners. So be nice to them, don't hurt/injure them, and work together to get better at BJJ together!

12. Be a good student

If your instructor is teaching a specific technique from bottom side control, then you should spend your time practicing that specific technique – this is not the time to start experimenting with things you saw on YouTube, or asking "what if?" questions. Of course, this is just one example of what not to do as a white belt in a BJJ class.

Remember that being a good training partner and being an attentive, respectful, and hard-working student are crucial aspects of rising through the BJJ ranks.

13. Favour learning over performance

 If you're preparing for a competition, then performance in training can become more of your central focus. But in order to really improve your BJJ game, you need to favour learning over performance when you're on the mats.

Experiment, fail, learn, have fun – and get better.

14. Take time off for injuries

If you're hurt/injured, sooner or later, your body will need time off to recover – tape is not a permanent fix.

Taking time off from training to heal an injury is necessary if you're going to be able to train long-term, across many months and years. Also, keep in mind that, just because you can't be on the mats training, doesn't mean you can't keep learning by attending class to watch, or by watching jiu-jitsu videos online.

15. Incorporate some flexibility, mobility, and strength work outside of BJJ

Not only will flexibility, mobility, and strength and conditioning work to help improve your performance on the mats (as long as they accompany good BJJ technique, of course), but taking care of your body off the mats also plays a big part in injury prevention.

BJJ Etiquette and Hygiene

16. Always train in clean equipment

You should always train in a clean gi (or in a clean rash guard/shorts, if you're training no-gi).

Also, remember to wash your white belt too. Some people think it's bad luck to wash your belt, but all that's really going to do is leave you with a stinky belt and some gross bacteria. Yuck!

17. Keep your nails trimmed

 The last thing you want to do is accidentally cut a training partner with your fingernails or toenails. Keep em' trimmed and clean for your own sake and for the sake of your partner.

18. Try to never walk off the mats barefoot (i.e., wear sandals/flipflops/slides/socks)

Some gyms are more strict about this than others, but, for the most part, try not to walk off the mats barefoot, as you don't want to bring dirt back onto the mats and your training partners. Use sandals/flipflops/slides, or put on socks, when walking around the gym.

As a side note, it's a good idea to never train with an open wound. Spreading an infection to a training partner should NOT be part of your BJJ journey.

19. Be aware when asking higher belts to roll

Again, some gyms are more strict about this than others, but there is a rule/piece of etiquette where higher belts can ask lower belts to roll, but not the other way around.

So, for the most part, a white belt would only be allowed to ask a blue belt to roll, but not a purple belt. Likewise, if a white belt is asked by a higher belt to roll, they must say yes.

 To be safe, try to first be aware of the gym's etiquette before you ask a higher belt to roll.

20. Know the rules/specific etiquette of the gym you are training at

Building off the last point, it's important to know what the black belts of the gym you're training at expect of you as a white belt.

Gym etiquette is slightly different everywhere. Find out about the gym's specific rules/etiquette to make sure you know what's expected of you (e.g., uniforms, class schedules/attendance policies, competition training rules, etc.).

How to get through BJJ

21. Competitions can be helpful, but aren’t necessary

If you want to speed up your BJJ progress, competitions can be a great tool. But don't feel forced to compete. For some people, competitions become a source of unnecessary stress/anxiety. If you want to compete, great. If you don't want to compete, also great!

After all, BJJ should be fun. Do what makes you happy!

22. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on BJJ gear/accessories

If you have a decent amount of disposable income, and you want to be decked out in BJJ gear, go wild!

But know that you don't need to spend a lot of money on BJJ gear and accessories to have a good BJJ journey. A few gis/no-gi outfits and a BJJ gym membership are all you really need.

23. Injury prevention is the name of the game

The road to black belt is long. Taking time off makes it longer.

Finding ways to stay injury free is the key to moving from white belt all the way to black belt. Sure, an injury here and there is inevitable. But training smart and keeping healthy off the mats are two of the best ways to make you sure you're able to keep rolling year after year.

24. Trust that your instructor will promote you when they believe you’re ready

Asking about when you'll be promoted is a bit of a taboo in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

For the most part, especially as white belt, its important you trust that your instructor will know when you are ready to be promoted. Just keep showing up and keep training smart, and you'll move up through the BJJ belt rankings before you know it.

25. Remember that having a white belt is an accomplishment

Everybody gets a white belt when they first start training, but not everybody starts training. Just walking through the doors of a BJJ school and signing up takes some courage, and so a white belt should be something you’re proud of to begin with.

Keep training and you’ll be at blue belt before you know it!